“Valentine’s Day”: a BBC Pause for Thought

Here’s the text for the 15 February 2022 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Katie Piper on BBC Radio 2. Listen in here.


I was dancing with my husband at our wedding reception, which we held in a street-front shop in a busy city neighbourhood. We didn’t have much money, but we splurged on the band and it was totally worth it. All night long the music was pumping, the dance floor  packed with our friends and family.

It was during a cover of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston, that I looked over the crowd and noticed two guys dancing together who I didn’t recognize. I said to Jonathan, “Do you know who they are?”

“No idea,” he said.

I thought maybe they were the dates of friends, but then again I was pretty sure I’d met everyone’s plus-one by that point. So I sort of danced us over to them and said “Hey, guys”. They smiled and waved.

I said, “Welcome to our wedding! Umm … Who are you?!”

They said, “Oh my gosh, you won’t believe this: we were walking outside looking for somewhere to eat, and we thought this place was a restaurant, so we came inside. A woman beckoned us in, we assumed she was one of the waitstaff, and we asked for a table for two. She laughed and told us it wasn’t a restaurant, it was a wedding party, but we should stay, have a glass of wine, some food, maybe even get out on the dance floor. So we did!”

I was internally processing this, wondering how much of my cake and booze they’d consumed for free, when Mary Lee, my brother-in-law’s mother, danced on over. She said, “Oh I’m so glad y’all met. Trey and Jonathan, these guys seemed like they needed a party, so I told them to come on in, there’s room for ‘em here.” She danced away into the crowd.

There’s a Bible story where – at a wedding party, maybe right next to the dance floor – Jesus transforms hundreds of litres of water into top-shelf wine. He does this, the story says, to show how extravagant God is – how God’s love overflows our stereotypes of God, how God expands our understanding of what love actually is.

At my wedding, Mary Lee stood in for Jesus and reminded me of that – of a divine love not just between me and Jonathan but pouring over to the wedding crashers, to Whitney Houston, and to everybody dancing anywhere – married, breaking up, searching, happily single, partnered, divorced ­– all of us, I believe, recipients of the extravagance of God.

“When Things Go Wrong”: a BBC Pause for Thought

Here’s the text for the 8 February 2022 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2. Listen in here.

One of the hardest experiences of my life was realizing I needed to ask forgiveness from a friend.

The wrong I’d done was no minor fault. I’d lied to him – consistently, over a long period of time, about something significant and personal. And in the process I’d also seriously lied to myself, so there was a hiddenness to my guilt. It was overwhelming – it had a gravitational pull that drew everything else in my consciousness right back to it.

I knew an email apology wasn’t adequate so I asked my friend if I could fly to visit him the next week – to tell him something. He said, “Of course, it’ll be great to see you”. And he met me off the plane, and we sat in the carpark of the airport, and I shared in detail what I’d done, how I’d gone wrong.

I said I wanted to make it right. And I asked his forgiveness.

It was weird and scary to admit my wrongdoing. It was also weird and scary to hear my friend forgive me and express his understanding, which I hadn’t let myself expect.

Receiving his compassion and grace felt like: jump leads hooked up to my heart, a sudden stream of life that shocked me and revived me at the same time.

This saving energy, which I believe was straight from God, came to me through my friend’s open-heartedness.

If I played any part at all, it wasn’t bravery but an honest acceptance of my own humanness. I don’t mean to excuse it or make light of it. I’m not saying “everyone messes up, so it really doesn’t matter”. By acceptance I mean seeing it, acknowledging it, maybe even letting it be a wound where God can enter. It was painful for me but it was also the greatest relief.

Julian of Norwich, a 14th-century Christian, believed that falling down, getting it wrong, is not only inevitable in human life, it’s essential if we want to grow up.

She wrote: “First the fall, then the recovery from the fall – both are the mercy of God.” I love that. First the getting it wrong, then the healing after getting it wrong – both are God’s great compassion.

I owe my friend so much – not just for his forgiveness, but for helping me fall – back into God and into life itself.

It’s Good to Talk: a BBC “Pause for Thought”

Here’s the text for the 1 February 2022 “Pause for Thought” I offered on the Early Breakfast Show with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio 2. The theme is related to “Time to Talk Day, the nation’s biggest mental health conversation”. Listen in here.


I come from a family of chatterboxes. When we get together, it’s never quiet. Stories are spun, jokes are told, laughter abounds.

My Dad is like this everywhere he goes. He’s a motorcycle-riding, fire-fighting, pint-buying, hard-living, exhaustingly-exuberant guy who wants everyone he meets to join the party. His friends call him “Wild Bill”. One time at a pub he convinced everybody in the room to push their tables together into one big, raucous conversation. He moved through the crowd like a cruise director.

I’m not as gabby as him but I am definitely his son: I love a good natter almost as much as he does. But as I’ve grown up, I’ve noticed another similarity between us. We both love to talk, but we’re also both emotional bottlers. We don’t easily share our feelings. We’re prone sometimes to stay on the surface of things, and our chattiness can be an anxious way of avoiding the uncomfortable stuff inside of us.

Maybe because Dad struggles with that, too, he’s been a source of great help to me.

Like when I told my family I was gay. In 1995, in the American South, coming out was really controversial. When told my parents,  very unlike him – Dad didn’t say anything for a while. Finally he spoke up: “Son, I love you, I’m getting us a pizza, we’re gonna talk, and everything’s going to be okay.”

Or a time later in life, when I sank into an unexpected depression that absolutely walloped me. I didn’t know what to do, so I called Dad. And he didn’t rush in with empty words, he didn’t say “push through it” or “don’t worry about it” or “stiff upper lip” or any of that nonsense. He just said: “tell me about it”. And he listened as I discovered how important it is to talk.

There’s a Bible verse where Jesus says: “Don’t be afraid: nothing is hidden that won’t be revealed; nothing is secret that won’t be made known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light.”

Dad’s not really a church-goer, but he’s taught me so much about God. How talking vulnerably – how bringing the deepest and sometimes scariest stuff into the light – is not only good for my mental health, but is also healing for my soul.