This is the script of this morning's Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2's Chris Evans Show in the presence of David Walliams, Jack Whitehall, Jodie Foster and Richard Ashcroft:

I think I'm the only bishop to have been arrested for busking on the Paris Metro. OK, I was only nineteen or twenty and I was living and working near the Eiffel Tower for a few months as part of my degree. Fantastic job – paid by a telecommunications company for a full week, but only working two days and spending the rest of the week busking my way around the city. I loved it.

But, just to be clear, I didn't get stopped by the police because I was rubbish – or that my singing offended French sensibilities. It was just that the King of Denmark (I think) had arrived in the Elysee Palace above us, and I was the only busker who didn't know he was coming. It was a security thing.

When they stopped me I'd done a couple of Beatles songs and was half way through a John Lennon song that went deep at the time. On his 'Imagine' album there was a song called 'Crippled Inside' which basically says that you can put on all the appearances you like – “shine your shoes and wear a suit” -that sort of thing – but one thing you can't hide is when you're crippled inside.

A bit miserable, maybe. But, John Lennon was what I call an honest hypocrite – in other words, he never pretended not to be one. Writing “imagine no possessions” on a Bechstein grand piano took some nerve, didn't it? But, he had a knack of going to the heart of being human. In a culture that too often appears to value only success, beauty and appearances, my fellow Scouser stripped off the veneer of respectability and owned up to the pain of being a mess underneath it all.

For a Christian like me this should come as no surprise. We're all a mess really. The first question in the Bible has God walking in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day asking the hiding Adam: “Where on earth are you?”

In other words, stop hiding, come on out from behind the bushes, don't worry about being seen through, or being a mess. We can all see it anyway. Perhaps freedom is to be found in facing the reality deep within us and not trying to hide it away, pretending to be what we are not.

Imagine that.

 

This is the script of this morning's Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2's Chris Evans Show with Eric Bana, Rick Astley, Cyndi Lauper, Daisy Waterstone and Callum Woodhouse:

I realise this might come as a bit of a shock, but I need to tell you: I don't have a tattoo. I'm beginning to think this makes me a bit weird, but so far the only needles to have got under my skin have been medicinal ones.

But … (a question put to me last week) if I was going to have one, what would it be: image or words? Now, that got me thinking. If I had just one thing to be my identifying feature (as it were) – the thing that really gets under my skin -, what would I want the world to see? Now, that's hard, isn't it?

OK. I wouldn't want something merely aspirational or something exotic in Sanskrit that I am told means 'romantic hero' but actually means 'idiot'. And I wouldn't want an image that might stretch or shrink with age and end up looking like something it shouldn't. I think I'd want something real. Something that showed my true colours.

One of my heroes – not the Hulk exactly – is a guy who thought he was a big man – leader of the pack – only to find he melted when the heat was on. His illusions about himself led to him promising his best friend that he would never give him up to the authorities and would never let him down, but caved in remarkably quickly. His name was Peter and his mate was Jesus of Nazareth. And his failure set him free never again to have to pretend to be what he was not – the failure wasn't the end of the world, after all.

So, maybe my tattoo ought to just portray a face – eyes that are open and unafraid, knowing from experience that we don't have to be trapped by our reputation or the illusions about ourselves that we too often try so hard to protect.

Or, maybe I ought just to relax, and have the words of Psalm 139 etched into my epidermis: “Oh Lord, you have searched me and known me” … because that freedom sets me free to be loved and, thus, to love, never to give up.

But, maybe I don't need body art to tell me that, after all.

 

This is the script of this morning's Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2's Chris Evans Show with Sara Cox:

It's probably a good thing that I am sitting here in my office in Leeds this time because I am about to admit a shameful secret. I have never watched a complete Formula One race. I am sorry, and I am very embarrassed to confess this in front of people who love the sport.

Maybe I'm a bit thick or just a bit slow. But, the speed of it all makes it difficult to work out what is going on. I think I need a good guide and I promise to listen to Suzi Perry's show on Monday.

Perhaps Good Friday is a good day to bury such a poor confession. Whereas the cars aim at speeding everything up, Good Friday slows everything down … to a stop, in fact.

Do you remember the story? The baby of Bethlehem has grown into the annoying rabbi Jesus of Nazareth, and the powers that be decide to sort him out once and for all. So, after a betrayal and a mock trial, they nail him and watch him die. And there, in the dirt of a rubbish tip outside Jerusalem, all the hopes of Christmas lie bleeding into despair.

Now, we know that the story doesn't end here. After the sheer emptiness of Saturday, when the loss and bereavement press in and refuse to be ignored, Sunday comes with an empty tomb and a resurrected Jesus, taking some frightened people by surprise and whispering that death, violence and destruction do not have the final word in this world, after all.

The trick is not to jump to Sunday until we have learned to live with Friday and Saturday. Slow down. Stop. Wait. Live with the loss and make darkness your friend for a while.

All this is powerfully real to me as I spent last week in Northern Iraq listening to the experiences of ordinary people whose lives, families and communities have been destroyed in the most unimaginably brutal ways by ISIS. For them Sunday is a very long way away. Yet, even for some of them, the darkness brings them closer to the light – as one songwriter put it.

So, I won't be running away from Friday – I'll just be surprised by the defiance of Sunday when it comes. Happy Easter, but not just yet.

This is the text of the morning's Pause for Thought on the Chris Evans Show on BBC Radio 2:

I think I'm probably not alone in having from time to time a song going round my head that I can't shake off. Not that I want to, particularly, but it can sometimes be a distraction when you're supposed to be concentrating on something else and the song keeps interrupting.

The one that's buzzing through my consciousness this week sounds a bit twee, but it isn't really. It's a Bruce Cockburn song called 'Don't forget about delight'. Basically, it recognises that the world we live in is complicated, that the news crowding in on us from all sides is usually bad, that the world can often look a bit bleak. But, says the poet, don't forget about delight.

It seems to me that this is a necessary reminder, a timely prompt. To use a different metaphor, the darkest night can be illuminated by the faintest light. Or, as someone else put it, don't just curse the darkness – light a flame.

I picked up a book recently called Hope without Optimism. It's written by Terry Eagleton and makes an important distinction. Optimism is, in one sense, wishful thinking – a belief that things will get better. Hope goes deeper and is more realistic. Hope doesn't depend on a set of circumstances working out, but keeps us constant whatever the circumstances life throws at us. That's why Christian hope is rooted in the character and person of God, not in a formula for a successful life.

So, I go along with both Bruce Cockburn and Terry Eagleton – the poet and the professor. When the darkness crowds in I need to remember not to forget about delight. When the news is dominated by fear and cruelty, I must spot where love and light burn through and refuse to be extinguished. When horizons begin to narrow, I can open my eyes to the rich possibilities that lie ahead – even if hidden at the moment.

So, hopeful rather than optimistic. And, whatever else happens, never forgetting about delight. And I am quite happy for such a song to haunt my memory and imagination, making me restless for the light.

This is the script of this morning's Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2's Chris Evans Show with guests: Len Goodman, Danny Boyle, Idris Elba, Kirstie Allsopp and James Bay.

Did you know that today is the 43rd anniversary of the last time we landed a man on the moon? Yes, 11 December 1972 was the day and Apollo 17 was the mission.

I only note this because I was thinking about Steve Jobs and wondering what it is that makes the difference between people who trundle on through life consuming what other people create … and those who keep breaking the boundaries and creating new things.

Or, to put it differently, what's the difference between people who look at the moon and think it looks lovely … and those who look at it and wonder how to get there?

If I'm honest, I think the same when I watch Strictly and think about dancing with two left feet. Or when I admire a ruin that used to be a lovely home and then see someone imagine a new future for it. It's something about the way we see.

Now, I know that someone like Steve Jobs was fired by a driven curiosity. Problems were there to be solved and technology was there to be stretched. He once said: “What a computer is to me is the most remarkable tool that we have ever come up with. It's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.” Well, some would say it has become a sports car for our minds, given the speed of development.

I respect people who see differently. Or – and this might surprise you – who repent. The word for repentance in the New Testament literally means 'changing your mind' – or, in this context, seeing the potential others are blind to. Like feeling you're trapped and have no future, but daring to believe that this is not the end – that there is hope of what one writer called “newness after loss”.

When we get there this is what Christmas will be about. Down to the wire in a mucky world, but still looking to change it. On the ground, but looking up at the stars. Down to earth, but not bound by earth.

It's a while since we walked on the moon – something my kids read about in history books. But, I hope we can never forget that that was simply one small step for humanity. There might yet be greater leaps ahead.

 

This is the script of this morning's Pause for Thought on the Chris Evans Show on BBC Radio 2 with Sara Cox, Jeremy Vine, Gabrielle Aplin and Carrie Underwood.

I am a rubbish dancer. There's no point pretending otherwise. A West Indian mate of mine, when we were younger, once asked me to dance. When I asked why, he said he needed a laugh. It didn't exactly encourage me.

Well, I guess some people can do it, Jeremy, and some people can't. Or can they? I think it depends on what we think dancing is for.

An ancient poet once spoke about how God turns our mourning into dancing, and I know what he meant. I'm just not sure it tells the whole story. For many people – and just ask some of those children in real need – it is their happiness that is turned into mourning when tragedy or failure invade their life and turn it dark. (This is what the Blues is for – to give voice and mood to the sadder side of life.)

Well, along with that ancient poet, we are making a mistake if we think that dancing is always jolly or happy. Strictly speaking, dancing involves the whole body giving expression to the whole of human experience – and that means we can dance our grief and our sadness and our failure as well as the Cha-Cha, the samba or the jive (and I don't know what any of those are).

I think this is one way of understanding what Children in Need is all about: shining a different light into the darkness and enabling – or inviting – children to dance. Not to pretend everything is OK or that life can be transformed instantly into something happy-clappy. In other words, dancing the slowie is as valid and important as dancing the quickstep.

In one sense, this is obvious. We shouldn't be too quick to shake off the heavy heart when it actually needs to be heavy. Like dancing, love has to face reality in all its guises: shallow love is no use to anybody. But, having said all that, you can't help but be cheered by the enthusiasm of those who thought they couldn't dance at all, only to find that the rhythm was in them somewhere.

So, hit the dance floor of life with the steps that tell the truth. And if you want to be loving to me, don't laugh at my dancing.

 

This is the text of this morning's Pause for Thought on the Chris Evans Show on BBC Radio 2. Guests in the studio were Caro Emerald, Sally Lindsay (Mount Pleasant, Coronation Street), Matt Bellamy (Muse) and Mark Webber (Formula One) – inevitably, there are references to them or their work smuggled into the text.

I could do with a bit of Aussie Grit right now because … I am in the same room as Caro Emerald. Apart from buying her albums when they came out, I actually got to see her and her excellent band in Leeds a few months ago. It was brilliant and even made me want to dance.

That is not a pretty sight.

So, I didn't.

But, I love live music. I think I am probably the only bishop in the Church of England who has been arrested for busking on the Paris Metro. I was only nineteen or twenty at the time, but I still wear the badge with pride.

The thing about live music is that every performance is totally unique. It can never be done exactly the same way twice. The music itself can be played around with, and the audience plays its part in creating – or ruining – the atmosphere.

I guess this is what acting and Formula One and music have in common: you watch or listen partly to see if anything goes wrong. I remember reading a paper about why people watch other people climbing up cliffs – and concluding that it is partly to see if they fall off. There is always the potential for a live performance to go wrong as well as wonderfully well.

This 'living on the edge' bit is what gives performance its power, isn't it?

I think there are some people who are terrified of this. Play it safe, keep everything under control, make sure there are no surprises: all that sort of thing. But, that attitude can sometimes be rooted in fear, not adventure or excitement.

Now, this goes beyond music or acting or driving fast cars. I think it goes to the heart of whether we see life as something to be grasped or tamed. When Jesus asked people to follow him, I think he got this: don't come with me if you want to keep everything safe and tame; it's going to be an interesting ride and it might go wrong; are you up for it?

So, Caro, I hope the deleted scenes on the cutting room floor will not be the boring bits of life, but expose the undisclosed desires that are awakened by the muse that fires our imagination.

 

This is the script of this morning's Pause for Thought on the Chris Evans Show on BBC Radio 2 from Chewton Glen. Twelve couples will be driving the twelve classic cars from here to Cliveden after the show ends. The musical guest is Mark King, epic bassist from Level 42.

Well, here we go. The Dirty Dozen are standing by the cars, ready to rev, and burning to … er … burn up the road to Cliveden.

I've got to tell you, though: they don't look very dirty to me. Maybe I am missing something, but they all look clean and fresh – after knocking back the bacon rolls while the show has been going on.

Yet, I guess 'dirty' is what they are doing, even if dirty doesn't describe their demeanour. Because what they are doing is giving huge amounts of money to help children in need – and that is what we call getting down and dirty where it matters.

I would say that, wouldn't I? I'm a Christian and the whole point of Christian living is to do what Jesus did: get stuck in, down to earth, getting hands and feet dirty where it counts. Not sitting somewhere a million miles above the muck and bullets of real life, but opting right into it and paying the price, if necessary.

So, the Dirty Dozen might be enjoying themselves in the classic cars, but this is because a pile of cash is driving out of their wallets and into children who need to know that they matter, that they are loved, that they are worth getting down and dirty for.

It seems to me that there are two types of people: those who use a car to get from A to B, and those for whom the drive is both the A and the B. And, of course, this isn't the exclusive preserve of motoring: as I read in one of my holiday books, “There are just some kind of men who're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one…”.

So, let the Dirty Dozen drive. And let the children thrive. And let me remember that choosing to get our hands dirty in this world might be a big ask, but it is what we are made for. Drive on, you mucky people.

………………………….

And here is the alternative script I didn't do on the show, but managed to smuggle in nearly a dozen Level 42 song titles:

I just got back from a sunny holiday yesterday. Ten days and I managed to read ten books – not one of them about cars. I am sorry.

But, what a sight this morning as the Dirty Dozen get set to hit the road any minute now. I can't see Prince's Little Red Corvette or Bruce Springsteen's Pink Cadillac … or, for that matter, the Clash's Brand New Cadillac. But, in my head I can hear the Beatles imploring us to Drive My Car – and, yes, I do know it is a euphemism.

It seems to me that there are two types of people: those who use a car to get from A to B, and those for whom the drive is both the A and the B. And, of course, this isn't the exclusive preserve of motoring: as I read in one of my holiday books, “There are just some kind of men who're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one…”.

Somehow these have to be held together, don't they? Concern for the destination matters – otherwise we just drive round in circles, going nowhere and literally killing time; but, the journey is as important as the arriving. In other words, the living – and how we live it – can't be cut off from the question of what we are living for.

Standing in the light of this recognition, we can happily drive into the sun. All around there are clouds, yes, but, all I need is to take a look and discover that heaven is in my hands. Not somewhere over there, but here. I don't need to build myself a rocket to get away from here; here is where the true colours are to be found and seen.

Does that sound a bit cryptic? Well, basically, Jesus once said that he was here so that we might live life in all its abundant fullness: not just for self-satisfaction, but so that everyone might thrive – that's why it is in our hands to sacrifice ourselves so that others (especially, perhaps, the children in need) might thrive.

So, let the Dirty Dozen drive!

 

This is the script of this morning's Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2's Chris Evans Show with Sara Cox and guests: Gabby Logan, Josh Gad and Lianne LaHavas. (There are ten of Liane's song titles and a reference to the work of Josh Gad and Gabby Logan for good measure.)

Well, I might as well announce it to the nation: my daughter has just had a baby. He's called Joseph and he's tiny and I love him. He's got a head of dark hair and he left me tongue-tied.

I nearly cried when I held him. I did get teary when I saw my daughter and son-in-law in the hospital and felt the unstoppable love that gets behind the emotional defences that often protect us from hurt. No room for doubt here: love can be elusive, but it's impossible to forget and you can never get enough of it.

Which bears thinking about when you watch the news and feel the misery. Yet, in the midnight of pain it's the daylight of wonderful love that keeps breaking through, catching us unawares and reminding us of our fragility and challenging our selfishness.

There are people who think that love is something merely romantic or soppy. I mean, it is great when it is romantic; but, love is much more than that. I would give my life for my kids and grandchildren (Joseph completes the hat-trick) because love goes deeper than anything else. When I did my daughter's wedding in Croydon some years ago, I remember looking at the gifts wrapped in paper covered in love hearts. I asked if this is really the best we can do as an icon of love. The icon of love I turn to is a man with his arms stretched out on a cross, embracing a world that couldn't handle him and demonstrating that love is never cheap. Christian faith is born of blood – costly love … as, of course, is the love that leads to a painful labour and childbirth.

I guess my question to myself this morning is this: Is your love big enough? Or do I settle for an imitation that costs less or is more convenient? Anyone who has loved will also bear the scars – because love can sometimes hurt.

Anyway, with a nod to the Beatles, “you can't buy me love”; but, with a nod to Josh Gad, our hearts do not need to be frozen. And that, Gabby, is the final score.

 

This is the text of this morning’s Pause for Thought on BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans Show – with Chris just having returned from the Monaco Grand Prix:

Well, there I was at the weekend, listening to some old Bruce Cockburn stuff, when, in one of those coincidences you just can’t plan for, Lewis Hamilton’s face came on the telly while Bruce was singing his epic song Anything can happen.

Basically, Anything can happen simply makes the point that when you go out in the morning, anything can … er … happen. And, as Lewis discovered in Monaco, we can’t control everything all of the time. The best laid plans, and all that… I mean, I’m a Liverpool fan, so I know what I’m talking about.

But, why should this be a surprise? And what are we supposed to do when things don’t go according to plan?

I guess people fall into two camps. There are those who whinge and moan and think the world is against them; and there are those who just get on with it – whatever the ‘it’ is, and however good or bad ‘it’ is. After all, we can’t change the world to make it suit us, and we can’t control other people to make them fit in with what might make us feel happiest.

This isn’t exactly new, is it? You sometimes hear people speak as if you only have to get the formula right (pun intended) and everything will fall into place. Follow these seven steps to success, and you will be healthy, wealthy and wise! But, we know that nothing can be guaranteed and formulae don’t work. There can even be a temptation – for people of faith – to think that if you press all the right ‘God buttons’, life will go well and you will be spared the messiness and sickness and fragility that being mortal brings with it.

But, the reality is that even for the faithful, there are no promises other than that: whatever the world throws at us, we will not be abandoned.

So, anything can happen and anything can happen! No deals, no bargains and no fixes. Frightening? Maybe. Exciting? Definitely. But, the good news is – and I say this through gritted teeth – that you’ll never walk alone…