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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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41 Responses to 591

  1. Robb says:


    Fool for Christ?

  2. Joe says:

    i’m confused.

  3. Robb says:

    Sorry, Jadzia (my cat) has stopped breathing and they couldn’t revive her.

  4. Laura says:

    Oh Robb…I’m sorry!!

  5. dadube says:

    I am so sorry mate. I know what its like to lose a cat that is part of your family. Totally feel for you and sending warm thoughts and prayers towards both you and Dr Ruth.


  6. So sorry to hear that Robb.

  7. AnneDroid says:

    I like this cartoon a lot as that saying has always puzzled me. Many a time families have given me that as a bit of a funeral tribute I was doing “..and he/she didn’t suffer fools gladly”. Personally, being one myself, I’ve always had a big soft spot for fools!

    And sorry to hear about your pet, Robb.

  8. MikeB says:

    Sorry to hear that Robb. I know it’s no consolation, but (assuming you named her after Dax) what an awesome name for a cat.

    My friend Dave had a cat called Curzon a few years ago.

  9. Carole says:

    Robb, so sorry to hear about Jadzia. They do have a way of working their way into your heart, don’t they? Thinkin’ of you.

  10. subo says:

    Hi Robb, sorry to hear about your loss of Jadzia

  11. subo says:

    awesome cartoon Jon,

    I do this in so many convoluted guises – i.e.

    I get irritated with my aesthetically ‘pure’ sisters, who’s tastes in music seem to pass judgement on everyone else – yet it’s me getting hot and bothered, and wanting to retune to ‘passion radio’

    It’s me who’s feelin’ aesthetic values are often used to ‘judge and exclude’ others

    I also get desperately hurt when my inner child is at the fore – and gets a massive put down (why are churches so uncomfortable with people letting their inner child show?)

  12. jonbirch says:

    aah robb… so sorry mate. very sad. much love to you and the good doctor.

    btw… i would like to be known as someone who suffers fools gladly, as i certainly am one and many people suffer me.

  13. Miriworm says:

    But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
    Matthew 5:21-23

  14. sarah says:

    Robb… sorry mate x

  15. Steve Lancaster says:


    May be more of a comfort as time passes, but wherever Jadzia is now, may she be stalking the finest of mice.

    Jon and fellow Asboers,

    Coming to you as a fool, who feels a fool, with a foolish question. In another life, had I not walked away from institutional church, I’d probably have ended up a vicar. I still believe (know?) that’s my calling. I try to do whatever it is vicars do outside the context of any formal organisation. Foolishly I believe Jesus when he says ‘Do not worry’. But my wife describes herself as an agnostic with atheist leanings. We meet on the twin grounds of love and doubt. She’d like me at least to find a mentor, and stop drinking so much coffee from Starbucks, in lieu of a proper job (actually she’d like me to hold down a proper job). Here’s the question: I believe my full-time 24/7 proper job is to be a vicar. My passion is to be one outside the institution. Am I just a fool? And can anyone advise?

  16. Linus says:

    (((Robb))) =[

    Steve: http://www.streetpastors.co.uk ?? Believe they’re starting/have started something in our neck of the woods. No idea what its like, so this is not a recommendation as such, but stumbled across it a couple times recently and quite intrigued.

    Beyond that… lots of jobs have a pastoral element to them… or maybe if you could get together some kind of documentation of what you’re already doing, some far sighted local government type things/charitable organisations/church communities might decide it was worth investing in? i know that probably seems like quite a long shot.

    Just thoughts. V good question.

    As for the cartoon, well, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise.

  17. Kim says:

    Robb, really sorry, is tough to lose a family member.

    Jon – great toon, love the picture and the provocation in my thinking.

    Steve Lancaster – I am in exactly the same situation as you, and have decided to “obey” the call I feel and bite the bullet. Am exploring training with the C of E even though it goes against the grain, because there are so many different forms of gathering which they now recognise as “church”. Doesn’t have to be frocks and liturgy (not that I’m criticising that).

    Although coming “inside” will have its downside, hopefully the up will be mentoring and learning. Will pray for you on your journey.

  18. jody says:

    being an evangelical and having been at neac on saturday, i’m having trouble not seeing this as richard turnbull…..

    (sorry if you don’t know the evo world, ignore me if that’s the case :-) )

  19. subo says:

    all the best with seeking your callings, Steve and Kim, I met a fantastic CofE vicar on Sat, he’d come via an unconventional root and just looked like a fab bloke (no dog collar, no silly walk), the first person who caused me want to go to a communion service in ages

    I’m very much in favour of getting trained, I just think it adds an edge to what you can achieve, and builds a dynamism into your work – and then there’s the benefit of knowing what can unwittingly cause harm.

    here’s a couple of web sites for non CofE pastoral care training


  20. Steve Lancaster says:

    Thanks Linus, Kim,

    Question’s a biggie, ‘cos I’m being properly ‘emerging’, and going on the hunch that my act of faith is to proceed as if Church is in whatever relationship/s I find myself in. Then we see what emerges! But it would be really good if folks in the institutional Church were thinking like this – we could meet on the threshold.

    Kim, it’s brilliant that you’re following your calling. God bless you inside, outside, whicheverside you end up! I’m praying for you too.

    And sorry, Jon, if I’ve hijacked the thread. But can’t think of anything more foolish than wanting to be a vicar in this day and age…

  21. janetp says:

    Robb & Dr Ruth: So sorry to hear about your cat :(

  22. jonbirch says:

    haha… no apology necessary steve l… :-)

    it’s a good question. street pastors is a volunteer scheme… where christian volunteers hang around on in town centres on clubbing nights and help make sure the streets are safe. the idea, i believe, is to demonstrate faith in a practical way which serves the community.

    all the best with the journey steve. i have no advice, apart from if you think you should do it, then do it. that might sound gungho… but hey, you only get one life! if you decide at some point you were wrong, do something else… just don’t say that in your college interview. :-)

  23. Robb says:

    Thanks everyone. It’s been a total rollercoaster. At 5PM I was told that she would probably get better if they fed her via the tube once an hour and they offered to hospitalise her for 7 days for very little as we had turned the corner having spent so much and having so little. At 1:30 AM my phone rang and I knew it could only be bad news. The house feels really empty.

    Steve – can’t think of anything more foolish than wanting to be a vicar in this day and age…
    - neither can I !! ;)

  24. Kim says:

    Steve – thanks for that. I will also be on the lairy edge of the church and I think that surely God calls us as we are, to use what we have in us, and the church is seeming more open to that idea.

    Check out the ‘Fresh Expressions’ website Pioneer ministry section, some interesting dialogue there which, in my prejudice and ignorance, I never expected to see.

    I am also doing a lot of voluntary work and unstructured lurking around with folk, journeying together, which is great but the part about being able to eat id salient, and also the need for some accountability and mentoring is really hard to facilitate isn’t it.

    Best of luck to you mate as you see where God leads.

    Great gung-ho comment Jon – is easy to panic about making a choice, but it ain’t no dress rehearsal! (hang on, maybe it is…??)

  25. Steve Lancaster says:

    Thanks all,

    Subo (19), will definitely chase the links – especially the Spiritual Direction link. I used to get hung up on the word ‘direction’ – it felt, well, directive. Then I realised that the most exciting directors nowadays are film directors. Yes, they can be auteurs, but they can also work ensemble. And everyone’s a director in the age of Youtube. All of them bring out the stories in people.

    Jon (22), like the gungho. Really like it. Perhaps a theology course after all?? Tho’ the ‘Sitting in Starbucks with a stack of books’ course is working for me, and at £2 an hour (price of a cup of tea), will probably leave me less in debt than the average degree course…

    Robb (23), viva la vicar!

    Kim (24), I will take a hard look at the Pioneer ministry section – got a friend going through it, and he’s enthused. Especially keen to check out the dialogue. And the whole ‘dress rehearsal’ comment pulled me up short! What if the next life is like this one, only more so???

    All who’ve talked about the importance of mentoring, training and accountability – I do agree. Just to say, your advice, and the accountability that comes from wanting to voluntarily participate in a forum of friends like this, is support of absolutely the best kind.

    Thanks again. Will report back!

  26. Kim says:

    Steve – good to hear all that, and also great to hear your friend is enthused! Not often a word we associate with church eh?! Is he following a course/program, or moving from more ‘mainstream’ ministry?

    I love it here, it really blesses me that people who are often complete strangers care for each other! x

  27. kaybee says:

    For Steve (if you are still reading comments):

    I’ve discovered that when we become the WHO God wants us to be, the WHERE and HOW don’t seem to matter so much.

    One can be ‘in’ the institutionalised church and yet not be a ‘part’ of it. He has a way of making a way where there seems to be no way! And when we are determined not to succumb to ‘peer pressure’ and just be ourselves, filled with Him, it’s pretty awesome what He can accomplish through us for His Kingdom!

  28. subo says:

    All the best with your work Steve Lancaster, I think I wish I had the chance to do those courses myself, am sure you’ll find the right path for you

  29. Robb says:

    Steve – if you want someone to talk to about ways in, contact me though my blog.

  30. gilly says:

    Jody #18
    oh yes……

  31. Steve Lancaster says:

    Again, thanks.

    Kaybee, still reading! Thinking about ‘whos’ and ‘hows’ recently, actually. L like what you say. I feel most at home on the edge of the institution – talking to people outside and in. But edges are funny places to be – you don’t fall asleep on a tightrope. (or maybe, with God, you do?)

    Subo – you know (playing devil’s advocate a bit) I’m 37 – far too old to be sitting the Starbuck’s Theology Course. But they let me in. It’s pretty good rates – and you commit for the time you’ve got.

    Robb, I’d like to chat. Thank you.

  32. subo says:

    Hi Steve, give us the low down on the ‘Starbuck’s Theology Course’, it sounds tasty

  33. Steve Lancaster says:

    Starbuck’s Theology Course (so far):

    Mainly it involves your standard Starbucks cup of coffee. And the stack of books you bring in with you.

    Mental preparation: depending on your political stance, either you’re about to
    1. Sup with the evil empire;
    2. Subvert it from the inside;
    3. Enjoy a fine coffee with fellow global travellers;
    4. All of the above.

    Fellow Participants: this is not a solo gig. People-watch as you read. Make eye-contact! Be prepared to discuss what you’re doing with
    1. Students/ grannies/ nannies/ sales people around you
    2. The baristas (sometimes they give you free cake)

    Study Environment: notice
    1. The background buzz;
    2. The songs being played. There seem to be around 3 CDs on rotation at any given time. I was listening to “Imagine” by John Lennon several months back when a student began ‘evangelising’ the elderly woman on the table in front of me;
    3. Decor (and Community Noticeboard) – see, at least Starbucks is making an effort! Actually, there’s a really interesting history of the Starbucks logo on a site called ‘Dead Programmer’ – google ‘Starbucks logo’ and it should come out top!
    4. Remember – you’re now part of the environment, token intellectual/oddball, one of the people the people-watchers people-watch… Act accordingly!

    Work Placement: nothing extra necessary. You’re out in the community already.

  34. Robb says:

    I did most of my studying in Cafe Nero or Esquires…. I just don’t like starbuks coffee… nasty stuff….

  35. subo says:

    ah – what books would you recommend?

    also, is it worth looking out for independent coffee establishments – just to share the trade around?

  36. Steve Lancaster says:


    Costa’s is nicer too, but easier to be ‘one of the crowd’ in the several Starbucks’ in Newcastle… And see last paragraph below…


    I was at St John’s Theological College, Nottingham, in the mid 90s. They described themselves as ‘open evangelical’, and said about the college that they wanted it to be a place where there were no unthinkable thoughts – ‘cos God should be big enough to handle it all. So the books I read range across all kinds of theological and scientific divides (divides are good places to explore!). There’s a great book, for example, by Robert McKee, called ‘Story’. It’s about what we look for in a story. It’s written for scriptwriters, but has profound pastoral implications, I reckon, if what we are about is helping people to make their stories work…

    Re: the whole chains versus independents thing… I reckon it’s like the big church/ little church debate. Either you help the bigs get more in touch or you help the littles get more popularity. Or some combination of both. There’s a great independent teashop in Newcastle called
    ‘Scrumpy Willow and the Singing Kettle’. Best carrot cake bar none I’ve ever had.

  37. Steve Lancaster says:

    Setting myself up to be shot down over my use of Starbucks though, I know…

  38. subo says:

    ‘open evangelical’ – were they?, I bet some stuff was unmentionable, and some stuff emphatically endorsed

    curious to know more about ‘Story’, is that similar in any way to Claude Steiner’s ‘Scripts People Live’ (incidentally I’d need something stronger than a Starbucks to get me to read Steiner)

  39. Karyn says:

    I really enjoyed Claude’s Scripts People live. It also fits many psychology developmental theories. What didn’t you like about it Subo?

  40. Robb says:

    ‘open evangelical’ – were they?, I bet some stuff was unmentionable, and some stuff emphatically endorsed

    Like what and what? I only ask because it is possible the only lable I feel I could own for myself…

    …at the moment…..

  41. Steve Lancaster says:

    Subo (38),

    Well, ‘open evangelical’ was a bold claim to make, and I was only there for a year, but at least they made it (and could therefore be held to account). The metaphor Christina Baxter used was that of a football stadium where the ball could be kicked about anywhere in the stands as well as on the pitch.

    Robert McKee is Wikipediable. I’m going to check out the Steiner. If he provokes such a strong reaction he’s got to be saying something close to the bone! ;)

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