Age, cost, Depression, Disappointment, Discouragement, doubt, Dreams, expectations, Experience, faithfulness, Grit, hope, Hopes and Dreams, Humanity, Risk and Change, self awareness, Spiritual Warfare, Step of faith, Suffering., Testimony, vocation

Looking back over my 30’s!

I remember 10 years ago about to turn 30!

30 -I couldn’t believe I was going to be 30!

30?!

I remember sat in a pub on the Quay -and called the Quay- in Poole.

I was all full of hope and excitement about life…

I was about to get married.

I was a year(ish) into my curacy and was about to be ordained Priest/Presbyter.

I was full of audacious dreams of the adventure God had planned for us in somewhere we did not yet know.

Today I’m feeling much more melancholy.

Looking back over the past 10 years have had some wonderful moments, particularly marrying Allana and our fantastic daughter.

But, I am asking myself 40? -How did that happen?

40,that can’t be right?

40!?

There have been some wonderful moments, seeing people pray prayers of commitment to Christ and meaning them, baptising adults, planting a Church -and a few new congregations-, seeing friends step into what God has for them especially those ordained (especially Sam)and seeing some wonderful Kingdom signs and wonders along the way too.

Yet there have been some tough moments too.

To be honest it feels a little like half way through a boxing match where you are dabbing your eye with a wet sponge and spitting blood into the bucket.

Sometimes when we stop we sometimes realise what a fight a season has been, how far you’ve come -and even if it doesn’t feel far, it is worth remembering that sometimes the shortest distances sometimes can be the toughest of drags. One clergy friend that had a tough time talked about “I ran with the ball and I made the 9 yards”. It might not feel a long way, but they were significant steps hard won and costly.

As I slipped into sulky mood, I began to have a bit of a self pity party with the people that let me down, the mean stuff people have said, the times plans didn’t go right and all sorts of bumps and bruises along the way.

Yet in it all I am sure I have learned stuff.

And despite sometimes feeling very confused, and even sometimes asking “God where are you?”, why is this happening” and “why did this door close?” I can still say (even though this has probably been the toughest decade of my life) that God has been, and is, faithful.

As I thought of that young thirty year old dreamer, I’m now a bit more gnarled and wrinkled, but we are standing on another new season.

The dream for God to take us, now the three of us (four if you include the dog) into new adventures into the unknown, with expectancy, again not knowing what the future holds, but knowing who it is that holds the future.

As I sit here, a bit battered, but still want that same dream to stay alive.

I think there is nothing spiritually mature about becoming jaded and downsizing our expectations of God. There is nothing Godly about playing it safe and going through the motions. There is nothing wise about allowing dreams to die and reducing and minimising your vision.

I love the C.S. Lewis quote that says “You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream”.

why should the future look boring and safe? An adventure with Jesus might be tougher and harder than most of us thought when we surrendered our lives to him, but it is still the greatest calling we have.

It would have been so easy to keep on doing what we have been doing and just slowly die under the moany pessimistic emails, the endless cycle of harvest festivals and other annual events and preaching to people who have heard it all a million times but longing to preach to someone who has not heard it at all.

It is so easy to be safe keep your head down grit your teeth and think about your pension, yet I believe that God has so much more for all of us than our 9-5 prisons.

As we get older, sometimes the risks feels bigger (especially those of us with families) and the jumps feel further, and the costs seem greater and yet the truth of God’s faithfulness remains the same, constant.

So, looking back and looking forward, however it looks I want to pledge one thing, it will be about Jesus, the one who is the same today, yesterday and forever.

It will be uncertain although it is in the service of the only truly certain thing in this universe -Jesus is this life’s only true certainty.

So, although I feel like I’m sat on a stall, it’s time to return the gum-shield, step into a different ring and listen to the bell and see what God ahs in store for the next decade.

It’s not about how much it cost -although sometimes that does feel quite in your face at times- but rather it is about how great is the prize, the Kingdom, the pearl of great price, the one worth it all.

“were the whole realm of nature mine that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all”.

Standard
Bible, Commitment, consumerism, cost, Deep, Discipleship, expectations, Fruit and fruitfulness, Growth, pperseverence, prayer, Presences, relationship with God

Teaspoon hiding Vicars.

I read an article about a Churchy couple that invited the Vicar around for tea, it was all very pleasant and nice, but later that evening the couple noticed a silver teaspoon was missing. It was no where to be found.

A year or so later they had the Vicar around for tea again, this time they asked him why he had taken a teaspoon.

The Vicar said that he didn’t steal it, instead he hid it in their Bible.

One of the things that really worries me is the low level of Biblical literacy in the Churches. I remember a Churchy young person telling me the story of the elder wand (from Harry Potter) thinking it was a Bible story.

This book which cost people their lives to bring to us is barely flicked through by Christians, they key to discipleship is not more Church events or umpteen courses or bacon butties but for the men and women that want to follow Jesus to seek God in prayer, read their Bibles and invest in the most important relationship of all -their personal relationship with Christ Jesus.

The problem with discipleship in the UK, people say about “coming to Church to be fed” -a phrase that shows a complete misunderstanding of what Church or discipleship is actually all about, as though our walk with God has been sub-contracted out to someone else, we -before God- have to take personal responsibility for it, not expecting someone else to spoon feed us.

And perhaps with Bible study if we’ve been in the word ourselves, we can come to the group as a contributor rather than just a receiver.

So, if you’ve had the Vicar around for tea check your Bible for teaspoons.

Standard
Community, comparisons, Individualism, normal, precious, Unique

Everybody is normal until you get to know them.

Normal?

what’s normal?

Yesterday I spent the day with the teenagers from Church, just hanging out at Brean Leisure Park with umpteen terrifying rides to cause your blood pressure to rise!

Yet in hanging out, you realise afresh just how unique each of us are.

I hate it when people get ‘lumped together’ with certain qualities or faults attributed to us ‘en masse’ -happens to the young and the elderly all the time.

I was recently in a meeting where the conversation moved to reaching the under 40’s, I got so frustrated with the conversation (mainly carried out by people in their 50’s/60’s) that I eventually said. “we aren’t aliens, or a different species, but rather the people you meet all the time, kids, family, just out and about don’t patronise us with this idea that ‘one size fits all'”.

It often strikes me as a odd paradox that we are so obsessed by being individuals and yet we dismiss people, and sometimes whole people groups, with sweeping generalisations.

Sometimes as Church and as Christians we loose the individual in the generalisation, “God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have ever-lasting life”, a global truth but also a personal reality and revelation. Christianity is both universally true and also personally true.

we are keen that our own uniqueness is recognised, but also need to fight for the uniqueness of others to be recognised too, yet we can only do that when we ourselves recognise that in each other.

A celebration of our diversity is what enables the body of Christ to achieve all that the heart of Christ longs for, every part -every member- valuable, and without them playing their full part the body of Christ is diminished and poorer for its absence.

we all are unique both in our gifts, talents, skills and abilities, as well as in our brokenness, struggles and fallen-ness.

we all have our own history and journey which actually no one else now about us, and our journey for all of us is unique to us.

It is interesting as I know many people that want to be known, but not interested in knowing other people. They want people to appreciate them and sympathise with their difficulties, but yet seem uninterested in other peoples lives.

Others are very good at pastorally care but struggle with being known themselves, caring with others but find personal disclosure and vulnerability hard.

Yet as whole people before God we are called to know one another, to share with one another our lives -the good and the bad- and to be known. we flourish best when we are known, just as other people flourish best when they are known too.

However, getting to this place is not easy -especially for us introverts!- but it is worth it, it is so much easier to live in a polite and superficial world where everyone keeps everyone at arms length and Christian communities dies from lack of authenticity.

Yet authenticity requires tremendous bravery and courage, and sometimes and unswerving commitment of love and grace too.

This community will only flourish when we remember before Christ our own fallen-ness and need of him.

Each of us too carries many things, the hurt and baggage, the rejections and the disappointments, the brokenness and the pain… but we are not called to carry them alone, in fact we are called to carry one another’s burdens, a picture of interdependence, and yet many of us don’t really know the secret pain and struggles we carry inside.

It is an immense privilege for another human being to let us into the most sacred and precious things they are carrying (as indeed they are often the things we carry most tightly) and so we need to hold this valuable vocations seriously and deeply before God.

And for us it is something very deep and sacred to let other people into our vulnerability and what is deeply personal.

This call of Christ to be his family, living out our lives experiencing this love and also returning this love, is an incredibly costly call. Easier to blend in and be just another face in the crowd and another bum or the pew, yet that is not, and never was, the plan of God for his community on earth. It is a risky and brave calling, and when it works it is truly a fore-taste of heaven, and sadly when it fails it is incredibly and unbelievably painful.

Yet even knowing that this is risky, vulnerable and difficult to achieve in a fallen and broken world, yet let’s not give up on the dream, let’s not all become beige, lets not allow the faces in the crowd to blur together, but embrace the call and cost of a corporate life lived together for cause of Christ.

Let’s reject normal. No one is normal. we are all unique.

A bit broken, and a whole lot brilliant.

Fallen and fabulous in so many ways.

we are a celebration of God’s diversity in his world, and called to recognise this too in one another, seeing the glory not just in similarities but in difference, a key component in Christ’s mission to his world to bring it to himself in redemptive love.

He needs you and no one else will do.

Standard
pperseverence, prayer, presence, priorities, Self Care, sin, Spiritual Dryness, Spiritual Health, Spiritual Warfare, Time, Try?

“Got to pray just to make it today”

If prayer is the most powerful thing we can do as human beings, in fact by is an instinctive response, yet why is it something we all struggle to do?

It is said if you want to make your congregation feel guilty “talk about prayer”.

we all know we should do it, but probably none of us does it as much as we should, or even as we would like.

we claim to be too busy, but in reality that is about priorities, we can always make time, but the truth is we don’t always.

-Made more ironic by the fact that when we actually are able to pray, it often feels good, and I often end up asking myself “why don’t I do this more often?”

The illusion of to busy, or too tired, or a distraction there are so many things that just pull us away for a few seconds, and we never get around to doing that important thing of actually praying.

Intending to pray is not actually the same as praying.

Then as I began to think more about prayer, not only is it hard sometimes to do, we need to make the effort, grasp the moment and maybe even do that unfashionable word of self discipline/Spiritual discipline, to challenge ourselves to do that which we know we should.

Yet I wonder too, how often we don’t pray because we are comfortable and the urgency or necessity to pray doesn’t really grab us, we think we’ll be okay and our comfortable western lives often cushion us to forget our dependence on God.

Even theological truths of lost eternity or human compassion don’t always force us to our knees until God has our hearts fully, and paradoxically, if we don’t pray we never give God our hearts or let him have ours.

I think the real reason the Church in the west is failing is actually because Christians aren’t praying. God says “You have not because you ask not”. Jesus talks about us being like “salt”, the idea is to make us thirty for God, and yet too much of the Church seems comfortable and complacent.

I think too, we struggle to pray because of fear and lack of faith, we fear disappointment, we fear getting our hopes raised -even sometimes we fear God answering our prayer. I remember that terrified moment when I felt “wow, God is actually real” as he answers prayer shocks and shakes us from our complacency.

The pain too of seemingly unanswered prayer, when heaven seems to be silent, and times of suffering and confusion can cause us to struggle too, and ask where are you God.

Too often we think that in the Christian life we will always get a charmed life and always have a parking space, where in reality it is tough, confusing and painful.

Often too our own sense of guilt, apathy, sin, pride can all keep us away from God’s loving arms, these times when perhaps it is easier to run away from God is the exact time we need to instead run to him.

For me, one of the best ways to keep me praying has been personal accountability, over the last 20ish years -sometimes more regularly than others- I have had some great guys who I have met up with too pray, and without that companionship on the journey I don’t think I’d have made it this far.

Also, I need to be reminded that prayer works, that God answers, my soul needs to HEAR the stories of peoples encounters with God, or prayers answered and God speaking. we need these stories to spur us on. Yet we also need to TELL those stories too when God meets and speaks to us, answers our prayers, we need to share it too.

So, the challenge for us all is let’s not just talk about prayer, as though it is a good thing to do.

Let us not even intend to do it.

Let us be people that actually pray.

Standard
Audacious, call, Deep, relationship with God

Deep and Audacious

Just got back from an awesome evening on Hanham Mount, which is where John Wesley preached his first open air sermon to the Kingswood Miners, 16’000 of them, and they cried white tears of repentance as they heard the message of the cross.

My fab friend Andy Biddlecombe spoke and his message was really simple, but also really profound.

Firstly it was about encountering God in the hidden place, on our own, just us and God, to learn to hear his voice and drink deep from him. Most of us function on near exhaustion and sometimes we are scraping the barrel of our spiritual lives to share anything of value or worth. Yet I believe that God wants us to find our rest, refreshment, renewing in him and in his presence as we learn to seek his face and hear his voice.

Too often we don’t let our roots go deep down into God, too busy rushing around to really take time to seek God and to sacrifice that most precious commodity -our time-.

Yet, actually its not sacrificing our time on God, but rather it is investing it wisely.

A great verse I love “they knew they were ordinary and unskilled men who had been with Jesus”, when we spent time in Jesus’ presence we not just reflect him, but radiate him.

A challenge for us all to take time to go deeper with God, to be ‘fully charged up’ -rather than almost out of juice.

Yet that wasn’t the end of the message, Bidds shared about “being bold and audacious for the Kingdom of God”.

I was reminded, standing where we are on Hanham Mount, that Wesley nearly didn’t do field preaching thinking it was “vile” and “unseemly” to not preach in a Church, but yet he was obedient and stepped out of his insecurities and pre-conceptions and preached Christ unashamedly to those who had come to hear him.

That brave moment in a conversation could be the turning point for someone’s life.

That offer to pray for someone could be that moment of healing and transformation, Bidds spoke about his hero “Smith Wigglesworth” -an illiterate plumber- who bravely challenged us to be expectant and step out in faith, take the Holy Spirit inspired risk.

Too often in our conversations we talk about nothing, when maybe we should speak about something!

Let’s be bold!

Let’s seize the moment.

Let’s be a Church that seeks God deeply in prayer, and a Church that is audacious in proclaiming Jesus.

Remembering we are the people who hold out the word that gives life.

Standard
best and the worst.

The best and the worst…

Yesterday I posted a blog about a lovely member of out Church who was homeless. Later on that evening I saw on facebook that someone had set fire to the shelter she lives in and all her possessions. A truly evil act.

As I rushed down there I saw lots of people gathered around caring, concerned and compassionate.

She has told me about people having urinated on her, whilst others have brought her food and hot drinks.

Human beings are capable of acts of both hatred and love.

Jo’s situation shown us the best and the worst of the character of Kingswood.

wonderful people of love, some cruel people capably of dreadful acts.

The same is visible in our Street Pastors work, I have seen some vile bullying and some incredible loyalty, friends kneeling in the gutter, holding their friend, whilst being covered in vomit.

People sometimes ask me this philosophical questions: “Are people basically good?” or “Are people basically bad?”

The Bible talks of us being made in the image of God, of his breath breathed into us, of him declaring humanity as “good”.

Yet the Bible also makes it clear we are fallen people, “all we like sheep have gone astray, each one turned to his (or her) own way”, “all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, “No one is righteous”. All of us (apart from Jesus) have sin within us and are far from perfect.

God gave us the ability to do either the right thing or the wrong thing, choice, the gift of free-will.

So both is true, the battle of good and evil is not just something that exists in movies like Star wars, but actually a daily reality in our own hearts and lives.

The Apostle Paul talks of the warring factions within him when he said in his letter to the Romans “the good I want to do I don’t do and the wrong things I don’t want to do I do do”. I’m sure that most of us identify to some extent with this wrestle.

Yet you might be thinking, I’ve never done anything like THAT wrong (although I sometimes ask myself whether I have done anything THAT good either), but we all know that at times we have thought, said and done wrong things we shouldn’t have and not thought, sad and done things we shouldn’t have.

Each of us on occasions have made the world a slightly better place, and sadly each of us on occasions have made the world a slightly worse place.

The Bible is I think more realistic about the human condition than we are.

I once read someone say that each of us have two dogs inside us, a good one and a bad one, which one wins will depend on which one we feed the most.

Certainly in Romans 7 this sounds like the battle Paul is having with “his old self” and his “new self in Christ”. It feels like a boxing match with the commentator saying “In the red corner is ME and in the blue corner is ME as well”

If God is God who is Holy and righteous -dwelling in unapproachable light- and we know deep down we aren’t perfect people, we can’t really claim that we can impress God by our good deeds enough to get into heaven. Fortunately that isn’t how heaven works, rather than us reaching up to God -straining for the unattainable- he reaches and reached down to us in the person of his son Jesus Christ, to rescue us from ourselves, our sin, our wrong doing.

A God who longs to forgive us and restore us.

The book of common prayer talks about “not weighing our merits but pardoning our offences”.

People often say “it can’t be that easy some scumbag is horrible all their life and turns to Christ and they get forgiven, that’s not fair!”

I often point out two key verses, firstly, grace is amazing because it is undeserved, but also the clue if found in the absolution prayer in the Church of England “Almighty God who forgives all those who truly repent”.

Repentance had to be real and meant, not just crossing our fingers behind our back and planning to carry on exactly as we were before.

God offers us forgiveness and a fresh start with him, he offers to fill us with his spirit to enable us to live our life his way. I know I can’t live the way God wants me to in my own strength, I need his help all the time.

Often when I say this people tell me about a truly wonderful friend they have who isn’t a Christian. This is great. Yet I wonder if this person who isn’t a Christian has managed to so instinctively live the life of love God intends for them in their own strength, how much more fantastic would they be if the author of love, the Lord of life, was helping them?

People, are a mix of good and bad.

Yet we have the offer from God of a fresh start, a new beginning, and his help from his Spirit to help us live our lives his way.

Come Holy Spirit and fill me afresh, help me to lead my life your way.
Amen.

Do check out this song from hooberstank, echoes my search to be a better person that I found in Jesus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZADpco6Zn9I

Standard
2 Samuel 23 15-17, best and the worst., Extravagance, Giving/Generousity., Luke 21. 1-4 (widows mite)., values, Water

Value Church?

we have this wonderful person called Jo in our Church, she is homeless and lives in a bus shelter near the Church, and she is also a transsexual, which causes some in the Church to struggle.

I chatted to Jo as I was walking past and she asked me how I was doing, I laughed and said “nothing a beer and a holiday in Barbados wouldn’t fix, but not much chance of either!” we both laughed, and I forgot about the conversation and went off to lead a Bible Study in our Church Cafe (which is a converted toilet -write your own joke here!). Later on I spotted Jo’s wig by the window, and she had brought me up a tin of bass beer (Bass is Jo’s favourite, she hadn’t just got me a cheapy larger, but one she’s drink herself).

Although I love beer, that beer for me is too precious to drink. One of the most extravagant examples of grace and generosity I have come across. Sadly our Church has sometimes lacked both generosity and grace, and sometimes looked down on Jo too, and yet here she was showing something of the wonderful extravagance of God, a lesson and a challenge for us all.

For me, this story reminded me of King David and the well at Bethlehem.


13 During harvest time, three of the thirty chief warriors came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. 15 David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” 16 So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. 17 “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.

There is something wonderful and humbling about an extravagant gift.

I work most weeks at the foodbank, and it is interesting that some people bring along “Tesco value food” and others bring along “Tesco finest”. Any donations are gratefully received by hungry people, but I did think if I was having Jesus around for a meal would I serve him value food, or would I get the best I could afford? Jesus said: “whatever you do for the least of these you do for me?”

David refused to give God a sacrifice that hadn’t cost him anything, he wanted his worship to show God his worth-ship.

Another story that struck me as I was writing this blog is the story of the elderly widow with two copper coins, who gave what little she had to God, whilst the rich and the famous were giving large sums of cash in a showy way, she gave ALL she had. Although they gave a lot, they actually gave nothing at all, although she gave very little she actually gave more than them all.

what we spend our money on shows what we value. I had a job interview a while back in Portsmouth (the same Church that asked me 3 times about my opinion of LGBT people but not once about the cross). we went to their Sunday Supper for the homeless people of their area and they served up big saucepans full of instant soup, bread, and some cake. Then we went off to a meet the Church Council, we drank wine and had an extravagant spread of food. It is great that they are feeding the homeless each week, but the contrast between the two evening meals really struck me.

whilst I was at Salisbury I was involved in a project called Morning Star and they used to do a “Banquet run” giving out food to the homeless, but they made sure that is it was “food fit for a King” using their home-grown produce and serving food for the cities homeless that really showed them the extravagant love of Jesus.

I want to be a Christian that has a heart like Jo’s.

Jesus love for us is not “Tesco Value” love, but “Tesco Finest”, perhaps sometimes we need a little more extravagance in our love and our giving?

I’ll end with one of my favourite clips from the film Les Miserables where the Bishop gives the thief Jean Valjean not what he deserves but extravagant and amazing grace… Take a moment to watch this:

Standard