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”.

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Disappointment, Discouragement, encounter, Eternity, Evangelism, expectations, Fane Conant, Gospel, Message, obidience, Opportunity, Organic, Pioneer, pperseverence, Repentance, spontaneity, word -speaking/preaching/teaching.

Yesterday was a funny old day…

We have been doing a mission this weekend.

An evangelist friend of my Dad’s, Fane Conant, had come up to help us, following a brief chat I had at a evangelism/evangelist conference.

We started the mission with a small group of us gathered together on Hanham Mount -where John Wesley had preached to the Kingswood Miners-. The Kingswood Miners were considered to be the toughest and roughest of people, normally people fled from them, yet here we see a small group of Christians choosing to make them the priority. Following the actions of Christ that prioritised the marginalised, disenfranchised and ostracised. Yet here had been an incredible harvest that transformed not only Kingswood but also our nation, and the world.

“Lord we have heard of your fame, we stand in awe of your deeds renew them in our day” (Hab.3.) We prayed bold and audacious prayers nervously and worshipped, there were only 12 of us, and the city looked vast on the horizon as we sung in faith “greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city”.

The next day we had a Men’s breakfast, sadly a few of the not yet Christian days didn’t show up, and 3 out of my 5 Churches weren’t represented, there was about 13 of us, and we’d reserved 30 places, so Fane’s presentation happened to rows of empty seats, although lots of people in the pub must have over heard the presentation too.

The next event was meant to be a coffee morning, but as I arrived no one else was there, not a single person had turned up. I felt bitterly disappointed. There were some guys in the hall painting. These guys were on Community Payback (the new name for probation).

Then an idea hit me, although God had probably been shouting it for a while, why didn’t I get Fane to talk to the Community Payback guys?

Swallowing hard and trying to appear chilled, I asked if Fane might be allowed to speak to the guys, talking about how his life had been turned around, message of hope and inspiration and I carried on in this vein.

The supervisor said “yeah, I’ll bring them all in”.

Fane (being wise) stopped him and said “you do realise I’ll be explicitly Christian?” (At this point I was expecting the guy to change his mind, and had already in a faithless way prepared my “well at least we tried” speech). The guy grinned and said “I don’t mind, I’m a Sikh by the way”.

So, here we were 8 guys sat around listening to Fane speaking about how Jesus turned around his life.

The last two talks Fane had done had been amazing, but here there was an even greater sense of God’s anointing, as Fane preached the Gospel in a wonderful and faithful way.

At the end Fane prayed a prayer and asked others to say it in their hearts, and then wandered around chatting to the guys, it turned out that two lads prayed the prayer giving their lives to Christ and are keen to be followed up.

Others were asking really deep, real hungry questions to Fane, Paddy and myself, the conversation fizzles and crack with God’s hand upon it.

As I left to take a wedding and Fane and a guy Harry from our Church went to chat to people on the High Street (and saw another guy come to faith)…

I smiled as I thought God is on the move, he is turning up in unexpected places, but he’s drawing people to himself, and what a privilege to join in with that.

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Church, Commitment, consumerism, cost, Disappointment, Glory, Kingdom, Numbers

A Few Good (wo)/men.

I remember hearing a minister once say, I’d rather have 10 people passionately souled out and on fire for Christ than thousands of apathetic Christians.

Numbers do matter, we want to see lives transformed for Christ, and so the more people doing that the better, the more people hearing the gospel the better too.

Yet in another sense numbers don’t matter. I keep on seeing how Jesus took time out to talk to one individual, a cowardly scholar, a woman with a dubious reputation, it wasn’t all stage managed crowds. In fact Jesus was always leaving crowds where-as our leaders are always trying to milk them.

Yet I have noticed the weekend in particular with a couple of very small events, our 20’s & 30’s event only had 6 people, and our LATE SERVICE in Hanham was also numerically small, yet both had an intense sense of the Holy Spirits presence, and we shared openly real and authentic stuff as we prayed into stuff in a vulnerable way, but a way that felt beautiful and God honouring. A glimpse of what I believe Church can, should and could be.

we might like the anonymity of being part of a crowd, but I think it is in real community that we really grow.

we might like the fact that in a larger group your turn at serving on the (whatever) rota comes around less, but actually in serving we grow.

If I ever did a PHD I would like to do something on the corrilation between larger/smaller churches and discipleship, my belief is the larger the Church the more the risk of consumerism and complacency, after all someone else will probably do it, safety in numbers, yet discipleship is never meant to be safe.

As the five of us worshipped in Hanham on Sunday night, I shot a side-ways glance, and thought “is this my Gideon’s Army for taking Hanham?” just as the group of us pledged to seek God’s transformation is again a small group, but then I was reminded that although Gideon’s Army was tiny it still defeated the Midionites, in Corinthians Paul reminds us that “in weakness God is strong” after-all God reminds us that it is “not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit says the Lord of hosts” -maybe in a great team of mighty people we may see wonderful advances but the glory would go to the team leader, as a tiny bunch of ordinary stretched and broken Christians seeing God do wonders, the glory goes to God.

So, although the numbers may feel discouraging, I believe that with God we are always the majority, I’d rather have a small group of people committed to the Kingdom cause, than a great bunch that come and want to be entertained.

Yes it is nice to talk to a crowd, it is nice when they laugh at my jokes, but the Church is not measured by its bums on seats but rather on its fruitfulness,it’s Christ-likeness and its serving capacity. Yet it is interesting how often clergy ask each other “how big is your Church” which gages as a measure of your success, but if no one is becoming more Christ-like then you have just created a wonderful middle class hang out.

So, even if we are a small army, let us be measured by our hearts and our desire to be obedient to Christ, rather than our numbers.

Someone once said “its not the size of the guy in the fight, but the size of the fight in the guy” -even if we are small, we can still have a big vision. Let’s be people ahead of the curve where God is about to move, rather than hanging around where God has been working enjoying the aftermath.

Let’s not let the small number of fellow troops in the trenches deter us for we remember that the battle belongs to the Lord.

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call, Depression, Disappointment, Discipleship, Uncategorized, vocation

From a soggy field in Shepton Mallett.

I’m at New Wine, It with pouring with rain, I’m on my third pair of jeans and it is only day 1.

The weather is so bad Allana and Hope have set off home.

I’m cold, I’m wet, I’m feeling really sorry for myself.

And then just to remind me how shallow I am, how much more work God has to do in me, I walked past a guy who ended up getting a job I really wanted, and more than that felt and thought God was calling me too. Which leaves you not only feel disappointed, but also confused -God I thought you were speaking and I was just trying to be obidient…

Sometimes, the Christian life can be hard and tough, and maybe partly due to that fact I’m on anti-depressants, you can look at everything through lenses of self pity.

For the last 7 years I have worked in a Church/Parish which hasn’t really been supportive (there are one or two wonderful saints, but still they do sometimes feel a little few and far between). On some occasions had some pretty savage nastiness simply for trying to see local people of the parish come to know Jesus, the most painful thing is the mystification of it, why would people go out of their way to attack something they probably wouldn’t go to anyway? Why stick the boot in?

It is easy to ask the question, why me?

Yet standing in the rain, it felt like this was the wrong question. The question is “why not me?”

God has my life and call me, or not call me, where ever he wants to as short or as long as he wants, I gave up my say when I signed my life over to him.

In fact I can remember vividly, the night before I became a schools worker in Bournemouth/Poole area, having a really uncomfortable wrestle with God when I really felt challenged to say “come what may, it is all yours”.

-I didn’t know that at time I was standing on the cross roads where in one sense I had literally next to no money (yet somehow manage to run a car) was single for the next 4 years (but inadvertently met my future wife) and set out on a path that moved from just having a gap year, to trying to follow Jesus where ever he led, and whatever that looked like.

I can’t claim it has been easy, some of it really hasn’t, but in all of it I would say God has been faithful, he’s never let me go, and I haven’t drowned, although at times I have felt a bit like I’ve struggled to keep my head above water.

Today at a wet and windy New Wine, it’s easy to feel like wouldn’t it be great to be surrounded by a huge crowd of really fired up white hot young Christians who want to transform the world for Jesus.

Yet this morning I was sat I the morning meeting listening to Danielle Strickland speak on our desire for comfort in our lives, in our callings.

She had this vivid dream of going into a room and being bitten by a spider, the spider bite makes her sleepy and she lies down and falls asleep and these spiders come and eat her and kill her. She freaked out a bit by this dream, as I think I would if that were me, and asked God for an interpretation for the dream, the interpretation was that its easy to get infected with apathy and complacency, we become too much at home in our cultures, blending in when we are called to stand out, and slowly the comfort will spiritually cause us not get not only sleepy but to spiritually die.

Her challenge was to wake up.

Her challenge for us was to feel the pain rather than run from it.

The pain keeps us spiritually awake whereas comfort can kill us.

Being pain free is dangerous…

Too often we try and shield our congregations and brothers and sisters in Christ from pain, yet often it is in the pain that the blessing is held.

Leporacy is an illness often mentioned in the Bible, a disease that stops you feeling pain, a disease that is horrific and debilitating.

In our normal lives we offer people painkillers for every ache and ailment, and we want to often self medicate all challenge, and discomfort from our lives, we perhaps too in Churches offer the pain-killers around anaesthetising ourselves and others with distractions that keep us from engaging with a hurting world, dealing with a thorny issue, making a sacrifice, accepting a challenge, carrying a burden or meting God in an unexpected place.

Why me?

Why not me?

Lord. Let me not be distracted by self pity and let me not hanker after comfort.

Let me embrace you call afresh, even when it lead to places in and of myself I would rather not go (but first I think I need to change out of these wet jeans!)

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Brexit, Disappointment, hope, Politica

The Morning after…

This morning I’m trying to work out what I feel this morning is a strange feeling.

It is a step into the unknown, it is a time of change.
Some might feel worried, others jubilant, possible others a mixture of the two.
Actually at the moment, I’m slightly stunned by the result…
Reminded a little of ’92 when my generation realised the power of the vote to change things, when most of us who were too young to remember any other government, saw the Tories out of office… that felt like a new era of hope, but this feels very different.
Today I just feel a bit sombre.
As I reflect back on the campaign, it was one filled with scaremongering from both sides, misrepresenting other peoples’ points of view, some shameful scapegoating and I think it has shown just how polarised our society is, particularly it has made us more aware of how disenfranchised many people feel in our society. (At least whatever your political views I think people have been reminded that voting actually really matters, and for many this was the first time many people who feel very disenfranchised engaged in the democratic process).
I think the question is not now whether we leave or remain, -after all the vote has happened- but how best we can build/rebuild this nation to be better than it is now… The debate now is how does this look? How do we do we do it?
It may meaning enter into conversations with people whose view point we struggle with and finding common ground with ‘the other’?
To me the big two questions we face as Christians is how can we see the most disenfranchised, normally seen as labour voters who clearly feel that no one speaks for them be heard and seek to bless, love and proclaim authentic hope (not just warm sloppy platitudes) and build real relationship s in these communities (often when the Church seems to too often struggle).
Alongside the question, how can we be people who oppose the horrific scapegoating of the refugees, asylum seeker and migrants. How we can genuinely see community cohesion rather than trying to pretend that there aren’t problems here? How can we be real about struggles without resulting to knee jerk reactions and scapegoating of minorities.
How do we move forward with a vote that needs to be respected, but half the population wished hadn’t happened.
As Christians, the gospel of Christ is  a bigger and greater story of hope, of love, of unity and embracing rather than rejection, a message so transformational that has the power to silence the deeply disturbing voice of the right and far right with a vision of humanity coming together in loving community seeking the best for our neighbours? This big story is the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of heaven as it is sometimes called. The Lord’s Prayer urges us to seek Gods Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, the call that is in no way altered by results of referendum, in fact let this result and living in changing times be the spur to go deeper to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly before our God”.
And as we think of this challenge within the UK, we realise this is a challenge for us to work out what it means afresh to be loving neighbours advocating justice, compassion and hope to not just those within Europe but actually want it means afresh to be a global citizen.
As we talk about now about trade, I hope too that we also talk about trade ethics, do we continue to hold fast to the rights for workers that was advanced and influenced by the EU for workers in the UK? But do we ask the more thorny issue of universal workers rights for everyone we trade we, as surely a Indian or Chinese life is worth as much as that of a European, as I believe there is only one race, the human race, all made in the image of God. As we try to put the parable of the Good Samaritan into practice as we seek to be good world neighbours acting with compassion for the weak and fighting for justice against the powerful and exploitative.
You might read this and think, I can do anything to support this as I’m not a politician or a leader in big business… Yet we fall for the lie that as people we can’t make a difference, we believe that we can only play it small.
In the West Wing President Bartlett quotes Margaret Mead saying “never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world, for, in truth it is all that ever have”, and although this is undoubtedly true, we have a greater truth of “he (Christ) that is within us is greater than he that is in the world”… “The same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead (is active in you and your life)”…  The power of the global Church, filled with the Spirit of God, has option to stop fighting amongst itself and look out and transform the world for the glory of Christ and the salvation and good of its inhabitants.
Yesterday at our third outing of school pastors Jackie shared the call to “be bold” in speaking of Christ (she had led a number of people to Christ recently) but believe her words are larger than just the context of evangelism but rather true for the mission of God in his world…
At times of transition we need to be Christians that step up to the plate and echo the words of Isaiah “here I am send me”.
Irrespective of how we voted, the challenge to build a better world for Christ’s glory and for the sake of our children and grandchildren remains, for some the mountain may feel it has got higher, yet lets not the size of the task daunt us, let us remember the size of the God we serve and his saving and equipping power.
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