Lion taming for beginners …


So I’m old enough to remember the circus … not the ‘a bunch of women in leotards swinging from ribbons’ type of circus, but the sort of circus with elephants and lions and tigers.

Probably twice in my early life I got taken along to see properly exciting stuff like performing seals and a man taming tigers. There was always a cage for MY protection … although I wasn’t always sure it was string enough … but the sight of a man going in with those beasts armed with no more than a whip and a chair? Wow! Big stuff!

What on EARTH was he doing with a chair?

Now the whip I understood … we ALL understood … but WHAT was he doing with a chair in there?!

ImageWell, the chair thing all started with a man called Clyde Beatty who was born in Bainbridge, Ohio in 1903. He was the pioneer of taking a chair into the ring. And funnily enough, in an age when most lion tamers seemed to meet a grizzly end, Clyde Beatty lived in into his 60s, succumbing eventually to cancer and not to the beasts of forest and field.

The life-saving breakthrough discovery

What Clyde discovered was this: while the audience focused on the whip, the lion tried to focus of the legs of the chair … all four at once … and with its focus divided the lion became confused and unsure. It would freeze and not commit to any clear action. Four legs paralysed him with too many options!

Paralysed by too many options

CB3The point is that the lion is distracted with multiple options and alternatives, and misses the big thing because he’s trying to focus on everything that’s getting shoved in his face!

So many get easily distracted

There is SO much else to focus on, SO much else to do … we’re busy, too busy just now.

We can always find other ‘priorities’.

Of course, very few of us will be eaten by lions, but every one of us is likely to die, and what’s more of a priority for anyone today than making that safe for yourself … forever?! You’ll need to focus … and now’s ALWAYS a great time to get on with it!

If we can help you with this please feel free to comment below, letting us know how you’d like us to contact you.

I’m grateful to The James Clear post ‘A simple Guide to Better Focus and Concentration: Lessons from a Lion Tamer’ which appeared first on the Buffer Blog, for initially drawing my attention to Clyde Beatty.

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Heavy Topping …

So (I admit) there WAS a time in my life when, for me, ‘heavy topping’ was full fat cream.

But then I met up with juncus effusus … the Latin means ‘soft rush’.

Soft rush in semi-permanent pasture

Soft rush in semi-permanent pasture

Contrary to what might be expected, this soft rush (whilst thoroughly reprehensible) has NOTHING to do with the psychotropic effects of Class C narcotics.

(Perish the thought!)

No, we’re talking grass management here (… oh dear, you’ll think I’m doing it again … but I’m not).

Grassland management not unauthorised horticulture

Juncus effusus is a persistent and pervasive weed in acid, wet, nutrient depleted pasture land which has potentially massive costs associated with its impact on animal health … and if you’re going to have any real impact on controlling it without running to the massive expense of significant civil engineering, you’ve just GOT to do the right thing at the right time.

Heavy days in the field for our Betty


Invariably on our land, that involves a very heavy day in the field for Betty, the blue Ford 4-6.

There’s no easy, long term  alternative. You just need to get onto the land with machinery and ‘top’ the rushes as low down as possible.

This does two useful things.

It lets the land dry out as it then gets exposed to sun and wind (whereas before it was kept damp by the overshadowing rushy canopy), and it allows grass previously choked out to get out into the sun, build up its strength and fight back.

But timing it right is just crucial.


There’s no point doing this in July or August. You really want to do it in late May or June before the rushes set seed and extend their nasty influence.

Soft rush - juncus effusus - starting to set seed

Effectively you’ve got to seize the early opportunity – as soon as the land is dry enough to carry the weight of the tractor – and chop the seed heads off before they multiply the mischief.

Here’s a photo of some of our  juncus that is JUST setting seed (look for the light mustard fluffy bits along the edge of the stalks), and which needs topping as smartly as possible … before things get worse.

The best damage-limiting treatment for your weed seeds

Jesus (who seems to have been pretty smart about agriculture) tells a famous story of four sorts of soil, and one good sort of seed, with a sower who goes out to sow it.

Of course, one sort of soil is rock hard and the seed bounces off it … only to be gobbled up by the birds.

Another sort seems good but the underlying rock is very close to the surface, the seed shoots away but can’t put down sustainable roots and the sun very quickly burns the plants off.

Of course, there is good soil that takes in the seed, which then puts down good roots and sustains a good harvest … but there’s also the soil that has weeds in it.

Like our wet, acid fields, our environment encourages their growth.

This isn’t a briar patch that Jesus describes, but apparently cultivated soil that still contains weed seeds despite making very good appearances.

Naturally in His parable, the effect of these weed seeds is that they grow up and choke off the crop, subverting the fruitfulness of the process.

Those seeds should have been put (of course) into properly prepared soil … but even then weed seeds spring up and need topping off. In the parable, NONE of this happens.

Now, of course, Jesus didn’t just tell stories to pass time. He was talking about the weedy pasture of every person’s life where weeds easily spring up and choke off our relationship to God (as he explains a bit further down the page).

The point for us here surely is this …

  • Regular weeding is necessary.
  • Acting swiftly is absolutely crucial … before more seed gets set and the trouble just SPREADS.
  • We need to be decisive toppers and weeders … not just of our fields but our souls.

Weeds really don’t need very much encouragement to grow up and cut off our view of the Son.

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A gate is no barrier …

There are two new Welsh Red (Ci Coch) puppies here at the moment.

They are boisterous, sharp, out-running dogs … and they could teach a lot of churches and Christians a thing or two.

For example … to our pair of four month olds, the visible evidence of a gate is perceived as no ACTUAL barrier at all … (click the link above)

You see, over or under, there’s always a way!

‘Cannot do’ attitudes

You’d think that the God who makes all His resources available in Christ to do everything God sends His people out to achieve would get frustrated with ‘cannot do’ attitudes, wouldn’t you?

Making the brethren’s hearts sink …

But churches can be FULL of the attitudes of the ten spies in Numbers 13 who returned with faithless reports that ‘made the brethren’s hearts sink’.
God’s word is full of the opposite teaching …

Or refusing the barrier effect of gates?

Paul is worth taking lessons from on this: ‘I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength’ (Philippians 4:13)

Looks like Christ is the One to go to!

Is it time to go out there and prove it?

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Trepidation in Preston ( North end)

Oooh! There’s always that little frison of excitement as you approach an unfamiliar shower.


It’s not that I particularly need a brave pill at the thought of soap and water. It’s just that I’ve lived a fair old while, survived it until now … and I’ve encountered the brooding malice of these jobbies more than once, you know?

Well the room is very nice. Not … ‘welcoming’ … but nice.

And it isn’t warmly Welsh, but the hotel chain is French, so I reckon this at least makes it comfortingly ‘Celtic fringe’.

But am I going to make it into that shower? The towels are warmly inviting, neatly folded on that rail.

But the close-tiled, shiny shower still looks a calculating risk.

Are those hot and cold knobs evenly balanced?


Is that hanging shower head hanging onto a few cold drops, ready to drip them on the first adventurer who dares to approach?


Well, you know that I survived it as you know I’m writing this. And you know I didn’t flunk it, because adults do not publish flunking showers!

But life’s full of little adventures and things that call for acts of trust.

It’s all very well to say ‘I do my own risk assessments’ – when I had my own off road driver training business I lived by that rule all the time.

But the number of times I’ve got half way up (or down!) and wished I’d never started … well there’s definitely room for error in the process.

And if I’m my only source of security … my life is risky.

But the Bible holds a promise that’s been tested by God’s people for millenia, and it’s a promise that for us has held secure:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear …”

Mebbe it’s time to give Him a go?

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Preachers playing tiddlywinks using the FIFA offside rule …

Bonkers suggestion, isn’t it?

But much of many preachers’ attempts to argue for Christian truth using the laws of science comes down to something not so very different from that.

Check it out in this short (roughly 10 minute) video extract …


Get the slides that accompany the complete version here:

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”John 20 vv 24 29″ target=”_blank”>John 20 vv 24 29</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Grace Christian Community Llandeilo</a></strong> </div>


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Why would you believe the Resurrection?!

The videos that begin to answer this question are here:

Short video extract … three minutes.

Second short extract on the documentary evidence for Christ’s resurrection … four minutes.

Complete sermon video from which these extracts are taken (about 30 minutes):

… and the slides to go with it are here:

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”1 corinthians 15 vv 13 14 easter 2013″ target=”_blank”>1 corinthians 15 vv 13 14 easter 2013</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Grace Christian Community Llandeilo</a></strong> </div>

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Making useful discipline out of hardship and pain

Here’s the slideshow to go with this morning’s sermon.
<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”; title=”Discipline hebrews 12 v 7″ target=”_blank”>Discipline hebrews 12 v 7</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”; target=”_blank”>Grace Christian Community Llandeilo</a></strong> </div>

The video is available here:

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This sheep is a natural born killer …

2012-03-24 13.29.29Lambing time (or so it seems) lurches from being one thing to the other.

It’s either blindingly good or the pits.

Some days it makes you feel great.

Other days things happen that could almost break your heart!

But this week we’ve had something happening that for undisclosed reasons feels really disturbing and weird.

(Now, don’t panic, it’s nothing too gory!)

Slightly disturbing and weird

Caleb’s bottle-fed lamb from two years ago had a lovely little male lamb … and HATED it. She utterly loathed the sight of it, and was doing all she could to destroy it. (Quite violent).

Of course, you do sometimes get this with first lambers … it spaces them out to have brought forth this mess which then seems determined to eat them, or swallow them, or (rather) particularly personal parts of them.

Suckling isn’t always intuitive!

ImageOn the other hand, colostrum (or first milk) is desperately important and if the lamb doesn’t get enough of it fast enough, then the lamb’s life isgoing to be lost. It sounds hard, but if all other efforts fail, the ewe’s head must be held in the adopter so that the lamb can get on and suck freely.

It normally takes about a day and a half. The ewe gets all sorts of special feeding and attention. Within 48 hours she has realised this isn’t going to kill her, the lamb starts to smell like her, and her reluctance to mother it fades.

Not this week. Not this ewe. This sheep is a natural born killer!

This sheep is a natural born killer

I  have to admit, it’s quite shocking. It’s un-natural. It’s really disturbing to see. Every day the ewe gets let out of ‘the stocks’ for time spent at liberty in her pen with cleear sight of her lamb (moved for safety) through the hurdle in the pen right next door. Every day when the lamb is put back in loose with her she takes just seconds to start trying to annihilate it. So we grab her, and put her back in the adopter. You’d have thought she would have learnt better by now, even though her own instinct’s so faulty. But – no.

Now, we see all sorts of stuff that’s not nice in the course of a normal farming year. Normally you can step in and fix things. And normally it’s all ‘natural’ stuff anyway. But this experience has been profoundly disturbing.

A word from the eighth century BC

In the eighth century BC Isaiah picked up on this sort of trauma, although he put it in a purely human context (Isaiah 49) to help some people going through some pretty hard experiences. They’d started to think that their hard life-experiences meant that God had forgotten them:

” … Zion ({God’s people} said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
the Lord has forgotten me.”

15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.”

When life gets tough for us the temptation is there to assume it’s because God’s taken against us.

For Isaiah’s congregation things had developed that way, but the pledge of God’s love stands against the idea.

Love and unerring committment

ImageIn our day and age love is not always linked to committment. In God’s vocabulary, it always, unerringly is.

God’s unchanging promise of loving committment to His covenant-loved people comes over clearly in the words of William Cowper’s old hymn:


Can a woman’s tender care
Cease towards the child she bear?
Yes, she may forgetful be,
Yet will I remember thee.

As the Book of Proverbs would put it:

“The name of the Lord is a fortified tower;
    the righteous run to it and are safe.”

All the more reason to stay committed to Him, then, especially when our own life experience is particularly disturbing and weird?

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Please don’t form the impression this blog is about Christians moralising or being ‘holier than thou’.
It really isn’t.
It’s about something that wrecks and ruins human lives while people involved in it don’t notice what’s happening, and it’s a secret addiction that Jesus Christ can really do something about.

Tim Chester

Covenant Eyes have just released an alarming collection of porn statistics. If you don’t think porn is a significant problem, both in the wider culture and in the church, then please take time to look at these figures. Here’s a sample

  • 340,000,000 plus searches for porn since the beginning of 2013
  • 88 percent of scenes in porn movies contain acts of physical aggression
  • 1 in 2 pastors say porn is strong temptation, but only 1 in 4 make themselves accountable for their internet use
  • 1 in 2 Christian men and 1 in 5 Christian women admit to being addicted to porn
  • 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls have been exposed to online porn before the age of 18
  • 7 out of 10 teenagers hide their online activity from their parents
  • 2 out of 3 young men and 1 in 2 young women say viewing…

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Buying a pup …

Me and Floss March 2012So you set out to buy yourself a pup.

What are you wise to be looking for?

With working dogs that can basically bring you back some sheep (and often very little more) costing around £2,000, if you set out to buy a pup (at around £150 for a dog and £200 for a bitch) you’re basically looking for economy … but the risk the pup won’t grow up to work is substantial.

So how do you pick out a good one from a squirming mass of puppies, piling over each other, nipping and biting on the barn’s earthen floor?

2013-02-15 11.36.15That’s the question we were asking last week when I took my eleven year old to pick out a young Welsh Sheepdog bitch. It’s a very big question. We’re looking for the pup that is going to be ‘the one’ … his working companion in his work on the hills as (God willing!) the boy grows up into the man.

Obviously genetics means a lot, so you check out the parents. You see them at home. You try to see them at work. And (mebbe) you wince at the cost of a pedigree pup!

If you listen to the old boys they’ll tell you to check in its mouth. ‘Black mouth – smart dog’ they’ll tell you … as if this is the wisdom of the ages. They might try to tell you a black mouth indicates a good blood supply to the brain, but be very aware – this stuff is not clinically proven!

Picking the one that picks you.

2013-02-15 11.49.54If you listen to the breeders they might tell you to pick the one that comes to you or tries to follow you around … pick the one that thinks it wants to pick you!

That  sounds good.

There’s always one that wants to sit on your foot, and it takes a lot of the stress out of deciding!

But if you check the academic papers floating around on the internet, the truth is more risky than this.

The American military’s extensive research on selecting good search and attack dogs says you really can’t tell until they’re about eleven months old whether working dogs have the makings or not.

The truth is, probably, you pick a pup that you like and you hope for the best, you take it on and give it a go, as you teach it to come to its name and to follow you around on the yard, feeding stock, bedding down, doing maintenance. It’s bonding and learning to follow you.

Without that, it will never be any good.

If it learns those things well, there’ll be some hope it will work. But buying a pup’s still a risk.

And why not? Life’s a risk! (Even God seems to take a ‘risk’ … on His people.)

God buys a pup with His people?

God looks for people that turn to Him, that follow Him around as He works. But all the while it appears that He’s taking a risk with us … ‘buying a pup’ you could say.

And let’s face it, you can even have a great dog that turns out to work well, but occasionally turns into a killer.

It’s a risk.

And you see the same problem when God’s picking His church. There are people He trusts who ‘turn bad’ and show they weren’t really His people at all.

Yet He still takes a risk on us and gives us the chance – as if He always meant it should be so.

See, it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us … and from the human perspective He takes a risk on us right from the start. We might seem ever so enthusiastic and sincere to begin with, seem to follow Him around and get ever so excited at His voice … but (Matthew 13 explains this) turn out to be stony or weedy ground later, or even reject Him  altogether.

And the risk’s so much bigger where He’s concerned. He’s not picking from pedigree stock! He’s looking  to make followers – specifically – from failures.


And the lesson from all that goes like this …

The important thing for young pups number these:

  • to learn the voice that calls their name,
  • to learn their name when its called,
  • and to learn to follow the hand that feeds them as they pick up on the job and grow into the work (“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”- John 10:27).

And there are lessons to be found there for all of us …

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