I failed {sound familiar}

I have a preacher friend, don’t we all! They preached a few Sundays ago and someone commented – not to their face, gosh we are church we don’t do that but to the preacher friend’s boss.

The complaint was ‘it wasn’t expositional’, these weren’t the words. The words were about the sermon not being related more to the text. Furthermore, the Bible reading was too long.

In fact it was one of those complaints that lingers like an egg sandwich on a coach trip. The actual sandwich for the person eating it is lovely, they feel satisfied and hunger is dispelled. However, for the other passengers the experience is not so pleasant. The sulphur in hard boiled eggs that is present in good ones and bad ones is released into the sandwich and the cling film or foil keeps it in. Until the unwrapping of the sandwich when the smell pervades the bigger space of the coach.

The giver of the complaint is satisfied, they have made their feelings known and tootle off. But for the boss, the preacher and anyone who hears at the time the sulphur does its work.

Any preacher can and probably does give a message that is sometimes not fully thought out, not prepared well and perhaps sometimes can be a rant or soapbox.

A long time ago now I went for some soothing words from a preacher who had the same personality as me. They lived on the other side of the world, had anxieties around their speaking voice among many. I listened to the preach and was blown away by this part testimony, part real life mission, part inner life of the Christian, part cost and it spoke into my heart – to preach and preach well whenever and however I could. Later that day I was compelled to go and find TJ (the preacher) and chat, to see what was new in their life and I discovered, to my horror that they were dead. That this was their last ever preach. This was their preaching testimony.

I preached on Sunday, I preached badly. I strayed off script (which is ok because it is usually Spirit led) but I couldn’t tie it back to the script. It was a fail. But I learned a whole lot in that fail that I will hold onto going forward. I knew twenty minutes into the service that I would need to rewrite in my head the prepared sermon so as not to cause offense and it all went downhill from there.

But here is the thing, it didn’t matter. Apparently, I shared a whole lot more of my testimony than I usually do, apparently the conversations had after the meal were so life giving and vital that the few minutes of train wreck preach will be forgotten [one day]. I had a text message of support and encouragement, I received from my boss, soothing words from someone else who appreciated I stayed and ate with them.

Even as the train went off the rails and committed train hari-kari, even as it all started to go dreadfully wrong I felt at peace. Not to the extent of protection that I had when I first preached but certainly in that vein.

The ten-thirty minutes of preach on a Sunday is important, it could be those words that leads someone to Christ, or begins a period of deepening relationship with the Father, or can lead to someone realising the Holy Spirit is nudging them in some way. The words spoken must be therefore – of God, not heresy, not opposed to doctrine or church discipline, clear, concise, not over wordy, or long words, not overly about the “me” story unless it edifies the body of Christ, shows a point of change, gives God all the glory. Preaching is difficult, there is the tension of giving enough of self to show sincerity without it becoming the “me show.”

However, to be a fully rounded pastor type I must not allow my feelings about that 20 minutes on a Sunday rule the rest of my week. There is 24/7 – 20 minutes to account for. That is a lot of time, so much of the “worldliness” of church is spent marking the sermon on a Sunday it can feel a little like DWTS on a Saturday evening with score cards raised. Once that actually happened, score cards were raised by the congregation at my accreditation service. The visitors who had come to actually score my sermon were taken aback by them. It was just a funny end to a weird evening.

New memories of preaching days will be made in the future, words that made total sense in the middle of a Saturday night will sound disjointed and from the unravelling a druggie’s mind but hey ho. Each day, going forward, will be full of divine appointments and Godincidences that the 20 minutes will be put safely into perspective.

Each minute of each day has a vibrant, joyful could in it. I need to learn to tap into that, into the God of possibilities and surprises, into the God of love, mercy, grace moments.

If I remember nothing else from this experience of failing to deliver a message from God well, it is this… the egg sandwich smell may come but

I am a breath of fresh air

Ready and able for stale smells

Bring on the wind of change!

Ephesians 5:14

Lenten {contemplate} {reflect} {repeat}

Thursday February 15th 2018 – mid afternoon

I did something really stupid today, nothing new in that.

I misspelled Lent.

The spelling I used was leant.

But on reflection, I think I might have spelled it right.

The verb to lean means to be in or move into a sloping position or incline from the perpendicular and rest for support against (something) or cause something to rest against.

According to UMC:

Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.

Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter” and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.

Lent is a time of digging deeper and drawing closer to the Lord, it no longer is a time of fasting, regret of sinning and asking for forgiveness in particular. Some people give up something they like and others try a new way of generosity, giving and volunteering. Over the years I have taken part in a photo a day, writing a day and reading a day through Lent. This year I had the feeling that God wanted something different in my response. But I wasn’t sure what it was so I just read the devotional and journaled and that is when I did the daft thing.

But in spelling Lent as leant. I pondered and thought deeply then relaxed because I think I got my answer God wants me to lean, to recline in his arms and I am happy to do so. So as I delve into this leaning I will share here as it happens.


take from me Lord

the things that aren’t of you

keep me close only to you

take out the idols of my life


take away from my sight

my thoughts, my lips

the things that block the way

that are of the world and not you


help me resist those things

only you and I know of

be with me as the stories

steal away my soul


the stories of the world

immersed in the culture

that captivate my heart

making me slave once more to sin


help me remember

who you are and who I am in you

the weak one, the broken

help me seek you once more


deep, deep, deep

is your love

deep, deep, deep,

in my heart I know, and,

more of you, Lord,

I thirst for more.

Hungry, thirsty I come,

once more to dwell in your love.

Satisfied, only in you, Lord

I am satisfied by your love.

Filling up, pouring out

desiring to stay with you

help me in my thirsting

draw ner in my hunger

as I long for you each day

help me be satisfied in you alone

remind me constantly of who I am in you,

keep me safe when tempters knock at my door

as fears come and overwhelm

in me alone there is nothing

no weapon or tool to dispel

but your love shines in the darkness

and protects me from the gloom.

together {joined forever}

this is dedicated to the person it is about:

I remember when we met

a book thrust into my hands

some time later a phone call

the beginning of a conversation.


nine years later I do remember this:

and all the other times in between

reflecting on how we have both grown

and pruned (severe pruning for me)


a mn, a shadow to begin

then needed a year later

a growing respect blossomed

today this is cemented


two years ago you both stepped back

allowing training wheels to come off – for a while

but a paradox of emotions from all

meant we were destined to walk

together for a hie longer


and yesterday, the prayer, the vision

cast once more upon the water

and today to see you both so hurt

I am so glad I failed last year.


Let us together, go forward

as collaborative dissenters like Peter or Paul

Susanna or John, with aesthetic please

sharing the gospel in spirit and truth.


red blue {turn and repeat}

the soundtrack of my youth was

the vacant puffy lyrics performed

by satin clad blokes and cheese

clothed lasses

occasional protest song broke through

the ones that made you think

’bout education and war

and how unfair it all was


grandad shined my shoes on Sunday

by Monday they were scuffed

Tuesday I had Brownies

and points were took off

I was not smart        enough


grandad’s box was blue

no, it was red silly girl

fairly certain it was blue, I sat on it for goodness sake

Don’t argue with me it was red, it was red.

like the cloud of anger in your head


flowers are red the protest song went on

always always red never any other colour

and I learned as a childthat when she

said red, it had to be red.


but I grew up

and I grew apart

I grew to know Jesus

and got a seat at his table

rainbow flowers fill my world

wwhy would I ever return to red?


Naming the child

I had a story of how my life began but it turned out to be only one perspective. As an embryo my name was Jill. But on arriving into the world my name became Susan. My sister is named after an old flame of somebody or other.

My best friend (when I was 4 and 5) had a daddy and he called me Sukey, She was called Catherine but he always named her as Polly. He was a sickly man, spent days upon days in bed, with a stone jar filled with hot water and a house full of medicine. He would sing the nursery rhyme of Polly and Sukey and kettles and tea. And we would dance and laugh around the bed.

The first and unfortunate nickname I was given – elephant features was replaced by most everyone when I hit 13 and I became The SoupDragon. One person still will call me soups but the one who named me took his life when faced with “child” type charges.

When at the age of 21 I became Mrs. Gallagher it was all a bit of a shock but all my people from then on named me Suzie up till now.

You see I don’t fit a name as such, Doris was convinced of Rosie and Heather thought Jessie was a good name for me and there was a nurse I worked with once had Noreen on her mind.

God named me via JA house in Milton Keynes. He called me steadfast and so in my head, I am steadfast and true, Susan as my daddy named me all those years ago.

One day the world, my friends, and family will catch up with my mind.