brokenness, Depression, Joy

Joy.

A friend of mine said that his ambition for last year was to “pursue joy”.

After-all Scripture reminds us that “The joy of the Lord is my Strength and my Song” and the psalmist prays that he would be “restored to the joy of my salvation”.

Yet I wonder if I am always a good advert for joy? So, often I feel like a struggling and not quite burned out, but certainly a tad singed at times…

Joy, from my understanding of the word, isn’t something hypothetical but something real and tangible that can be evident in our lives, like peace it is a real emotion that Christ promises he gives to us in our real and every day lives.

Do I enjoy God’s peace and joy, are they gifts from God which I embrace and experience, habitually in my normal everyday life.

I wonder too, when I do into Churches how rare it is to see any joy, in more traditional Anglican settings joy is often replaced by reverence (a word I find strangely missing in scripture, although I’m not saying there isn’t a place for some solemnity within our worship). Yet, however our worship styles look I believe joy should be within it for it to truly be an act of worship (I realise too that there is a place for lament within our worship, but even so joy should break through, when we read the Psalms we see the reality of everyday life, and yet so often they end on a note of faith and hope, an undercurrent of joy that God remains upon his throne even -or maybe especially- in our darkest moments.

It is easy to justify our absence of joy on our personal circumstances, but Peace and Joy are actually meant to transcend our everyday experiences, sometimes we hear these wonderful stories of God’s supernatural peace or joy in the midst of bleakness and struggle.

I realise too that there is actually so much around us all to praise God for, lovely people, family, friends, beauty of creation -yet when challenges come out vision becomes more narrowed- yet God never lets us go and is always with us, and often in the pain we can experience more of him in greater depth.

To worship, even when life is not as it should be, is a choice, and sometimes we really don’t feel it, yet there are times when I have pressed through in my frustrations and my deflated-ness and found in that place of brokenness and sacrifice something new and wonderful. As we worship, it is a choice to focus not on our problems and on our pain, but on the God who is the lifter of our head, “the one from whom our help comes from the maker of heaven and earth”.

So, my challenge primarily to myself, is where is my peace, where does my joy come from?

As I seek God more and more, aren’t these characteristics of him that perhaps I know I am somewhat lacking.

Perhaps, we need to seek to find God the source of peace and joy that transcends our understanding?

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brokenness, Depression, Falibility, love, Pain

Valentines’ Dilemma.

Today is a day when we remember St. Valentine, who was an early Church Bishop, who conducted many marriages to allow young men to avoid conscription (the Emperor at the time believed single men made better soldiers).

Whilst in Prison, he prayed for the jailers daughter who was blind, she was healed and her sight restored. He was brutally Murdered/Martyred, but his last letter was signed “your Valentine”, and so the tradition of sending love notes on valentines day has continued.

Ironic, that we celebrate romantic love from a man who kept a vow of celibacy.

Today can be a day of great joy, and that’s great, but just because we are in a good season, we realise this isn’t necessarily true for everyone.

Today is a day which brings up lots of pastoral issues, What about those who were married but are no longer through divorce or bereavement, today can be a tough day?

What about those who maybe wanted to be married and yet never has been, again today could be a challenging day.

What about those who are married but their marriage has become a really tough challenge?

Some people too in our Churches maybe in complicated relationships.

(A great book and blog about Singleness comes from my friend Kate Wharton -single minded https://www.amazon.co.uk/Single-Minded-Being-Single-Whole-Living/dp/0857214306 , http://katewharton.blogspot.co.uk/  ).

Sometimes we turn love and life into something unreal and unattainable, those of us who are married don’t live “happily ever after” marriage is something wonderful, but not always easy, and even the best marriages aren’t always sweetness and light all the time.

Single people might have freedoms and opportunities that we might envy when just getting a babysitter and getting out the house feels like a rare achievement, but when I was single I certainly didn’t feel lucky, in fact sometimes I felt lonely and sad about being single.

The truth is that we, especially in a facebook age, present one thing to the world and another thing is the reality in our hearts behind closed doors.

Sometimes Churches are good at joy, but less good with complexity and mess.

Sadly our Churches don’t always feel safe places.

Sadly our Churches don’t always feel safe places for messy lives.

Sadly our Churches don’t always feel safe for people with marriage problems.

Sadly single people often say our Churches don’t feel safe places where they are welcome and valued.

How can we be safe sharing both joys and sorrows.

I long to see Church become a place that can laugh with those who laugh and cries with those who cries, sharing the reality of joys and sorrows.

It is human nature to run comparisons, -normally unfavourable- yet the truth is the grass is not always greener.

Whatever our circumstances life always presents challenges.

God’s Church is made up of people who are married, and people who are not, people whose relationships are in a good place, and those whose relationships are tough.

How do we as Church, become a community of grace that supports and loves one another in our variety of different life stages and relationship status’? Where joys and sorrows are freely expressed.

Where we are loved and accepted for who we are now, rather than an idealised version of ourselves, or who we might be in the future.

The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus meets us where we are now, encounters us in our present, and as we really are, not how we’d like to be, or an idealised ‘facebook-esk’ version of ourselves.

The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus meets us where we are at, celebrating the joys and blessings, as well as the sorrows and challenges.

The good news of the Gospel is that as a Church family, people around you with a different story can really be a blessing to you, and you to them, together you can carry one anothers burdens and enable the local expression of Church to be more loving and authentic.

Our world is sex obsessed and tells us we are incomplete without the perfect life (and perfect partner)…  Jesus doesn’t agree!

Yet the truth is we are not perfect, nor will any partner we have  be perfect either.

We live in a world maybe obsessed by sex, and we are called to be holy, the world may tell us we are incomplete but the gospel tells us we are made whole in Christ, beloved and valued.

Paul tells the Church to not to let the world squeeze them into its mould (Romans 12 -the message) and yet sometime the Church as an institution moulds us as an institution where we either feel pressured to conform to the ridiculous stereotype, but the gospel actually should allow us the freedom to be ourselves, to be loved as us, single or married, in good times or hard times.

Perhaps as Church we lack the empathy to see how other peoples lives can be fully and wonderfully Christian but look very different from our own, and how we may be a blessing to them, and they to us.

Where we feel truly loved we can be truly ourselves, the problem too often with our Churches is that we all put up our guard and show the world a respectable veneer, rather than being real about what life is really like for us.

So, a challenge for us all, especially on valentines day, we are called to love, and be a community of authenticity and grace, where all who encounter it are blessed.

Jesus says of his Church “by this all people will know you are my disciples that you love one another”…

This is a call for real love in a real (but broken) world.

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brokenness, Christmas, incarnation, Pain, Servanthood., Suffering.

In the Poo.

At our nativity service I got everyone to come up and put newspaper headlines into the manager with baby Jesus as a prayer activity but also as a sign and symbol of Jesus coming down amid and amongst the brokenness of this world.

to illustrate this I really wanted to bring into Church a bucket of manure, a really stinky bucket, to show the smell that the Creator of the universe was born into, Jesus was literally born surrounded by crap.  Jesus was born how he lived, surrounded by the world at is vilest, messiness and most broken, and yet amid all that he wasn’t tainted by it, rather he overcame it, he brought beauty out of his brokenness, bringing hope to the hopeless, bringing salvation, restoration, tranformation from gutter right accross every stratosphere of human divide, with even the Roman Emperor, the most powerful man on earth came to bow the knee to the babe of Bethlehem.

As we think about the image of crap, I was struck by two images:

Firstly, from my time working in a nursing home, whereby if a patient soiled themselves we came in with rubber gloves, plastic aprons and air freshener… Arms length and trying not to gag.

Secondly, of seeing many babies and their mums at our parent and toddler group, dealing with horrific smells from down bellow, with crying babies held close, comforted and loved despite the stench.

Love does not hold back at arms length, but embraces amid the filth and stench and sees beyond it all the person who is loved more than anything.

Jesus is the latter, the second image, drawing close and loving even when the world was at its most vile and disgusting.

All the way through his life Jesus “touched untouchables with love and washed the guilty clean”… A women with “an issue of blood” ritually unclean, defiled, banned from the temple touched the hem of his garment and rather then her defilement tainting Christ as she touched him but she was both healed andcleansed no longer unclean, untouchable and defiled, instead purified, his holiness was bigger and greater than her condition.

We don’t need a lecture here to know the world is not as it should be, the newspaper headlines scream it out to us all the time.

Nor do we need a rant here talking about how people are screwed up and broken, we probably know this too loud and clear.

We know the problem.

We know the world is defiled and full of crap, our lives are at time much the same, the good news is that there is a solution and rescue amid the mess, the baby Jesus who grew up to take all the vilest depravity humanity could throw at him, and carried them on his shoulders as he was crucified for you and for me.

He took the crap for you and for me.

All my sin, the junk and the skeletons in the closet, brought into the light and washed away by his death and resurrection.

Jesus once spoke to a guy with leaprocy and asked him “What do you want me to do for you?” And the guy replied “I want to be clean” and with that Jesus reached out and touched him, again like the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus was defiled but rather his touch made the leaper clean.

In many ways we are like that leaper before Christ, he asks us “What do you want us to do for you?” Will we echo the leapers statement of faith and say to Jesus, I want to be clean?

In the book of Isaiah it talks of our sins being like scarlet but becoming as white as snow, let’s come to him afresh for cleansing, we can’t pretend there isn’t a problem anymore like the stinking teenager trying to mask a ton of BO by spraying their clothes with Lynx deoderant, instead it is saying “I know my need of cleansing for God, I know you are a God who meets me in the gutter at my lowest point”.

As I type this I am reminded of a old hymn which says “Foul I to the fountain fly wash me saviour lest I die”… Knowing that the stench of our sin is more than just a bit unpleasant, but is actually fatal, and our cleansing and purification is not just life saving but life giving and life transforming.

Yet Jesus’ decent from heaven to the gutter is I believe actual a model and a picture we as Christians are supposed the emulate.

Jesus called us to be people of salt and light, light that drives away darkness and most most needed in the darkest placesm and salt that combats decay. In fact the Romans used to put salt on their poo to combat the smell and the germs, so when Jesus is talks of being the salt of the earth, it is a call to the darkest, smelliest, vilest places that need the transforming good news the most.

So, Jesus descended into the worst of the world’s crap, we are called to do like wise.

Mother Teresa once famously challenged of us as CHristians to “find their Calcutta” -I believe there will be somewhere we are called to serve, to wash off the dirt -the crap- of the feet of that place, and rather than letting it change and taint us, instead lets be the ones bringing the change and the transformation, for the glory of God which is unstoppable despite the unmentionable things this world throws in our path and I’m our way.

 

 

 

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5 Fold Ministry -Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers (Eph. 5), brokenness, comparisons, Humility, inter-dependance, Leadership, Life styles, Pride, vocation

Too Much Testosterone…

“Which of the five-fold ministries are you?” I was asked this morning at morning prayer.

The Five Fold Ministries, are “Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teachers”, it is a fascinating question!

Are we all just one of these?

Can we be more than one or is that greedy?

Do I operate in all five on different occasions?

Or is that just vanity thinking I could be incompetent?

Then I thought a bit more about each of these and think these words can mean vastly different things to different people?

I’ve blogged before about how I worry that I see too much of Christian leadership lacks humility and has a smugly superior swagger, something I don’t see in the ‘first shall be last’ Leadership, often looking more like Alan Sugars boardroom than Jesus washing his disciples’ feet in the upper-room.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase “hurt people hurt people” which is true we are all broken people and often our brokenness has jagged edges that cuts both ourselves and those who come close to the area of that brokenness.

Yet too often our brokenness doesn’t just manifest itself in sitting on our own in a coffee bar crying into our latte, but in all sorts of behaviours.

I was talking to someone who said something fascinating “I don’t think I am arrogant, but I know I am deeply insecure”, but the insecurity often shows itself in massively competitive ways.

We often forget that a wise person once said “comparison is the thief of joy” and yet particularly the apostle, prophet and evangelist can end up engaging is a silly one-upmanship, which actually discourages all of them, talking themselves up and others down, because they want to appear successful.

Yet as Mother Teresa said “we aren’t called to be successful only faithful”.

It is a bit like running a race, if you can’t run forward when looking back.

The Pastor often can be guilty of ‘needing to be needed’ they need me, the danger to run in as a ‘Saviour leader’ where we want to come in like James Bond and save the day, forgetting that we already have a Saviour that doesn’t need replacing. The danger is for those of us with a Pastors heart is that we can fall into the trap of thinking “I’m important because I’m needed” rather than knowing we are valuable simply by being a beloved child of God.

Again, the teacher is often guilty of the same ‘needing to be needed’, yet like all teachers the kids graduate, they want to not just know about stuff they actually want to be doing it themselves. The teacher can fall into the trap of thinking “I’m important because I know stuff you don’t” and yet it often is a matter of time when they over-take us and they know stuff we don’t and suddenly our roles become reversed and we become the pupil.

If you are the Apostolic type, how do you react when someone else has a better and an easier idea?

If you are the evangelistic type, how do you feel when someone else discovers their gift and has great chats about Jesus.

If you are prophetic, how do you feel when someone else has a ‘spot on word for someone’.

If you are a Pastor, how do you feel when someone goes to someone else and not you?

If you Teacher, how do you feel when your pupil teaches you something?

The interesting thing I think is what we ‘ought’ to feel and what we ‘actually’ feel can be two very different things.

Often our insecurity ties us down and limits both our gifting and our effectiveness and fruitfulness in that gifting.

The heart I believe of ‘losing the testosterone’ is knowing our true identity in Christ, knowing our dependence not on our abilities but on his provision and grace, knowing that we are unique and our calling is different from those around us.

It is about an understanding of being part of God’s team and about building a Kingdom not our own empires, it is about Christ at work in us not just through us.

Let’s see ourselves as precious and part of the wider team of God, where our gifts and our weakness combine together with other peoples’ gifts and weaknesses to create something beautiful.

The heart of much of our problem is our self-sufficiency, this idea that ‘we can do it on our own’ which is actually not only unbiblical but a fallacy.

We need one another, and they need us, we are not created for independence but interdependence.

The question actually at its heart is asking about how we can work together where we maximise our strengths and minimise the weaknesses so that we can see the most fruitfulness of the glory of Christ in the lives of those we serve.

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5 Fold Ministry -Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers (Eph. 5), Authenticity, brokenness, Uncategorized

A Grubby Sad Church, A PEST!

(Taken from the talk by Howard Jameson’s talk yesterday, the wise and profound bits are from Howard, the less wise bits are from me!).

Doesn’t sound great does it? -but let’s look at it a bit closer!

How grubby is Church?
This isn’t how effective the cleaning rota is… although sometimes we can value the cleanliness of our buildings above blessing the community.
I wrote recently about how buildings are useful tools but sometimes our thinking around buildings has got confused and sometimes in some cases almost idolatrous!
Holiness is a word that makes people think that people like them aren’t welcome (when the truth is none of us is Holy, only Jesus).
At the heart of Gods character is Holiness where all the other traits of his characters stem (his love, grace and goodness) from this…
Jesus was so Holy that he knew that touching the grubby would make them Holy, Infecting with his Goodness rather than being contaminated by sin.
Jesus risk his reputation by engaging with the messy of hurting and broken lives, eating and visiting the home of sinners and tax collectors.
Whilst listening to Howard, I was reminded of a cracking quote from Pope Francis who said: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”
I drifted off for a second thinking of Bonhoeffer two fellowships the superficial “fellowship of the righteous” and the more real and authentic “fellowship of sinners” where people were real about life and its pains and struggles. Bonhoeffer reflected that if meeting with other Christians could (and did) cost him his life then when they met together in these dangerous conditions Church had to be “grubby” -real, worts and all Church.
How SAD is your Church?
Where is the songs of lament?
Do we give space for our culture to truthfully express what they feel, including the bits they feel frustrated and disappointed in?
Are we a Church that can cry together? Then when one part hurts every part hurts, rather than the “I’m alright Jack” attitude we see from time to time.
Where is the outlet for us to protest and express our pains and frustrations and disappointment about life?
Superficiality and dutiful obligated joy feel fake to our generation, as we long for authenticity and want to be heard.
Again, a Church that can be real and broken, is paradoxically a Church when we can celebrate the real joys together too.

How much of A PEST is your Church?

A PEST actually stands for the 5Fold ministries, Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds (or called Pastors) and Teachers.
Apostles take something out from the Church to the people, Prophets say the uncomfortable things and are the friends who lovingly challenge us, Evangelists bring people into Church, and the two roles we really value in the west is Pastoral Care (we want you to sort our problems out and visit us) and Teachers (we want you to ‘do Church well and not be too boring”). Yet Church when it is healthy and functioning is operating in each of these areas of gifting.
The leader can’t be all of these, no one person cam, but a leaders job is to identify those with the gifts and liberate them, to be able to serve.
Need to be where the people at.
Howard left us with a few questions, including:
Do we allow people to play artistically, liturgically,  theologically and Spiritually? -Do we allow
Or do we expect them to conform to our inherited model?
He explored the theme of new wine skins, a picture used by Jesus, which talks of old skins bursting with the new wine…
Asking is the ‘wine-skin’ we have able to cope with what God is doing, and what he is calling his people to be?
Are we ready to be a sad, grubby Church that’s A PEST? -I hope so!
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Being, brokenness, Community, identity, love

The Tarnished Jewel…

The Tarnished Jewel was the name of a report about an estate a friend works on in Swindon.

It had started off all gleaming, sparkling and new in post war housing with luxuries like in door-toilets and airing cupboards. Yet years later it is a run down estate.
The Church on this Estate is called Shine, the idea of gleaming and sparkling with Gods love. That is the image of what Church should be like, shining out like stars in the heavens, literally bring a light in the darkness.
Yet I believe the Church should make the whole estate shine… I remember in the book of Jeremiah the prophet us called to ‘seek the good of the city’, a call which applies to Christians today.   We alter the spiritual DNA of a place simply by being present.
Being good news in a place will change how we feel about somewhere, I believe it is no coincidence that where Street Pastors patrol crime rate falls.
Even on the very basic level having Christians cleaning the streets from litter will make people think and feel better about where they live.
The minister talks about making people sparkle, I know what he means, when people feel loved and valued you an sometimes literally see the sparkle, they look better, smiley and better.
I went to Holy Trinity Brompton for an evening service and heard about a lady who did the nails and chatted to the homeless ladies, and she said they left looking and feeling like a human beings, when most of their life experiences are dehumanizing.
Little things can still cause a great sparkle… Because for the person being blessed they aren’t little thing at all.
Often our Churches are meant to be sparkling jewels but sadly, life, sin, pain, confusion and brokenness have tarnished them somewhat, so much so that many of us have wondered and wished we could be without this jewel of the Church. Just type ‘post church’ into Google and weep!
Some of us who are vicary types, are sometimes given these tarnished stones to look after, and what we are called to do, in partnership with the Holy Spirit and the people of faith, is to see the Church regain its sparkle, to learn how to shine afresh.
Sometimes the tarnish on the stone seems really embedded and tough to remove, not always easy to restore sparkle when the years of grime sometimes encrusts it, but yet underneath any real Church will be the gleam of God.
So, let’s be people who shine for Christ.
Let’s be people that work towards making the Church shine for his Glory.
Let’s be people that make others shine.
Let’s be be that make our communities shine.
…and lets do it all for the Glory of Jesus.
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Authenticity, brokenness, Church, community of grace, Counselling, Discipleship, Leadership, self awareness, Uncategorized

Gotta Go to Rehab…

I did a placement at the Priory Drug and Alcohol Clinic when I was training as a vicar.

At the clinic I saw people sharing their lives and their struggles together, there people had nothing in common other than their addiction but the bond and love they showed each other was truly beautiful.

On one occasion I remember seeing a wealthy buisness man break down in tears with a young homeless guy putting his arm around his shoulders, and I thought this at heart has instinctively understood what Church should be and feel like better than any Church I have ever been in.

The other thing that I learned from rehab was the role of the counsillor, who was also an alcoholic, who had been in active recovery for a long time, but still knew he was addicted to Alcohol. In many ways all of us who serve Churches in anyway are ‘wounded healers’, we are all broken people, and in the case of the counsillor needs to safeguard his recovery, and with the Christian, we need to safeguard of walk with God.
I sometimes wonder whether people who are Christians still see themselves as people who sin as part of their daily lives. Tell someone their behaviour is sinful, even when it clearly is, will often get a explosive reaction.
I wonder whether seeing ourselves as ‘sin addicts’ has some value, something we need to be vigilant, accountable and ruthless even in our persuit of a life without the various snares of sin that ‘so easily entangle’. I wonder if we thought about holiness the way an addict thinks about sobriety whether we would have a very different idea about life and leadership. Perhaps too, we might not see these dreadful tragic falls of some leaders who looked so sorted from a distance.
So let’s learn from rehab, let’s be a people of authenticity, real about struggle, honest about brokenness, truthful about our fears and failures. Let’s be people who truly carry each other’s burdens, and hold one another accountable. Let’s not out in these fake veneers of sortednesss but admit that we are followers with a limp, ‘wounded healers’ to quote Heri Nowen.
Let’s see our Chuches in the buisness of transformation, hope and changed lives, real with the grot and pain of lives but held in the context and physical arms of love.
Let’s me be people honest about our need of God and his great grace.
A place where the broken run too rather than anyway from.
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