Monday, 30 June 2008

Euro 2008 - The Final

Spain 1 - 0 Germany

I can't believe it has finished. It doesn't seem that long ago that I sat and wrote the first of these posts. Here we are though at the end of what has been a thoroughly entertaining competition packed full of exciting free flowing football for the most part.
The football on offer last night was a fitting end to the championships and the team that had played the most consistent, beautiful at times breathtaking one touch football, won through. It says something that even though their talismanic striker, David Villa was forced to sit out due to injury, the marauding Spaniards managed to outwit and outplay a German team that have at times looked fantastic and at others have looked like they don't have a clue.
It is also fitting that the team of the tournament included 9 of the Spanish side that have entertained us so well. I will be putting up my personal team of the tournament in the next couple of days, it will probably be a reflection of the players I would like to think would be realistic targets for West ham!!!

Now the football is over I will be cheering on Andy Murray against Nadal and will also be looking forward to the start of the Olympics - there is also the small matter of the start of the Premiership in mid August. Spain have triumphed in one major this Summer - will Nadal be next and will it inspire athletes from that nation to perform above and beyond what they thought possible? We'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

It's Good to Pray!

It's great praying with fellow brothers and sisters. Life is so busy and there always seems to be something else to do. That is why I treasure Sunday evening prayer meetings; an hour when we gather together as two or more to worship Jesus and pray hard for the things that he has put on our hearts.

Tonight we prayed predominantly for us as a church as we go into the Summer period. We prayed that:
  1. We would not be a church that goes to sleep
  2. We would be a church that keeps our focus on Jesus
  3. We would be a church that continues to serve by putting Christ and others needs above our own
  4. We would be church that are changed by being in a different venue
  5. We would be a church that step out of comfort zones and do something new
  6. We would be a church that worships in Spirit and in Truth - enjoying the gifts of Spirit as we meet together

God spoke to us through a picture of a rugby scrum whereby we were all scrumming down together and that this period of time would be one where we are all pulling together and that the scrum continued to grow as new people joined from the back and the sides. The sense being that we were all pushing forward together.

I for one am excited about the prospect of being in a different venue for 7 weeks from the 27th July to 7th September. It's a chance for us to meet new people and to step out into new things as individuals - we may even sit in different seats!!!

Whatever we do we know, as Dave Lomath reminded us tonight - that we do it because the one eternal constant - our God - is the one that is ever present. He never changes, He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Our confidence is not in the running of a smooth meeting on a Sunday morning (although we endeavour to do that because He is worthy of our best) but is in the one who said that He will build his church and the gates of Hell will not prevail.

Let's go on this seven week adventure with God and trust Him that it will grow us and shape us for the things that He has ahead of us as a church.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Friends: Old and New

It's so important to have friends.

Today I joined 11 others for breakfast to celebrate the birthday of my good friend Craig. It was a fantastic morning: large quantities of cooked breakfast; cereal; fruit (yes fruit!); pastries; coffee, tea and juice. However more importantly the company was great. I had the privilege of sitting with Roy, a guy older than myself but with such a zest for life that it is always a pleasure to spend time with him. There was plenty of friendly, manly banter around the table none of which was derogatory but was fun. The overall feeling of the morning was that of camaraderie and warmth. I look forward to more mornings like this one.

This afternoon was spent at Windsor race course at James' stag do. Wonderful weather and a very tasty steak sandwich were the highlights of the place. What was interesting was that only a couple of the people that went actually put any bets on once our two free £2 bets had been placed, it seemed that we were more interested in getting to know each other than trying to win money! There were several people that I didn't know, but it wasn't long before conversation was freely flowing. I couldn't tell you what happened with the horses, but I could tell you what some of the guys do for a living and the names of their children. The day culminated with a Chinese meal in Windsor town - once again enjoyed due to the friendships.

I have been left after today reflecting on the fact that friends are so important. People that you enjoy being with and can relax around. Jesus didn't just have disciples he had friends, people he ate with, guys he enjoyed chatting with. Jesus showed us that we cannot live life in isolation, that we need to have people around us whom we love and trust. Today I have seen people I have known for years and would trust with my life. Others I know not so well, but the relationships are growing. Others I may not see again but I really enjoyed their company.

All in all, a very enjoyable day and one I will remember.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Euro 2008 - Semi-Final #2

Russia 0 - 3 Spain

For all my hopes that the Russians could win the tournament it is now impossible. They were once again, for the second time in this competition, out classed by a skillful, well disciplined Spanish side.

The first half saw a fairly even contest. Although Spain always looked the most likely to score, the Russians did hold their own. However the second half took a different complexion. The Spanish visibly upped their game and the Russians were left floundering. Arshavin looked a shadow of the figure he had done in the past two games and Pavyluchenko got no service into the box where he is most lethal. The Spanish on the other hand - even without David Villa due to an early injury - were creating chances a plenty. Torres looked powerful, Fabregas' passing was sublime. The finishes from Xavi, Guiza and Silva were all fantastic.

The final is far to hard to call. The fast breaking powerful Germans versus, the quick thinking, intelligent, skillful running of the Spanish. A game that will be entertaining if both teams don't get cagey because it's a final!!!

West Reading Badminton Tournament update #3

Another week roles round in trying to become the 2008 West Reading Badminton Champ (well between the four of us who play anyway!) I had been fortunate to win it the past three weeks so expectation was high in the office, that I could do it again! I wasn't so sure.

The first game saw Richard and Neville play against Kim and I. I started with 7 quick points from Richard and Nev, leaving me to feel that maybe today was the day that the medal changed hands. However some great serving from Kim saw us actually win the game. We then went on to share four more close game and one game where Richard's serving was untouchable, winning something like 10 points in a row!!!

Although most of the games were competitive, for some reason I managed to retain the medal, winning 5 of the 6 games.

We then went for a great curry afterwards. We talked about the games and pretty much talked about everything else that could possibly be a conversation piece. Good food, good company and in my opinion a good result!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Euro 2008 - Semi-Final #1

Germany 3 - 2 Turkey

If you are a football fan, time has flown by. To think that we are now at the semi final stage of this years tournament. If you are not a football fan you will no doubt be counting down the days until it is all over and you don't have to have football interrupting the proper TV that you enjoy. However you have probably also chosen not to read this post anyway!

I read this morning somewhere that Germany are the Man Utd of international football i.e. lucky. Well I think that last night there was one team (Turkey) who were lucky to get through to the semi, but they were called brave and plucky and never say die - whereas the Germans outplayed the Portuguese and fully deserved their place in the semi. That said when Germany win in the last minute we have a go at them for being lucky, and 'poor old Turkey', but actually they were brave, plucky and never say die!!! My point being just because the underdog didn't get the luck, us Brits have to get over it and congratulate Germany on a gutsy performance against a buoyant Turkish side (who in fairness outplayed the Germans for large parts).

A five goal thriller ending with probably the better (overall) of the 2 teams progressing. I still fancy the winner of tonights game to be the tournament champions, but with grit and determination and players like Podolski, Klose and Schweinsteiger, you can never rule the Germans out.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Reading and the world!

I have just been asked whether I see maps as either Reading or Not Reading. This may be because I love this town to which me and B have been called, and it can come across that I see this town as the centre of the whole universe. I love its diversity, I love its life, I love the fact that i can walk down the road and hear so many different languages.

However the world is bigger than Reading! Even this morning at our elders meeting, we spoke of Amsterdam, St Petersburgh and Harare (well Zim in general). Ed is moving to Washington, North Carolina and Tom is currently writing about hotels in Spain (Tom works out of the church office one day a week for a travel company as a journalist/reviewer.) New Zealand are playing England at cricket and Djokovic (from Serbia) has surprisingly just been knocked out of Wimbledon.

60 years ago people would rarely venture from their home town, today, your home town is the town where you settle. Paul Young sang 'Wherever I lay my hat, that's my home.'

I think the apostle Paul had a similar mentality. He saw his home as Heaven and that he was just a soujourner here. He went from place to place sharing the gospel, planting churches, crossing cultural barriers and telling all who would listen about the good news of Jesus. I want to be like Paul - not in going to many towns and cities, but in seeing my home as heaven - not Reading. I want to be spurred on by his incessant desire to see the gospel proclaimed to the ends of the earth, through people being sent from this church, and people coming to this church from other nations for a time, then being planted back into their native lands.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Sunday morning surprise guests!

As I arrived at Reading Girls School on Sunday morning to gather with the church, I was greeted by familiar faces. Three young men sat on the wall patiently waiting to come in and enjoy. All three of these young men had been regular lads at our Kids Church a couple of years beforehand, but had stopped coming assumedly uninterested.

None of these boys had been easy to deal with. They were often a handful, but they are all boys who are full of life and questions about where they fit in to the greater scheme of things. They joined us for the morning; going out to our Yr7-Yr 10 group. They were well behaved, polite and one of them even prayed. I was very proud of them and the workers on the morning who made them so welcome.

When I asked them what had made them come back that morning they said that they had got up early had wandered around for a while and were bored. They remembered us and decided to come along for the morning.

We don't know what God is doing in the lives of those whom we meet. These three boys had not been for at least 18 months, but the Spirit drew them back to us on Sunday. I don't know whether they will come next week, but I am so pleased that they knew that they would be welcomed and made to feel part of something for at least one week.

Our Kids Church is not just for kids whose parents come to the church, our Kids Church is open to the kids of the estate. I am so grateful for all the committed, hard-working grace filled leaders that serve in this ministry and pray that our kids church will once again have children from outside the church as well as those in it.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Euro 2008 - Quarter Final #4

Italy 0 - 0 Spain
(Spain win 4-2 on penalties)

Just as we all thought, this match was a stalemate. The Italians are the best in the world at nullifying any attacking threat by the way that they set themselves up.

I feel a little sorry for Luca Toni as he is without doubt one of the best strikers in Europe, but the way the Italians have played in this competition, he has not had an opportunity to shine. as for the Spanish in this game, the defence was so strong that they found it hard to make any inroads into the Italian box. Iker Casillas was the number one man last night saving with his feet in normal time and saving two penalties in the shoot out. There is still more to come from this Spanish side though in terms of attacking.

For me the right team progressed to the next round. We are noe left with 4 attacking teams in the semi-finals. Turkey v Germany will be interesting, but Spain v Russia will be a corker! Will the Spanish hit 4 again or will the Russians get their revenge? I can't wait!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Euro 2008 - Quarter Final #3

Netherlands 1 - 3 Russia

What a game. I'm so glad I planned to watch this one out of all the Quarter finals. Two teams that have played great football all tourament, playing out a wonderful game.

Russia came out at the Dutch right from the off. They forged forward and keeping poking at the opposing defence. They out played them, out witted them and the way that Guus Hiddink had them set up was perfect. Arshavin was once again able to show his talent with runs in and out of the box and continue to use his trickey with passes and crosses into the box. One of my favourite players of the tournament continued his fine form - Roman Pavulychenko. His movement off the ball and his awareness have been things I have really enjoyed watching. I won't mention all the Russians but they were impressive.

The Dutch were not rubbish they just appeaered flat considering the way they performed through out the group stage. Not even the likes of Van Der Vaart, Van Nistelrooy or Sneijder could put the Russians off of their stride.

The scoring commenced with Pavulychenko finishing wondefully from a ow ball in from the left hand side. t was late on in the game that Van Nistelrooy forced the game into extra time with a great header fom a free kick. However the extra period of 30 minutes belonged to the Russians They just wanted it more. Firstly a fabulous finish by Torbinski at the near post from an Arshavin cross and then a goal for Arshavin himself. You can forget your Ronaldos in this competition - Arshavin is becoming the player to watch.

With the Dutch out it seems impossible to be able to call this competition. Iwould now love to see the Russians win it. I enjoy watching them and hey at least we can say that the winners knocked us out of qualification!!!

Fun at the beach

Yesterday saw our cell cluster go to Bournemouth for the day. We were there by lunchtime which meant we ate first.

Fish and chips were the order of the day for many of us, battered sausage and chips for the rest. However Gary and kay out did us all by bringing a whole chicken, sausages, more salad than could be eaten in a week and of course a home baked loaf of bread!!! Now that's a pic-nic.

From there we enjoyed dabbling in the sea - all though dabbling for Tim J meant changing into his swim gear and running right into the water only to spend less than five minutes in there and returning to get changed.

A round of mini golf and a cup of tea with donuts were next on the agenda. Then back to the sea front where boules, tennis, more sea antics and frisbee were enjoyed by all.

It's incredible to think that I once thought church was a place to go when really it's a family to be part of. The beach trip was just that, family enjoying time with each other, looking out for each other and having fun with each other. I love the fact that God has given me such a great famiy to be part of.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Euro 2008 - Quarter Final #2

Turkey 1 - 1 Croatia
(Pens 3-1)

Well well well! I can still hear my conversation with Ed last Sunday evening saying that Turkey were less than good. I have been shown to be flawed in my knowledge!!!

I must confess I have not seen this match so I can only comment on the result. I thought that Croatia would be a shoe in to the semi-finals and that they had the easier game. However they will now return home as did the Czechs to this steadfast, work hard, never say die Turkish side. I heard Kazim Richards say in an interview after game on Sunday that they only had to win three more games to win the tournament, well make that two now! With the attitude they have towards the game, you cannot rule them out!!!

Friday, 20 June 2008

News from Terry from Ghana...

For many of us in Newfrontiers, Terry Virgo's wise and measured words on the Lakeland outpouring have been most helpful. This is why reading this is so exciting.

I'm so pleased we are in a family of churches that we can hear news like this. I also look forward to Sunday and the gift offering for Newfrontiers to be given at Brighton Leadership Conference. Exerts like the one above are the reason that we are part of this family of churches and the money we give enable John and others around the world to see the gospel advance in their countries and beyond.

Euro 2008 - Quarter Final #1

Germany 3 -1 Portugal

The first of the Quarter finals was played last night and it set some what of a precednet for the rest of them. A fantastic display of counter attacking football.

From the kick-off, Germany were at it, the Portugese were just not out of the starting blocks. For the frist 25 minutes Bastian Schweinsteiger terrorised the Porugal defence with intelligent running, pace and strength. He was rewarded with a goal for his efforts which was the culmination of wonderful passing and movement from the commanding Ballack and the ever lively Podolski. 4 minutes later a free kick from Schweinsteiger meet with Kloses head and he opened his account in this tournament - a bit late from a man who seems to make it his thing to score for his country in major championships!

From that point on though Portugal looked to get back into the game - Big Phil on the side must have made it very clear that he was not happy just by the expression on his face! Ronaldo showed flashes of what he was able to do, but was inconsistent; Nuno Gomes looked like a spent force (a part from his goal); the player that most impressed was the Chelsea bound Jose Bosingwa. I think we could be hearing a lot more about him. As an attack minded full back you'll struggle to see any better at these Euros. He has electric pace a good cross on him, and he can defend - well when he's down that end of the pitch! They did manage to pull a goal back through Nuno Gomes which then meant for an exciting last part of the match.

The Germans once again turned up the heat and the brilliant Ballack stole a header and got a deserved goal. For the fianl 10 minutes, Potrugal threw everything biut the kitchenb sink at the Germans but to no avail. It was not until the dying seconds that Helder Postiga scored a late consolation.

On reflection this was a match that Germany won, but also one that Portugal lost as at times their defence fell to pieces. I said at the beginning of the tournament that Germany were favourites - I still think the Dutch will win, but if the Germans play like this then who knows!!!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Ed is leaving!!!

Today was the first time that it sunk in that Ed will be leaving the country. He drove us down to Wimbledon to hear the theological paper on healing delivered by Phil Moore (which was a fantastic time of being encouraged and challenged) and in the car park he put his arm around me in a manly way and just said this could be the last time we hang out together!

Ed has been someone I have seen grow over the past few years. I remember him coming along to the church with big hair, a big baseball cap and big jeans that revealed big boxers!!! He is now someone who is going to America to become a Southern Baptist minister - no big baggy jeans involved in that!!!

He has been someone who has grown in his understanding of scripture and his application of it. I have greatly enjoyedhaving him around this year as a friend and as someone who has challenged me in my understanding of the Word of God. he is faithful, loyal and wants to do his best for the kingdom.

Tomorrow he goes to sort out his visa and next week is his last week with us as a church. I know however that this is not the last I will hear of this young man and I look forward to holidays in North Carolina to go and catch up with him.

God puts us together for a season - that may be months, years or decades, but it is God who puts us together. I know that it is him that has knitted our hearts together and therefore I know that as we part our ways, that this is also God's plan. Who knows who God will bring across my path in the future, but I hope they end up being friends like Ed.

Euro 2008 - Day 12

Spain 2 - 1 Greece
Russia 2 - 0 Sweden

Well as we all thought, Spain and Russia have progressed to the next round. After watching Spain against Russia in the first game in this group I was convinced they would both go through and so it has happened.

Spain made major changes for the match leaving out the lethal dou of Villa and Torres. Greece went 1-0 up which was shock, but you never thought that Spain wouldn't get back in the game. And so it happened. Ruben da Le Red on his full international debut scored a great goal finishing off a flowing move. Alonso nearly chipped the keeper from 50 yards and Guiza stepped outof the shadows to fire home to make it 2-1 in the dying seconds. Spain look great and it will be interesting to see how they get on in the kock out stages.

Russia were impressive. I know that Greece have not been great this tournament, but Russia played with creativity - mainly through Arshavin who was outstanding, and Pavulychenko who ran the greek back line ragged. The more I see this Russian side the more I am impressed with their style of play - strong in defence and scintilating going forward - they could be an outside contender to progress to the final.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Loved and loving it!!!

B reminded us tonight that God knows us and that he loves us whether we have 'dirty hands or dirty feet'. That he embraces us and says that we are his, if we know Christ as our Lord and Saviour.

We read in Romans 5 that whilst we were dead in our transgressions, Christ died for us. I was once again struck by the enormity of this.

The words of the famous hymn keep coming to mind

'I once was blind but now I see.'

I once was blind, I couldn't see that I was a slave to the sinful way of life that I was living. But then my eyes were opened to the beautiful truth of Christ and him crucified by the Holy Spirit as God revealed himself to me.

All this because God chose to lavish his grace upon me. It is so wondful knowing Jesus as my Saviour. Knowing that it is by his death and resurrection, I have a relationship with the living, loving God; that through him I have the hope of eternal life.

I wanted to post this now because I want to get the thoughts that are racing through my head down in some form before they race so far into my head that I once again see them as just mere facts. Tonight they are alive and I'm loving it!!!

Euro 2008 - Day 11

Italy 2 - 0 France
Netherlands 2 - 0 Romania

France are out, Italy are through and the Netherlands march on - it's the Romanians who I feel sorry for, if only Mutu had scored that penalty!!!

The Italians were good value for their win. The French have looked out of sorts all tournament and that continued last night. Thuram didn't play and didn't even make it to the bench; Abidal, his replacement in the centre of defence managed to get himself sent off early on. Their night didn't get any easier after that - Ribery - their best palyer by a street - went off with a nasty injury, Pirlo scored the penalty to make it 1-0 and then a deflection off of Thierry Henry into the wrong net for a change, made it 2-0. That all said - the Italians worked hard and Luca Toni was a constant threat. It is only a matter of time before he does scoe in this tournament surely!

The Netherlands rested several key players - in fact the ench resembled the proper side rather than those on the pitch. They didn't disappoint though. Even their reserve side would walk into most others at the moment!! Huntelaar scored the first early in the second half and Van Persie finished the scoring with a great finish fom tight in on the lefthand side, almost taking the roof of the net out. To their credit, Romania did well, but were always second best to what must be the new tournament favourites. However there is still an awful lot to play for.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Primary School Reports

Many of my blogs recently have been about football and they will continue as long as my interest remains in the Euros. However as I have said before there is more to life than football.

B has been embroiled in the task that is report writing if you like I have become a sideline to the important job of comment writing (ah! poor me). I remember this time of year with much loathing. It is a time where you have to become a diplomat and a judge all in one. You see the reports are written for several purposes.

1) To let the parents who are interested know how their children are getting on in the areas of Literacy, Numeracy and Science. This will include a target for their child to work on in the coming year in each of those subjects.

2) To let the parents know vaguely what they have done in all the other subjects and a cursory comment as to how they have done. These are not easy comments to write because actually the major focus of any primary teacher is on the three core subjects.

3) To write in teacher code for the next teacher taking over the children what the children are really capable of - particularly in the teacher comment on the back!

4) For the head teacher to write some inane comment about each child as if they know them so well!!! Hardly ever true, they rely on everything they hear in the staff room!!!

5) For the little darlings who inhabit the classroom each and everyday to know how they are doing in each subject, only to quickly forget by the time the new term starts after 6 weeks of doing very little in front of a play station or out on their bikes and skateboards with their mates!

Reports are time consuming, debatable in value and quite simply tire teachers out when they should be focussing on teaching. In fact the only benefit of writing these reports is so that if a child becomes famous, there is a record of where they have underachieved for embarassment purposes.

So why do we continue to do them? Well I guess it's because we always have!

Although this post is tongue in cheek, in case you hadn't worked it out, and just a bit of fun - I do question the value of reports. I know there are parents who read them and respond to them, however I think these are also the parents who will take an interest all the time and not just at report time. Maybe there is another way of recording the information that these reports give?

West Reading Badminton Tournament Update #2

Today saw an unprecedented Tuesday evening badminton night. We played half an hour earlier and at Meadway Sports Centre in Tilehurst rather than the Rivermead.

For anyone interested I managed to make it three weeks of being champ in a row. Once again there was lovely play from everyone, and I really do feel fortunate to have won again.

I am learning so much by playing with these guys. They are fun, gracious, and have made me feel really welcome in the 22 months that I have been playing with them. I am really looking forward to playing next week and then joining them for a curry as we continue to develop a friendship that is based around the camaradarie of being compettiors, but also around a shared love for Jesus.

Euro 2008 - Day 10

Germany 1 - 0 Austria
Croatia 1 - 0 Poland

I must confess I saw neither of last nights games as I was at badminton and there were no highlights so this post will be more reflective on Group B.

There have not been many surprises in this group. The two that would have been pre-tournament favourites to progress have done so. The only surprise is that they are in a different order. After a convincing win against Poland, germany have huffed and puffed across the line. Croatia on the other hand of got stronger, so much so that with nine changes to the team that beat Germany, they were still able to beat Poland. Poland and Austria have not been awful, but it has been a lack of fire power in both camps that has led to both being knocked out.

We can still look forward to seeing the likes of Podolski and Modric plying their trade on the field in the coming days. However I will be looking out for the likes of Martin Harnik and Roger Guerreiro in the coming years to see how their careers develop.

Monday, 16 June 2008

BBQ's and students

We are not a student church here in Reading but we are blessed to have a good bunch of students who come along on a Sunday morning. They also serve in various areas of church life and quite a few are involved in cell life.

Yesterday was the last time some of them will be with us as they leave uni and move back to their home towns. Some we are saying good bye to for just 3 months and they will be back when term starts. To mark the occasionwe had a bbq here at the Taylors.

We got through 34 burgers and burger buns, 40 sausages and rolls, a large bowl of coleslaw a 5 kg bag of oven chips, several bottles of pop and packets of crisps.

What was great were the conversations I had around membership, the way the students were talking about this church being their church and the general feeling of family that we felt.

We are not a student church, but we will be a church that does students good while they are with us and we will be a church that sees some of these guys stick around, get jobs, get married and start families here in Reading and become vital members of our church family.

Euro 2008 - Day 9

Switzerland 2 - 0 Portugal
Turkey 3 - 2 Czech Republic

What a night. No one could have called either of these matches.

The co-hosts Switzerland haven't looked like beating anyone this championship but here they pulled off one of the surprises of the tournament and they fully deserved it. They fought hard against a Portugal side that was full of superstars. They may have been lucky to see Postigas goal ruled off by offside but none-the-less they played some good football. Portugal didn't look quite the same team without the talismanic Ronaldo - would that be the same for Man Utd if Ronaldo leaves?

Coming home from the prayer meeting, Ed and I heard some of this game on the radio. The Czechs had just gone 2 - 0 up and I for one was saying that that was to be expected and that turkey were rubbish. As I was dropping Ed off, the Turks pulled one back. I got home in time to see one of the best 10 minutes of football ever. Two goals from Nihat, the Turkish keeper sent off, Tuncay having to go in goal for the last 4 minutes, the Czechs driving forward. I have never seen a game like it before. If the Turks can fight like this to qualify for the quarters, who's to say what else they are capable of!!! The picture says it all!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Euro 2008 - Day 8

Sweden 1 - 2 Spain
Greece 0 - 1 Russia

The end of the second round finished with results that I would have expected but in terms of the performances, that wasn't quite what I expected.

Sweden put in a great performance against Spain. It was the tail of three strikers. Torres was his usual pacy tricky self up front for Spain. He gave the Sewish defenders the run around al game and deserved his goal. Ibrahimovic looked like he is coming back to international form by once again scoring for the Swedes, however unfortunately for him and for them, their most creative and talented played did not reappear for the second half due to injury. This left the Swedish side working hard to keep the scoreline at 1 - 1. Then up popped David Villa, in the 92nd minute, to score a lovely goal, and break the hearts of the Swedish public. They are not out but they will fel down.

Greece Russia was a game I saw nothing of, my only coments can come from what I heard on the radio. Greece set out defensively once more as they usually do, but their atack was not sharp enough. They were unable to sneak goals on the counter like they did the last time they won the Euroean Championship. The Russians on the other hand worked hard to break down the stoical defence of the Greeks and in the flying forward Roman Pavulychenko they have a man who is growing in confidence. Although he didn't score the goal, he was the man who stole the show. Alan Curbishly is hopefully seeing some of these performances and puting the likes of Romn on his shopping list!!!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Things to be thankful for...

It's Saturday afternoon and I am feeling a little sentimental.

I have a great wife who is not only gorgeous but is intelligent, fun, and above all loves Jesus. She is held in high regard by those in and outside the churc. I truly am a blessed man to have her.

I have a great church that I am part of - I cannot wait til tomorrow morning to be with them once again worshipping, giving thanks and then preaching what God has put on my heart from Titus 1.

I have a great Mum and Dad who I know love me and each other.

I have great 'In Laws', they have truly become a second mum and dad to me which I am so thankful for considering some of the horror stories you hear.

I have lovely sisters - two blood and one inherited through marriage!!! All of them i am proud of in their own way - all of which I am in good relationship.

I have great friends and neighbours (of whom some are friends!!!)

I have a house, a car, clothes and food, money to buy books.

When I look at my life I realise that I have so much to be thankful for - not all listed here - that my eyes are turned to God in adoration once more.

Euro 2008 - Day 7

Romania 1 - 1 Italy
Netherlands 4 - 1 France

Who would have thought this would be the case. What seemed like it was going to be the tightest of all the groups in terms of having an outright winner, has ended up having a run away winner.

The scoreline of Italy Romania probably didn't do justice to the match. You could argue that Romania have been one of the surprise packages of this years finals so far. They have performed well against the world cup finalists and the now the world cup winners. They were once again solid in defence and Adrien Mutu caused all sorts of problems up front. Like wise Luca Toni at the other end was making himself known. The game came down to a penalty and it was saved magnificently by Buffon in the Italy goal. That was enough for him to get my man of the match.

Then came Holland France. Who could have called this emphatic victory at the beginning of the game. At times the French looked menacing and had chances of their own. Henry put his goal away well, there were flashes of creative brilliance form Ribery and Toulalan started to show the reason he is so highly rated, but none of this was enough. they came up against a Dutch side full of confidence that comes from beating the world champions 3 - 0 and having some of the best attacking talent in their squad outside of South America. Engelar and De Jong were once again strong in midfield, Van Nistelrooy was once again unstoppable although without a goal this time and then the other two of the Real Madrid connection - Sneijder and Robben. Between them they tore the French apart. Robbens goal was brilliantly improbable from that angle and Sneijders was equisite in touch, baance, power and accuracy. 7 goals against two of europes best teams - is the year that the Dutch reemerge as the best in Europe?

Friday, 13 June 2008

There's more to life...

When I started this blog I didn't know whether I would be able to continue with it. I have now more than doubled the amount of posts from my first six months of blogging in one week. What I have found over the past week as I have blogged more often is that it is helping me to think clearer about the things racing around in my mind.

I know that I cannot blog about all of those thoughts or I would be on here all day, but it has helped me to think clearer all the same. The football thing I am doing is for a bit of fun. I have always fancied myself as a bit of a football pundit and I have now found an outlet where I can turn that journalistic dream into a reality!!!

However I also know that not eveyone that has dipped into my blog wants to read about football. That is why I am trying to blog twice a day at the moment as much as possible so that for those who have no interest in football, there is also something else that I am buzzing with.

There is so much going on in life that it would be incredibly sad if all I had to talk about was football!!!

Tonight I am looking forward to a rest before getting stuck into Titus 1 tomorrow morning. I've had some great time studying up on this letter and am now excited with the message I believe God has for us on Sunday.

Euro 2008 - Day 6

Germany 1 - 2 Croatia
Austria 1 - 1 Poland

Well now things are getting interesting! I would never have predicted these results.

After watching Croatia limp home against Austria on Sunday I would never have given them any hope against the marauding Germany side that destroyed Poland. However, with a little tinker to the system, Bilic pulled off a result as big as the one against England at Wembley. The Croatians played with tenacity, flair, invention and purpose; in contrast Germany were sloppy in defence and in the pass, were always second to the ball and with all the talent in the side - were without ideas. Only Podolski would have come out of that game with his head held high after another blistering finish. The day belonged to Modric though, as once again he looked like a very good player who will do well in the Premiership.

As for Austria Poland, from the little I saw of it, a draw would seem like a fair reflection of the game. I have been impressed with the Austrian team, they work hard and do go forward, but they don't seem to have anyone who can finish or even have the confidence to have a go. However they do have Harkin, who could well become a player to watch in the future - gets himself into decent positions, but fails to finish! The impressive player for me was the Polish Brazilian - Roger Guerreiro. Although he was offside for the goal, he probably deserved one as the play that I saw of him was extremely skillful and he is full of pace. Another one for the Irons to look at I hope!!!

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Euro 2008 - Day 5

Portugal 3 - 1 Czech Republic
Switzerland 1 - 2 Turkey

Into the second phase of games in the group stages. I only caught the highlights of the games so I can I only assess the matches on what I saw.

With regards the first match. Portugal and the Czechs have great teams, they both have excellent players and are both capable of beating anyone on their day. The difference between them last night was a quality second half from probably the best player in the world - Ronaldo. I don't want to go on about him because everyone else does, but he is brilliant. Also catching the eye was Libor Sionko the guy who scored the Czech goal. Wouldn't be a bad signing for the Hammers maybe!!!

The second game was relegated to BBC 2 as it was the final of The Apprentice - or was it because they are two unfancied teams who it was thought no-one would be bothered about watching!!! I saw less of this than I did the other game - so maybe it's true! From what I saw, Turkey were lucky to win, but it doesn't matter because I can't see them beating the Czech's which means they too will join Switzerland in being out of the competition in a few days time.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

I'm excited about being in Reading because...

There are so many great people in our church. Just today I have spent a great day in the office with the likes of Rachel, Nicola, Karen, Ed and Sean. As if that wasn't enough, Tom was in today, working out of the office and he gave up an hour of his time to have a meeting about IN:Whitley and how it had gone!

Leslie Holland came in to discuss things that she is buzzing with: ways of reaching one of the communities that really need to know Jesus; Alpha; and the women's coffee afternoon on a Monday. She is constantly thinking of new ways of reaching people for Jesus.

Then, this evening, Dan Chard and Beckie Aston came over and we had a wonderful evening with friends who are not only excited about getting married, but are also excited about living for God.

This is a church I am excited about being part of because of all the great people that are going for it for Christ.

West Reading Badminton Tournament Update #1

Another Wednesday, another trip to the Rivermead Leisure Centre to continue to compete for this prestigious trophy (well if you are one of the four of us anyway!)

I was fortunate enough to add to my tally of wins this weekcoming out on top, however it was incredibly close. Going into the final game the score was laying at 4-3-2-1. I had won 4 and Nev 3! We were pitted against each other - Nev and Kim, Scott and Richard.

Nerves had set in and Kim and Nev had a great start to the game getting to 5-1 quickly. Kim is so good at reacting at the net and putting over the little drop shots. It then see-sawed for a while and the scores were levelled at 20-20. Neville had played some lovely power shots from the back and Richard on my side of the net was using his height and wrist to get sharp angles on his kill shots.

It was anyones game. Scott to serve, great return, a cool hit from the back of the court from Richard and into the net by the opposing side. 21-20 to Scott and Kim. The serve goes over again, nerves ajangling all round - what would happen - a short rally and then Richard puts it down the middle to win.

Once again crowned champion of the week but great games. All of us are a similar standard so it makes for exciting games.

Watch this space - the games are so close you never know what will happen!!

Euro 2008 - Day 4

Spain 4 - 1 Russia
Sweden 2 - 0 Greece

Arguably the best game so far of this tournament was played last night. There has been so little to cheer about, but to see great counter attacking football and a masterclass in skill and possession from the Spanish was brilliant.

I had heard a lot about David Villa but had never seen him play - I definitely want to see him play again. His hattrick was well taken, but made possible by his team mates. I loved the commentators comment, that the gun was being loaded by the midfield and he just had to fire the bullets. To their credit, Russia played also played well. The score line reflected a brilliant Spain playing a Russia who would have won against the likes of France or Italy.

I didn't see much of the second game as I have a life and a wife! But the little I did see and hear about told me enough to know that Sweden were as ever hard working and Greece were as ever defensive. The true highlight of the game had to be Ibrahimovic's incredible rocket that opened the scoring. He may not have scored internationally since 2005 but this one was worth waiting for. Neither team were impressive and I would think it's Spain and Russia to go through.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Not one the same

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus - a famous book about men and women (surprisingly) but I think it goes further than this. We are all so different and unique, just like every indvidual snowflake. No two people will be exactly the same; we think differently, react differently, do things differently.

I am always amazed that me doing some simple jobs around the house increases the relational temperature between me and B. For me this is an anomally; I feel closest to her when I we are cuddled up on the sofa watching a film!!! B loves it when we sit and chat; me I am just happy to be in the same room as her.

But this works itself in the church office as well. I find that we are all so different, the diversity of who we all are shows itself in so many ways: the food we eat for lunch, the way that we work, the way we answer the phone, even the choices we make for chocolate Friday. (See this link to Sean's Blog for more info on chocolate friday!)

Because of all this diversity I see the great wisdom in God in showing us that we should 'one another'. Ultimately, the only way that we can have peace with each other is by considering others better than ourselves, it's by submitting to each other, it's by humbling ourselves and choosing what's best for the other person that we learn to enjoy our differences.

God knew we would all be different and he has shown us how to deal with that. I pray that I for one would be better at following the principles that he has laid down so that I learn to live a life that brings glory to him and not conflict to those around me.

Euro 2008 - Day 3

France 0 - 0 Romania
Netherlands 3 - 0 Italy

What a night for the so called 'group of death'. Two surprising results and still every game so far has at least one clean sheet!

I watched the France Romania game in between preparing dinner - to be honest preparing dinner was more entertaining. Other then Ribery there seemed to be little going on at all. Neither keeper were troubled and it was an all round stale affair. I liked the commentators comment about France 'Well they must be planning to beat Italy and Holland as I don't think they are going to beat Romania!' On the evidence of last nights performance, Romania have more of a chance as they were resolute in defence and looked solid, without being dangerous.

I missed the later game as I was at badminton, but caught the highlights when I returned home. What a performance from the Dutch. They were definitely up for it. I have never seen an Italian defence destroyed as they were last night. Who says total football is dead! The names are numerous that could be mentioned on the Dutch side. I know that the pundits loved Van Nistelrooy's contribution (easy to see why) , but I thought the moivement of Kuyt and Sneijder made it easy for him to do what he was doing. If Holland play like this for the tournament they could be battling Germany to win.

Monday, 9 June 2008


After cutting the grass, trimming the edges and doing some gardening, I am once again reminded I do not have a clue about anything in the garden!!! My mother-in-law on the other hand is a dab hand. She has taken cuttings from plants in her own garden and planted them in ours.

After 18 months we are seeing the benefit of taking these small snippings from the bigger bushes and transplanting them into foreign soil.

This got me thinking about the image of God as the Gardener. As we look to plant our best into Amsterdam, we know actually that it is God who is tenderly uprooting and transplanting this cutting from Reading Family Church into foreign soil. It is him that will ensure that that cutting takes so that in 18 months time we can start to see the flourishing of an exciting, growing international church in the Netherlands.

Euro 2008 - Day 2

Austria 0 - 1 Croatia
Poland 0 - 2 Germany
Well I guess the results were predictable!
Austria played well after giving a way a penalty so early on but you have to say that Luka Modric, the Tottenham bound player, looked a class act for Croatia. A nervy start for the victors of the Three Lions, but I expect them to improve.
As for the Germans - it is hard to belive that they had failed to win a European Championship Finals game since 1996. They were clinical and strong across the pitch. The Poles equipped themselves well and gave the Germans some scares but overall you had to say the three time winners were looking good for their favourite status. Podolski may not have had the best club season, but if he keeps up these performances he'll be up for player of the tournament.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Euro 2008 - Day 1

Euro 2008 kicked off today without England involved. In fact not one country from the British Isles has made it to Switzerland and Austria. However this does mean that I can relax and enjoy the football that is on offer.

I do have the priviledge of having a wonderful wife who does not mind me watching some football and so I was able to watch most of the Czech Republic v Switzerland - all I can say is I hope the games get better - not the worst game but certainly not the most scintilating!!! I missed the Portugal match due to a great night out to celebrate my mate Tom Riches birthday. They won 2-0 but I guess that was to be expected as they were playing a lesser side in Turkey.

I look forward to the highlights and to the coming couple of weeks as theis European championship evolves and takes shape without and underachieving England side to worry about (I'm as patriotic as the next bloke, but it is quite nice not to have to care!!!)

He is worthy of all praise

What a good day today has been. I woke up this morning with the words of Kat Starling's song going round in my head:

"We have come to seek your face
We have come to give you praise
Jesus name above all other names
Be exalted Be Exalted

We choose to fix our eyes on you
No matter what we're going through
Lord we long to give our best to you
Be exalted, be exalted

For you are the
King of Glory the Creator of all things
All the earth declares your splendour Lord
And all creation sings

You are worthy, glorious, exalted one
You are worthy we will lift you high
God Almighty no-one else compares with you
You are worthy Lord be glorified"
We then sang the song at the start of our leadership training school this morning. What a wonderful way to start the day focussed on the author and perfector of our faith - knowing that He is the one that is worthy of and deserves all praise. Also what a difference it makes when you start the morning with worship!

Friday, 6 June 2008

A Week On

It's a week on now since IN:Whitley was in full swing when we were meeting many new people, laying paths and clearing rubbish and overgrown vegetation. It's difficult to know what the fruit has been in terms of peoples lives, but I do know that the council and the groundworks team were delighted and astounded at the amount of work that was done by the team that served diligently over two days in the Cowsey. One of the RBC workers was particularly impressed stating that it was better than the path that had existed before.

For me I think there were many successes:

1. We meet people we would never have meet had we not done this - obvious I know but in the business of life this was a real highlight

2. Many people we met knew something about Reading Family Church - people actually know we exist!

3. It got so many of us out of our comfort zones - it is so easy to settle into what you are comfortable with

4. We had one person off the back of a leaflet - not a massive response but all that work for one is definitely worth it

5. 5 people responded to the gospel on Sunday morning - hoorah!

6. I was told off by the children in my street for not being there on Saturday morning whilst they got their faces painted - how cool is that, they were telling me off for not being with my church!

There was so much more but these are just a few of my highlights. It would be great to hear of some of the other great stories that I am sure are out there - maybe you prayed for someone to be healed or maybe you were on the doors for the first time. I for one get excited and am greatly encouraged when I hear about conversations or meetings that people have had.

The West Reading Badminton Tournament

I have now been playing badminton weekly for nearly two years with the same group of guys. The four of us meet on a Wednesday at 4:30pm at Rivermead to play as competitively as we know how. I am somewhat of an outsider in the group (although I do not feel like it) as I am from South Reading and the others are from West Reading.

At the beginning of this year we decided that we would actually play for a medal each week. The person who has the most wins over the year will get to keep the 2008 West Reading Badminton Champ medal!!! This has been going on for 9 weeks now. Unfortunately I have had to miss a few of these evenings but the results stand as follows:

Neville Hollands - 1 (See picture)
Kim Wheller - 0
Richard Thomas - 4
Scott Taylor - 4

As you can see I am currently drawing with Richard but would like to point out that I have only made 6 of the 9 games!

In the words of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - the game is afoot