Juggling Otters – Look, See, Pray

1973. That’s the year I was as damp and as happy as this lil’ juggling otter.

Why? Because the 29th April 1973 was the day I publicly acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour through believer’s baptism. For those who may not know, Baptist Christians are baptised by full immersion on their profession of faith, repentance, and committed obedience to God. Imagine a pool about 3 metres x 2 metres and about 1.5 metres deep. My Dad was the pastor who joyfully baptised me and two friends on 29th April 1973. So it’s an anniversary.

Here I am stuck indoors while it rains. I want to celebrate! Celebrating may have to be limited to baking some naughty but nice condensed milk biscuits. I’ll share some with you, if you like, as long as you can tell me how to WhatsApp them across.   My inner otter also approves of my diet, since I’m having salmon for dinner to balance the biscuits!

Forty-seven years ago. 47. Yes, nearly fifty years, and I have the silvery-white beard to prove it. Doesn’t seem possible! I don’t look old enough (and some might say “or behave well enough” but I am a work in progress).

Any regrets? No. Some bruises and sadnesses, some questions still without answers, some hard lessons, but no regrets. Happy about it? Oh yes! So many joys, memories, friends, experiences. My life has been shaped forever by that Sunday evening dunking. I cannot imagine having lived any different life than being loved by God and finding out how to love Him back.

Why the rather tenuous connection with a juggling otter photo? Well, I wanted to mark the anniversary with something joyful, fun, and irrepressible. That pretty much spells “otter.” They play enthusiastically, work with dedication, love generously, and move with graceful elegance (which is where the similarity stops. I am about as graceful as a T-Rex on skis).

Some people give the impression that being a Christian is dull, serious, goody-goody, and possibly hypocritical. It has been my intent to disprove that theory! I can be serious when necessary. But I love to laugh, tell jokes, play and sing… in fact doing the things that Jesus did. Really important things are learned through laughter… and some only learned through tears. Jesus talked about giving us LIFE IN ABUNDANCE.

That otter… totally focussed on the moment, juggling a stone, full of the joy of being alive!

Me too. I love otters, dolphins, hummingbirds, swallows and pretty much anything that looks happy as it goes about living each brand new day. The promises I made 47 years ago are still binding: and that gradually-growing relationship with Jesus is the reason I am smiling.

I’m far from perfect. Jesus is working on that. So, perhaps, are you. Thank you to my family, my friends, my fellow-believers, and those I have served with and worked alongside. Too many to name, but not forgotten.

Finishing with an anniversary “joke” of sorts: If ever my love for God and for my neighbours should grow cool, I know I can simply ask the Lord to ……. make me a little ‘otter.

Be blessed on my anniversary day! Be blessed on your special days too.


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!