Reading “Alice in Wonderland” is an exercise in exploring the strange imagination of the author – and recognising people you know in the characters. Our local park has this wood-carving of the Queen of Hearts that caught my eye and made me chuckle at memories of the book. It is very strange tale.

It made me wonder how comfortable we are with whom we are. Looking in mirrors, real or metaphorical, can make us aware of things we’d rather change. That might be our physical appearance, or a flaw or quirk in our character.Most of us would like to change something.

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A good friend paid me a compliment this week. David attended a very good regional retreat/conference down in Cornwall, and emailed to say I’d been missed. (I left the south-west several years ago, so am no longer eligible for that conference.)

David even suggested my sending a video would have been good- naturally, I probed to find out what exactly he meant. That’s when he paid me what I took to be a compliment. Had the missing ingredient from the conference had been my sparkling wit (no)… or amazing musical talent (er, still no)… or my deep psychological insights and deep spiritual maturity. (Sadly, NO.) Without me…

There was not enough MISCHIEF.

Mischief! Some of you may be shocked to think that ministers (or even Christians in general) might ever be mischievous.

Is it my fault that I was put in charge of handling the visual projection facilities for several years? Is it my fault I have a warped sense of humour and a large collection of jokes, video clips, and the like? I suppose it might be inferred that I took advantage of such opportunities as came my way…

Humour has sometimes got me into a bit of bother. Or other people into a sticky spot. It also made others relax, laugh, and shed some stress.

I am quite comfortable with humour, mischief, and laughing. There is a time and a place, of course, but hey-ho. It’s funny!

A few years back I had a deeply significant experience in a prayer/encouragement meeting. The conference leader was praying over individuals round the room. To be honest, I didn’t expect much (he didn’t know me at all) but when he stopped in front of me, John began chuckling. Oops, I thought… what on earth… Then John said “I sense the Lord is telling me you are a joker- and that your humour is a special gift. Use it wisely.”

We’d never spoken before. He was an Anglican, I’m a Baptist. We lived hundreds of miles apart. John didn’t know me from Adam.

His words were an affirmation to my soul. Jokes and pranks are not always the obvious “tools of the trade” for pastors, and I had been criticised from time to time. To be told this was a valuable gift meant so much. The way my character is shaped is not a mistake, or something to be ashamed off. I am comfortable in my own skin. (I’m far from perfect- I should carry a sign saying “please be patient, God hasn’t finished with me yet.”)

God accepts us as we are. Even mischievous me, a work in progress. Even you, also a work in progress. That should put a smile on our faces.

A vicar, rabbi and Baptist minister walked into a bar. OUCH, they said in unison.

Just be glad I have better jokes than that, and may just try a spot of mischief…  See you at the next conference, David. Sleep well!