Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Holiday Reading

For the last week you (may) have been reading automatic posts.

We are in Turkey.

On holiday.

Esther's first ever package holiday.

My first ever all inclusive.

My holiday reading says a lot about me.

My bible. The latest issue of Four Four Two. The latest issue of The Economist. And two books on Cell Church.

Looking forward to understanding more about the Lord, more about the Church and more about the world of football, in that order!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Newfrontiers "Uniform"

Luke helpfully set the ball rolling on this one with his fashion update. But it does not stop with bodywarmers!

A few years back, you could spot them a mile off.

Beige trousers, brown moccasin shoes, nice shirt, sometimes a woolen closely fitted jumper, often sleeveless.

Yes, they were the visiting speaker.

It was almost a uniform.

Things have changed.

With a new breed of Church leaders and Church planters has come a new dress code.

Suddenly you could expect to see "Bench" on the outside rather that "St Michael" on the inside.

But now, things have gone one step further.

The hoodie. The humble hoodie. "Hug a hoodie". The sign of rebellious teenage "yoof" has been hijacked.

At the last prayer and fasting there were hoodies in abundance. Every colour imaginable. Every brand available. And more.

Yes more, because we have entered a new era. The "Church" hoodie. With logo. The town. Something about Jesus and a website. Oh yes. Gone are the days of non descript pastel coloured sweaters: now it is all about the hoodie.

And further still, we hear much about the "Second generation" Newfrontiers Church leaders. Those 25-40 who have been part of a second wave of Church growth and Church planting. They brought us the hoodies. But now, I can even report members of the "First generation" are wearing, wait for it, hoodies!

Where are you Farah? Why do you hide from us Next? Do not mock us George! But no, Superdry! Firetrap! Men in their 50s sporting cool brands and cool hoodies.


I used to be able to recognise the visitng speaker. If it carries on like this I am more likely to invite them on the Alpha Course!

Friday, 22 October 2010

The face in the crowd

At our recent Newfrontiers Prayer & Fasting gathering I had a slight inkling what it must be like to be a visitor to a Church on a Sunday.

In the refreshment break I stood there, and I looked out, and I really could not see anyone I knew.

Just lots and lots of faces.

What is more it felt like everyone else knew each other. People were talking, laughing, hugging, browsing books. Small groups of people were scurrying off into a corner to discuss something strategic. All around me, everyone else, and I felt a bit lonely.

What is strange about that feeling is that I must have known at least 50 people there to talk to. In future breaks I met several friends for coffee and a catch up. I went to the conference with a posse from our local region.

But at that one point in that first break I was just a face in the crowd and I would have given anything for someone to just walk up to me and say "hi".

If I feel like that, what do our visitors on a Sunday feel?

I have a policy of trying to speak to one new person every week. What we really need is everyone doing that.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Five people

In the last few days 5 different people have looked me in the eye, face to face, and thanked me for my recent series on Miscarriage.

Communication is an interesting thing.

On the one hand, I genuinely don't know if I could have spoken the way I could write about the subject.

On the flip side they all said that they did not feel they could leave a comment on the blog but wanted to tell me when they saw me.

I think both those things are valid. There are some things you want to share but don't know how to share them. There are other things you want to respond to but not via the method you have received them.

I guess that is why blogging under my own name, with people from my Church, and other local churches, who know me, reading it, makes for an interesting mix.

Not only does it keep me accountable for the things I say about myself and about others, it also means some of my readers have walked the journey with me and then the effect of reading what I write goes that much deeper.

Monday, 18 October 2010


We know how many people come to our Church services each week.

Because we count them.

It really helps us to get an idea of which kinds of things are supported well and foresee any changes in patterns which require a change.

At our recent Front Edge Sunday there were 355 present.

I find that exciting.

I am not sure why, but 355 seems way more than 349. Why? Because we are seeking God for 400 and so breaking 350 again feels like another step.

Sure, it was a big week, but the point is our building needs to be able to cope with the big weeks.

I am also pleased because our maximum layout before we went to two services was 360 chairs. 355 people on 360 chairs would have completely wiped us out, with far too little spare capacity.

On Sunday we were 172 and 144 adults on 233 chairs (and 39 children in groups). There was a bit more "wiggle room" for people. Lots of those people were guests, and had there been more there was space.

Just over 70,000 people live in the the boroughs of Shrewsbury. If we were by God's grace to reach the stage where we were 350 people every Sunday, that would equate with being 0.5% of our Town's population, although I realise lots of our people do travel in from outlying villages.

I am not interested in numbers as they don't prove anything, I am interested in people. And when those people respond to Jesus we can count them. What excites me about being able to count them is because they have become part of our number. So I am interested in numbers, because those numbers are people.

I don't actually care about statistics but I do care about the growth of the kingdom of God in this town through vibrant missional Churches.

We may have just touched 0.5% on Sunday, but could we have faith for 1%? Is that beyond the realms of what our God could do?

Exciting times...

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Front Edge 2010: Sunday service

Adrian Holloway seems to appear in all sorts of places these days and we were delighted he agreed to come and preach at both our meetings.

We had delivered 2000 flyers locally and had been praying hard in advance. Lots of people were invited, including our whole Alpha Course.

The good news is just that, good news, so we want to share it.

Adrian preached excellently. We prayed for the sick. In each meeting people came to the front and said that the pain had gone. Backs. Knees. Hands. Shoulders.

A young woman from our Church who the day before could not even sit at the Front Edge conference and lay on the floor at the back. Her back was twisted and she was in considerable discomfort. By Sunday morning she was stood on the stage, standing up straight, saying the pain had gone!

When the call went out for people to respond and become a Christian or recommmit their life to God perhaps 20 came forward across the two meetings. I don't have exact numbers but I would suggest the many of those were responding for the first time and some coming back to God.

The opportunity is now there to follow up people and help them in their journey of faith. We know more people may come on The Alpha Course this week as part of their response.

A very good morning and an exciting way to conclude Front Edge for us.

I love being part of a movement of Churches that prioritises mission as a key part of what it means to be Church, and releases gifted people to go and help Churches and equip their people.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Front Edge 2010

We hosted the Newfrontiers "Front Edge" evangelism conference on Saturday. It was a great day, with guest speakers Lex Loizides and Adrian Holloway.

Seminar speakers included Steve Hurd from Huddersfield and Paul Brown from Bermondsey.

Suffice to say, it was an excellent day.

Great teaching.

Powerful exhortation.

Mission involves the word and the Spirit.

And then we prayed for 12 different evangelists going on to do Sunday preaching and praying for the sick in Newfrontiers churches across this region, from Birmingham and Stafford, down to Hereford and across into Wales at Wrexham.

I love the commitment of these evangelists to take Ephesians 4 seriously and use their gift to equip and encourage others in their witness.

Then having equipped the 150 delegates at the Saturday conference, they do go and preach the gospel in Churches so people can bring family and friends to hear the good news.

The thing that really struck me was a desire to reach people, a desire to retain good doctrine and a desire to step out in signs and wonders, which act as a pointer to the "gospel" we bring to people.

All in all, a great day!

Monday, 11 October 2010


I wrote this series of posts a couple of months ago. Now things are settled we want to share them, as an encouragement to others who may face similar experiences.

This is the last post in this series.

Pain does not have to lead to doubt.

The very fact we feel the injustice of pain is proof we are searching to a higher moral authority. As a Christian, not only do I know a higher moral authority to appeal to is out there, I know His name.

Not only do I know His name, I know His heart for me.

Search hard enough, and pain leads us to worship.

Because our pain has been defeated.


Pain leads us to worship because if we let it, pain leads us to Jesus.

What we believed is true, is proved true.

So let's worship Jesus, who endured pain that we may forever be free from it.

Whatever the future, it is in Him we trust.

These three videos will take about 15 minutes of your time. Make yourself a drink. Sit down. And hear some truth, hear some honesty about the pain, and let your eyes be lifted up to Jesus.

A song full of truth and looking to future redemption

A song written from the graveside of a lost child; the section from about 3 minutes in is simply oustanding.

The song that has been an unswerving source of comfort in the dark days, a precious gift from God to us.

Saturday, 9 October 2010


I wrote this series of posts a couple of months ago. Now things are settled we want to share them, as an encouragement to others who may face similar experiences.

As we start to look forward now I am mindful that walking in grace is a daily decision. Lots of our friends are pregnant and / or have small children. I think we know 8 people who are pregnant right now, and lots of our friends already have one or two.

Everything that makes our loss sad is what makes their blessing good and we are determined to enjoy, honour and celebrate the good with them. But there is a cost, and we need to walk in grace to allow us to do it.

God’s grace is sufficient for all of us. Somehow, by some great mystery the light shines in the darkness and we rejoice with them as they mourn with us. We will make it work.

I said at the start I cannot rely on the hope of having a healthy family in the future to give me meaning now, or make this all ok. I need to find peace now, and I have.

When the darkness envelopes you, you see the light. It draws you. It energises you. It comforts you. It guides you.

The last few weeks have shown me the sheer helplessness of man. It has shown me the corruption and brokenness in creation. Processes that were meant to work do not work, and we don’t have an answer and death is the consequence.

The darkness can be bleak.

And yet into that darkness came a man who lived as a carpenter in Nazareth. A teacher who taught with authority and love and grace. A man who was falsely accused, endured an unfair trial, and was brutally tortured and executed by an occupying power.

The sky went dark.

3 days later.

The light comes. The tomb is empty. Something has broken forth.

A new start.

A new day.

This death, this brokenness, this pain and darkness that we see all around us in creation, and if we are honest, inside ourselves has been overcome by the One who conquers death itself.

In doing so not only does He conquer death as a force that stands against humanity, but He conquers the death that stands within each of us. The brokenness. The godlessness. The mistakes and the shame and the things we wished we never did.

So as He walks to the cross Jesus takes all the darkness of our hearts, all the mistakes and the stuff we have done wrong and they go with Him, to be dealt with once and for all.

But it does not stop there.

The redemption does not finish with my heart.

It extends, and keeps extending forever.

For one day all of creation will be made new, all of it made right.

All the things that now don’t work that should, all the processes that stall at seven weeks and the scans that come back empty, will be made new.

The cross was not just for me and Esther, it was for our baby.

The baby we never knew, He does.

In the darkness, hopelessness and lostness of today comes a future hope, won for us by a Saviour who has walked our road, and felt our pain.

The cries we cry out now, are the cries all creation cries out, and they will come to fruition.

Jesus will come again and then it will be made new and things will be as they were meant to be and these tears will cease because our loving God will make it right.

That is our promise. That is our hope. That is our destiny.

I don’t know what will happen next. I don’t know we will have a family.

I don’t know it will all fall into place and I don’t know if I will ever have a child to take to the game but I do know that a loving God gave everything for me and for the pain I face.

The light shines in the darkness, just like His disciple said it would.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


I wrote this series of posts a couple of months ago. Now things are settled we want to share them, as an encouragement to others who may face similar experiences.

It was raining in Keswick. It almost always does. The Cumbrian mountains suck the moisture out of the sea air and deposit it over hordes of holiday makers desperate for a bit of sunshine.

As we walked through the side streets we came across a jewellers. We had pondered the idea of getting a bit of jewellery to remember baby. The first time someone suggested it we were a bit dismissive because we didn’t want to just have to buy something to feel ok. We did not want to succumb to a weird retail therapy.

Several weeks after we lost the baby Esther expressed that she was struggling to move on, not wanting to leave the baby behind. We did not just want to turn the page of our lives and leave this all behind. The baby was no longer with us. Suddenly it dawned on us that something like a piece of jewellery would be "with us", and might free us to move on without fear of forgetting.

The word “Mizpah” is used as a Hebrew blessing. It is found in Genesis 31 verse 49:

“It was also called Mizpah, because he said, "May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other.”

Mizpah jewellery is given between people who travel long distances, or emigrate. “The Lord watch over you, while we are apart” is a lovely blessing to give to people as they step on the plane. For Diaspora Jews this became a known blessing.

It is also used when death occurs, and is often seen inscribed on headstones. It sees the separation of death and faces it head on. Separation has happened. I can no longer “watch over” you. However, I know one who does. He is the Lord. “Mizpah” May He watch over you.

We had the ring engraved with the word “Mizpah”.

We will not “watch over” our baby. But we know the One who does, and the One who will. That is not a vague hope or a distant blessing: it is a reality, and it is the desire of our heart.

Now as we go about our daily lives Esther carries a reminder. Not a reminder of death. Not a reminder of sadness. Although it does cause us to reflect on both. No, the ring reminds us that our hope and our strength and the future of our baby is in the hands of our loving Father who watches over baby while we are apart.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


I wrote this series of posts a couple of months ago. Now things are settled we want to share them, as an encouragement to others who may face similar experiences.

(Some of this has already been blogged, apologies for duplication)

It is amazing how many bible stories involve an encounter with God on a mountain. I look at Moses. I think of Elijah. I imagine the scene of the transfiguration. There does seem to be something special about mountains. Maybe it is something to do with the sheer isolation of the mountain. Somewhere private. Somewhere between you and God.

I had been training since January 1st for the Bread Trust “Tough guy” challenge. The aim was all 15 3000ft mountains in Snowdonia in under 24 hours. 32 miles, 12,300 feet, and the most exposed ridge walk outside of the highlands. I had been training hard, doing a 9.5 mile circuit in South Shropshire fairly often. Five a side football on Mondays, circuit training on Tuesdays or Thursdays or both, then off to the hills at the weekend. When time allowed we had a couple of trips to Snowdonia just to acclimatise.

I was also supposed to do the “Three Peak” challenge, the highest peaks in Wales, England and Scotland in 24 hours. That was 3 weeks before the Bread challenge and would give me a good indicator as to how I was doing.

That was the day we had to go to hospital to undergo “medical management” to help sort out the pregnancy. That basically means a few pills and an 8 hour wait. It was a grim day. There is nothing that prepares you for that. You want it to be “over” in terms of the risk of infection of a failed pregnancy and yet you never want it to end.

You want another scan, the one that says all the others were a mistake and a little heart is beating. We didn’t get that. We got small private room off the ward and some very caring nurses.

So I had issues in my head. The opportunity to do a big challenge I had been training for six months to do had been taken away by the worst possible reason. It was dire.

Fast forward 3 weeks and the Bread challenge is upon me, I have unfinished business. Unfinished business with my own heart. Unfinished business with the mountains. And unfinished business with God.

An email came around the week before from Neal saying “It is a good idea to name each peak after a friend or loved one to help count them down and add significance”. Great idea!

I named one peak.

Number 15.


Our epic adventure started at 3.15am with the alarm clock, and by 3.55am we were walking in horrendous weather up Crib Goch, an exposed ridge on the ascent of Snowdon which was the first peak of the challenge. The weather was simply horrendous. The peaks slowly started to tick by. In the rain and the mist and the friendship and the teamwork I could only really think of baby. The hours went by, peak 7, peak 8, getting ever closer.

So it was that sometime in the evening in the mist of the Carneddau range a tired and wet Dave approached the summit of Foel Fras, the fifteenth peak with my jubilant team. We were all delighted. High fives and photos finished, a moment of silence. We had done it.

I held the summit cairn in both hands, the wet rock gleaming in the light of my head torch. This was the moment.

“Lord, I give my baby to you. I release them into your care. I want to say that I love you. I will follow you. And I ask you to help me to continue to live for you”

I did not get closure. I did not want closure. I got peace.

Closure is an end. Closure is a door slammed shut. Closure is the finish of a journey.

I did not want that.

This is the start of our journey, not the end, and I wanted peace. I wanted a peace that says yes this is wrong, yes this is not what it was meant to be, yes this hurts like hell and no there is not an answer, except in the loving arms of a loving God who draws all things to himself through His son Jesus.

In rain like that you do not have to hide your tears.

As we trudged on in the endless descent down to the minibus and support waiting to pick us up I knew something had changed.

Something deep inside. The part of me that died when baby died. The bit of me that could not go on my great adventure because we had to go to hospital instead. The bit of me that still walks in my minds eye up Oteley road to watch the game with baby, is at peace.

Peace with God, and maybe even at peace with myself. He is loving. He is strong. Baby is in His care, and so are we.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

FACING MISCARRIAGE: PART SIX: Honouring the whole journey

I wrote this series of posts a couple of months ago. Now things are settled we want to share them, as an encouragement to others who may face similar experiences.

Quite a few people suggested doing something special like buying a piece of jewellery or something like that to remember the baby.

Others suggested naming the baby as a way of mourning and remembering. I don’t have any peace with that one, but if it works for you, fill your boots.

One thing people suggest is that you make a memory box. Keeping hold of things that you have to remind you of the baby. When Esther first suggested this my response was less than helpful. It was too much too soon. I didn’t want a box, I wanted our baby.

Our family dog was called Celyn. One of those Heinz 57 variety dogs you get from the rescue centre that seem to live about 20 years. She finally went to meet her maker (not a theological point) and the vet provided us with her ashes back in a little box. That box has sat in the main window of our lounge for nearly 10 years now, in the place she always sat, on guard.

I didn’t want that type of box.

We decided to go shopping for a box to store our precious memories. The pregnancy test. The scans.

As we looked around, I was drawn to the stationery section, and the amazing array of “baby” stationery. Baby picture frames. Baby photo albums. Baby memory boxes.

“I am not sure we are looking for something like that babe” said Esther, with her hand on my arm as I longingly held this blue baby memory box.

It clicked.

“Actually we are” I replied.

“I don’t want a coffin box. I don’t want some strange little urn that sits on the side. I want us to start our baby box. This is the start of our journey. Our family has begun. We don’t have the privilege of being able to raise this child, but I am a father and you are a mother and this is the start of our journey. And when we have our next child I want to put their photos in here too because it is all part of our journey.”

There are not many times I get it right.

I can be an insensitive oaf at the best of times.

But as I stood there with my eyes welling up and Esther nestling her head into my shoulder I knew somehow we had hit it. We had found our way. We were going to preserve the painful memory of our lost child as a valid part of our joyous adventure in parenthood.

This baby can take its rightful place in our journey, and the future joys we hope and pray for can build our memory box into the fullness of the journey God has for us.

If we are to be faithful with what we have we need to honour the whole of the journey, and that starts now, and so our memory box begins.

Friday, 1 October 2010


I wrote this series of posts a couple of months ago. Now things are settled we want to share them, as an encouragement to others who may face similar experiences.

We have some wonderful family and friends and lots of people in our Church who care for us.

Some of the responses we have had have been really overwhelming.

Two of our closest friends came around the night we found out. They were there with us, they cried with us, and they were available to practically help us. I don't think I have known someone cry over my grief. It meant so much. They were there with us, and there for us.

A friend in our midweek had a simple message, “I am really sorry to hear your news. You must know it is not your fault, it is nothing you have done”. Yep, I’ll take that thanks. I needed to hear that. I needed to know we had not done anything wrong.

A family member texted us, “I am sorry to hear your news. I will be praying for you to be able to start a family soon”. I like that. Some faith. Causing us to look to the One who makes things work out for good and asking God for what we really desire on our behalf. Yes, I will take that.

Another one was people who have been through it themselves. “I know”, often followed by tears. That is enough. Just to know someone else feels it, someone else knows. You can see it in their face. Even if it happened 30 years ago, you can see it in their eyes, they know. You can almost touch it, it matters.

An answerphone message from my friend was simple, brutal honesty. “Mate, we were gutted to hear your news. I don’t know what to say. I have rung you but I don’t know what to say and I don’t think I will have anything I can say but I want you to know that I had rung because I care and if you guys want to come over sometime we would love to see you”

Yeah, I will take that.

The situation is dark. I don’t know what is going on and I am not looking to you for an answer.

I just want to know that you care.

I just want to know that you are there.

I just want to know you will stand with us in faith and pray for a successful pregnancy in the future.

I just want to know that it wasn’t our fault.

I want you to cry with us because it is so sad, pray with us because God can act for such good, and call us even when you don’t know what to say.

When couples around us, including some very close friends went through this in the past I just had no idea. I hate to think the sorts of things I said. Now on this side of the fence the way I will approach this in the future will be very, very different.