Sun sets over golf

(This is the script of my Pause For Thought on BBC Radio 2 on the Owain Wyn Evans show on November 29, 2023. The Theme was How I'm Saving Planet Earth...)


My wife Janice’s Grandad was a sea captain and later in life the Harbour Master here in Belfast. His hobby was building little model ships. These were the days before Air Fix. These models needed more skill… and love.

Captain Gordon has left us hundreds of such models. Small to quite big. The detail is staggering.

Needless to say his grand children, all now in their 50’s, love them. They all have them on show. 

They are also carefully cared for. I took one of ours to show the children in church and I carried it like it was the most valuable thing in all there world.

I like to think of the earth as God’s art. I am fascinated that, maybe before time, God imagined. Colours for instance. Green. Once there was no green. No blue. God imagined. 

I sometimes think of my favourite scene in the world. Ballycastle beach. Walking out towards Fairhead, with Scotland beyond, I look to my right and there’s the lush green of the golf course. To my left the deep blue of the sea. In the middle Janice, Jed our dog and me on a narrow stretch of golden sand. 

At sunset the sky goes all kinds of colours and I ask how God can paint such beauty, different every night, with the same piece of sky and the same time of day.

For me as a believer, the planet is God’s art. In prayer I call him Father. I love my Father’s creation. Like those model ships I carry it carefully.

BUT do I, this week theme is like a sermon that cuts through my soul. What am I doing to save God’s art. Far too little.

BUT as we wait for COP 28 to help save our earth I am delighted that this very week The 4 Corners Festival of which I am a co-chair have declared that we will be carbon neutral. 

We have worked out the footprint of last years festival and will invest in trees to offset it. Surprisingly it didn’t cost us that much but it would cost the earth much more if we didn’t. 

So I am now looking at holidays and other ventures that I can offset to sustain my Father’s masterpiece. 


Windsor 22

(The script for my Pause For Thought with Owain Wyn Evans on BBC Radio 2 on November 22, 2023... The theme was An Attitude Of Gratitude)


In the summer of 2022 my wife and daughters and I spent a day in Windsor. We went on a river boat trip and took selfies outside the Castle. 

We never dreamed that some 16 months later we would get to go inside the Castle. To my complete surprise I was given an MBE in the King’s Honours List in June. It’s quite a thrill.

Even more fun is the investiture. We were all very chuffed that I was going to receive my medal in Windsor Castle. Oh yes.

For the moments you get with a member of the Royal Family you get a couple of hours in the rooms of the Castle. I spotted Willie Morgan the former Manchester United footballer just ahead of me in the line. I told him I had his book but now needed to read it. A laugh with a sporting hero.

Anyway, I had one intention when I got in front of my Royal, who to my delight, was the Princess Royal. As my MBE was for my contribution to peace building in Northern Ireland I wanted to thank the Royal Family for their contributions and to encourage them to continue.

The late Queen’s state visit to Dublin in 2011 when she spoke Irish at the State Dinner and shaking hands with Martin McGuinness in Belfast a year later made huge contributions to our peace building.

And I got my chance. When Princess Anne pinned the medal to my lapel I said thank you and, quickly in case time was short, thanked her family for their peace building.

Princess Anne took me off guard. She took it shyly, almost rejecting my thank you. As we chatted, with more time than I thought, she finally said that it was all about humility. 

I quickly got a bit too religious and said that even God was humble, coming to earth to live among us. The God of the manger, the donkey and the cross.

By the time we finally left Windsor Castle, we were reluctant to go, I was surmising the word humility, all tangled up with the word gratitude.  It is not easy to be humble when you live in castles. Yet gratitude and humility is how I will always feel looking back to this amazing day. 

Indeed humility is becoming my favourite and most challenging word.



(This is my Pause For Thought script for the early morning of November 15, 2023... the theme was Diwali...)


November. For some reason over the past 30 years I have always wanted to resign from my job in November. Oh I now expect it, anticipate it and try to prepare for it but still every November everything tumbles down around me. I know that some friends feel it too.

Over the years I have wondered about this. I have come to think that maybe we arrive back from all our summer holidays and then go gung ho back at life. By November we are burned out and vulnerable. Then we turn the clock back, winter nights get cold, storms like Debbie crash in on our souls as much as our roofs and trees. November is long dark nights without a Christmas at its end.

Makes me a little jealous this week of our Hindu and Muslim friends as they celebrate Diwali, lights in the dark. As a Christian I have another 40 days and nights to wait for Jesus and his light.

Just as those celebrating Diwali will be lighting small lamps in homes and streets I am often calling my church community to be particles of light across the city of Belfast. Every day in work or leisure, in offices and hospitals and schools and shops and gyms and cafes and parks and houses we are called to be little candle flickers of light. Jesus said he was the light and then turned to his followers to tell them they were the light.  

After decades of succumbing to dark November’s I have come to fight it with another idea. The long dark winter nights are the ones when a light is most needed and makes the most impact. There is no point in shining a light into a warm bright sunny blue summer’s sky. Light makes the difference in the dark. In the deep November dark a particle or candle flicker of light can make the biggest difference.

And so when our inner world is dark, a word, a gesture, a kindness, a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on, a particles of light can stop us resigning. 

As I wish my neighbours Happy Diwali, I hear Jesus call me to be a light in the thickest darkness of these November days.



(This was my script for Pause For Thought on BBC Radio 2 on September 22, 2023... The theme was Being Forgiven...)


Forgiveness. In my world it seems to be a word to debate and keep at arms length; Talked about much more than it is actually done. 

I am involved in the planning of the 4 Corners Festival in Belfast and a few years ago we had a theme Scandalous Forgiveness. Before the Festival so many people asked us if we couldn’t change the Forgiveness word.

Forgiveness is not easy. It is no small thing to let go of the need for justice and desire for vengeance and simply wipe the slate clean.

When talking about forgiveness, Jesus told a story about a King who was dealing with those indebted to him. A servant owed him a ginormous amount of money but the King took pity on the man and his wife and children and rote off the debt. Then the relieved servant, on the way home, met someone who owed him a pittance but he demanded to be paid. 

This is something like how I experience forgiveness. It seems to me that many of us would love to know that God forgives us but we are not so keen to forgive. We cannot let people off with it. It is too soft. Forgiveness is hard to do.

It is and that is why when I am in situation where I am receiving forgiveness, which I have to say doesn’t seem to be as often as I need to ask for it, I always think of the forgiver. 

I respect their courage. I admire their grace. I am inspired by the humility of heart that has given up the temptation to get their vengeance by letting it go. 

I feel blessed to know such a human being. I feel blessed that relationships are restored. I also pray that I will have the same humility and grace towards those who have hurt me.



(This is the script of my Pause For Thought with Owain Wyn Evans on BBC Radio 2 on September 15, 2023. The them was The Power Of Coming Together)


I’ve always wondered about the greatest rock bands. The miracle of 4 people from the same place at the same time, finding each other. All brilliant on different instruments. A shy bass player. A charismatic singer. A songwriter. The power of coming together.

I mean The Beatles. Mercy. One seismic moment in a neighbourhood or two of Liverpool. The melodies, the looks, the personalities, the harmonies, Harrison’s sweet guitar riffs, the long hair shaking to the catchiest choruses ever written. All great but there is no way that they could have shook the 60s as solo artists. It was a perfect pop coming together to create something explosive. 

U2. Dublin’s version. None of them could have made it alone. It’s maybe why they have never broken up. Solo careers are unlikely. Again it was their coming together. One school. One time. One ad on the noticeboard. One rehearsal in the drummer’s kitchen. A coming together of naive teens that became the biggest rock band on the planet.

I was watching them live in Vancouver in 2005. I had just started a sabbatical. I was actually finishing a book on the band and needed to see them on the Tuesday night and have the final chapter written about it by Sunday. 

I remember during the concert thinking how do they do this. How can just four people, only three of them playing instruments fill this huge Arena and capture the attention of 100os? 

Then I sensed they were playing on this coming together. The way they showed the band on the big screens. Individual shots but together. That song of theirs where they sing, “we are ONE but we are not the same. 

This particular tour was Africa centred. All the African flags appeared in a magnificent back drop. I was convinced their message was about a coming together of humanity and I was even more convinced it was based on the South African word Ubuntu. That Xhosa word Ubuntu that means I cannot be fully me without you. 

U2 seemed to be preaching in their songs that humans are always better as human beings when we come together. Love our neighbour. Serve each other. As that U2 song goes… “One but not the same, we get to carry each other”.


Boldly Go

(This is my script for Pause For Thought on Owain Wyn Evans, BBC Radio 2, on September 8, 2023. The them for the week was To Go Boldly as I think today was Star Trek Day)


To Boldly Go. Obviously Star Trek. 

I am also thinking Dances With Wolves with Kevin Costner’s cavalry character saying that he wants to see the frontier before the frontier gone. 

Even more for me, CS Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles where these children find a whole new world through the fur coats in a wardrobe.

Well, actually the first children, Polly and Digory travel to Narnia with magic rings, through a stagnant pool.

A few years ago I was speaking at a Sunday Service in Campbell College, a boarding school in East Belfast and used Digory and Polly in my sermonette. 

After the event was over the headmaster Robert Robinson said to me, “Do you want to go and see the pool?” What? “The pool that CS Lewis based it on is down our back drive.”

Ten minutes later I was standing beside everything that I had imagined CS Lewis’s stagnant pool to be. The size, the darkness beneath the trees, the green algae across the top and even a rugby scrummage machine poking out of it. 

On its edge, I almost felt I was in Narnia. 

When Digory and Polly arrived out of this pool, Polly was a little fearful. She wanted to go back home where it was safe. Digory on the other hand said to her,“There's not much point in finding magic rings that let you into other worlds if you're afraid to look at them when you've got there.”

Following Jesus for me is a lot like that and can I say that I believe that that was Lewis’s intention. Narnia was a spiritual world.

Forgiveness. That’s Jesus territory. He was keen to forgive. He called us to forgive each other. 70 times 7 he said at one point. 

So often it seems to me the world is being driven by vengeance. Everybody wants to make right our wrongs.

That’s where Jesus territory comes in. To live a life of forgiveness. Where we are driven by restoring relationships, healing communities, reconciling nations. That’s a frontier I’d like to see. Another world I’d love to explore. That’s where I’d like to boldly go right now and on into the weekend.


Lioness Heros

This is the script of my Pause For Thought on BBC Radio 2 on September 1st, 2023... the theme was "Things That Make Me Happy"


“Things That Make Me Happy”. That’s a question I thought. Obviously walking Ballycastle beach with my wife Janice and our dog Jed as we have been doing for the last three weeks…” Holiday happy. 

But what else? You see I am suspicious of happy. It is at the mercy of happenings. Pretty fragile. I prefer a deep contentedness not matter what.

BUT… I started thinking. Sport makes me happy. The World Athletic Championships had me crying me lugs out in pure happiness as Katarina Johnston-Thompson, Josh Kerr and Ben Pattison fulfilled dreams..

AND then… I remembered watching those English Lionesses, Chloe Kelly and Alex Greenwood, get between the intrusive TV cameras and a very upset Chiamaka Nnadozie the Nigerian goalkeeper that they had just defeated in a penalty shoot out. Standing up for the opposition when they could have been celebrating. I had a happy buzz.

Then my daughter Caitlin told us about being on the bus where the bus driver stopped the bus to go and help a homeless person. Wow. Another happiness buzz. I wouldn’t mind my bus being late for that.

And speaking of daughters and buses. A few Friday night’s ago, my other daughter Jasmine was in London on a bus with her friend Hannah. They noticed a girl who seemed very upset and moved over to stand by her and help her. They got her off the bus and waited until her boyfriend picked her up. After I knew that Jasmine and Hannah were safe… and after a little pride… I felt so happy.

What made Jasmine unhappy was that no one else came to the girl’s aid.

So as I heard about these incidents during the time I waited to do this Pause For Thought I learned something about myself. People who do something to help those who need someone to stand by them, particularly when they have no obligation to. That makes me happy in my soul.

It reminded me of that story Jesus told about a man who had been mugged and left at the side of the road. After the religious passers by had ignored the man, someone of another race and religion stopped and helped. The Good Samaritan he is known as.

And it is the actions of Good Samaritans I have learned that make me happy. And I would suggest even more than happy, but deep contented too. 



(This is my script for Pause For Thought on BBC Radio 2 on The Early Breakfast Show with Owain Wyn Evans. The theme was That's What Friends Are For...)


This week’s theme had me immediately smiling to myself that I could obsess about my favourite film The Shawshank Redemption. Highly recommend it, if you haven’t seen it. 

In the movie, A rather out of place Andy (played by Tim Robbins) arrives into Shawshank prison and quickly experiences its brutality. He is befriended by Red. I have such a soft spot for Red. Maybe it’s because in Stephen King’s original novel Red was Irish. Maybe Liam Neeson wasn’t available and so instead of my north Antrim accent we get an African American played so well by my other favourite actor, Morgan Freeman.

Red is a friend to all, always bringing empathy and lots of wisdom. When the prisoners are getting over their friend Brooks’s suicide, having just been released after decades in jail. Red sits them all down in the exercise yard and in almost a clergyman’s tone says, “'At first you hate these walls, then you accept them and eventually you become dependent on them”. Oh my. A Pause for Thought in itself!

As the movie continues there is a shift. Andy becomes the friend. They are working hard on the prison roof and he tells a guard he can fix his taxes. That gets all his mates a cold beer, while Andy sits, without the beer, smiling.

Another time he sends the sound of opera all across the prison to ease the prisoners dull lives with little blasts of musical beauty. These are glimpses of grace in an oppressive brutal world. Andy is the friend who gives and sometimes, as with the opera, at his own cost.

After the opera incident Andy gets a harsh dose of solitary confinement. After he comes out Red tries to dampen any enthusiasm the prisoners have of hope. A dangerous thing he calls it. Andy disagrees and says “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies”.

Then the emotional ending. Finally given parole, Red follows his friend Andy’s instructions to a wall under the tree and a box with the money for a ticket to Mexico. 

Tears run down my cheeks as I watch the last scene. The panoramic view of the ocean. Sharpest blue sky and ocean contrasting with 3 hours of the grey dark world of Shawshank. Red is on the sand walking towards Andy working on a boat. Free. Redeemed. It’s a little glimpse of heaven. 

Giving us hope. That’s what friends are for.


Hart Everest

(This is the script of my Pause For Thought on BBC Radio 2 with Nikki Chapman on December 15th 2022. The theme was Conquering Mountains.

In italics is a paragraph I ditched. It was not because I wanted to edit the Bible out. I always like the Bible in my Thoughts. It was because that we rightly decided that the general UK public would not be knowledgeable enough of The Gospels to grasp the theological thought within. If you are then you might see where I was coming from...)


I remember the phone call. It was around 8 am and Caroline was telling my wife Janice that her husband Nigel had summited Everest. I remember a sense of relief. Then euphoria.

Nigel was on Everest to do medical research. Research done and there was a chance of conquering the highest mountain in the world. I was learning that you didn’t just get out at the highest Base Camp and make a run for it. It would depend on the weather. He would need the right weather at the right time and he got it.

He had made it. I felt the sense of achievement. So few get to experience the top of the world. I went out and ran faster and longer than the day before. Everything seemed possible.

When Nigel came home and talked about reaching the top of Everest he told me that he doesn’t endorse the idea that we conquer mountains. We are blessed to reach their summits and it might be possible in doing so to conquer our fears and worries.

He also says that that when you get to the top of a mountain you are only half way there.  Coming down can be more dangerous. You can be complacent. There are ice movements coming down Everest that can be the most dangerous part. Nigel didn’t think it was over when he got down the mountain BUT he had only made it when he was back home with his family.

It’s good advice for every project. An understanding about when the challenge is actually conquered. When can I relax? When is it done?

People often see Jesus cross as his summit but actually when he fixes his eyes on Jerusalem in Luke 9, it is about the time he would be taken up to heaven. The cross wasn’t the end for Jesus, nor was the resurrection. It was when he ascended back into heaven.

Next year we remember 25 years since the Good Friday peace Agreement in Northern Ireland. It was the end of the Troubles. A mountain conquered it seemed. There was relief. Euphoria. 

But it wasn’t the end. We need to continue to build on the peace that was made. Making peace was not the end. The next bit can be dangerous but we need to keep moving until we have more than a constitutional peace but a peace that everyone is experiencing every single day. 



(this is my Pause For Thought on BBC Radio 2 on December 8, 2022... the theme was One Hit Wonders...)


Today marks 42 years since the murder of John Lennon. How we miss him but he was definitely not a one hit wonder.

BUT… In the summer of 1967, the week that Sgt Peppers was released, David McWilliams was on the front cover of Melody Maker. London buses carried the advert “America has Dylan, England has Donovan and Ireland has McWilliams”. 

David McWilliams had just released a single called The Days Of Pearly Spencer. A song about a homeless man, it had a documentary feel with the low tech gimmick of David singing down a phone line. It was full of social comment about poverty and the environment. You can see where the Dylan and Donovan comparisons come from.

The song was set up to be a huge hit BUT something went wrong. McWilliams manager Phil Solomon was so wound up with the pirate radio station Radio Caroline that the over exposure given to that station caused the BBC to ban the single. Hence it was number 1 in France, number 2 in Belgium, number 8 in Holland but only 51 in the UK.

Now, here’s the thing. As a music fanatic since I was 10 I was in my 40s before I discovered that David Williams was from my hometown of Ballymena and that Pearly Spencer was about a homeless man in the nearby village of Cullybackey. How could that be?

I think it is because in my town the arts are not considered important. It is a side show at best, a distraction at worst. People should be working in some more useful job. Don’t waste your life singing or painting or acting. Mind you, Liam Neeson is from Ballymena… but he came later.

I never underestimate the arts. Songs can change moods. A painting can change a room. A creative bunch of flowers can shift the atmosphere. 

God created. The Old Testament prophets were poets. Jesus told stories. It seems to me that Jesus told his parables because he knew that the arts open the soul, lift the soul, shift the soul.

Like The Days Of Pearly Spencer opening my heart to the plight of the marginalised and homeless and hopefully leading me to some compassion, before opening my mind to loss of earth beneath the encroaching concrete and steel and disappearing grass. 

Oh I am convinced that even a three minute one hit wonder can change something. 


(I want to add that David McWilliams made some great records in the late 60s early 70s and indeed later in his life. He was more than a one single hit wonder but I still thought that this thought fitted. It was great to hear his song on the radio, which it often is, after this Pause For Thought...)