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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brokenness, cost, Dreams, Evangelism, Gospel, Mission, Try?

word on the street 3.

Over Easter we had a mission across the city “The Turning” where we went out and talked with people on the street about Jesus(using a simple script).

Yet we now have the new challenge, rather than just putting a load of effort into a short term event, we are trying to be missional people doing this as a normal part of our usual, normal life together.

we are being ‘intentional’ about keeping on going out together regularly onto the streets to tell people about Jesus, this months there have been three Friday worship sessions followed by three Saturday mornings in different parts of the city.

At the beginning of the month a load of us met up and worshipped, soaked in God’s presence, as someone that is an activist normally with multiple diary clashes prioritising God’s presence was a wonderful thing to do, although I must admit that just turning up for the Saturday outreach did creep into my mind. So glad I didn’t.

Today however I just came to the outreach on the street, we were in South Bristol and I felt convicted if I wanted people to come and share their faith in Kingswood area, then I ought to be prepared to bless other parts of the city too.

Both times on the Street were very different, lots of busy people in a hurry that wouldn’t stop. Yet on both days some people did stop and listen and have conversations with us, on both days we got opportunities to pray for people, and this morning we saw three people pray a prayer of commitment.

All things that wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t gone out.

Today we prayed for a woman who said he life had been “ruined by God” as she suffered a stroke, but prayed for her and she prayed a prayer of commitment. Last time a lady we spoke to couldn’t pray that prayer of commitment as she was so angry with God for the way her mum had suffered before she had died.

Realise that in sharing our faith people are giving us privileged access to their hearts.

I wonder how many opportunities I miss by doing something “important” that actually from an eternal perspective might not have been that important at all!

Yet, I believe the Turning Mission is bigger than just the events with the label “The Turning” on it, just as “healing on the streets” and other initiatives should be bigger than just the teams going out, mission and evangelism should filter through to our Churches, our homes and work places.

The Turning has increased our expectancy for God to be at work, helped us see those potential Kingdom encounters. Recently an older gentleman shared about he was at Lidl and the lady at the front of the queue didn’t have enough money and was getting worried, he gently asked how much she was short by (32p) and paid the cashier. The lady asked him why he did this and he said “God loves you” and se began to well-up with tears.

Little things can make a big difference.

This last month, I have been reminded afresh of the pain of so many peoples’ lives.

This month of June I have had a student Dan with me, learning about being a Vicar. The first week he was here we wandered around the local shops giving out mini chocolates just as a gentle blessing from the local Church. The first shop we went into -a sweet shop- the woman declined the sweet but ended up talking about shutting her shop as it was loosing money. we were able to pray with and for her, and as we prayed she began to cry, just felt as though God had somehow touched her in that moment. Ironic as I toyed with the idea of not going into the sweet shop to give out some sweets as it seemed a bit cheeky. I am glad now we did.

Last Friday with the street pastors ended up spending a big chunk of the evening with a homeless couple, the girl of the couple just seemed really vulnerable.

On Thursday I had to help out for a couple of hours in the young peoples secure unit, seeing these young people who look both incredibly vulnerable and incredibly hard at the same time, one can only imagine what they have been through even though they are so young.

Recently as we do our weekly Pints of View (Church in a pub) I have seen us as a team becoming gradually more emboldened, one guy asking if he could pray for Annie (a regular) with her knees, next week she came in and said they were healed, and then began to complain about ankles. we prayed for her ankles, when I saw her a couple of days ago she said “you wont believe it but since you prayed they are ever so much better!”

One guy Jason, the week before heard one guy share most of his life story, but every now and then chipped in something really wise and Godly. People want to share their stories and want to hear what Christians have to say, we have fallen for the lie that people aren’t interested.

Also in our prayer time, we have been joined by a couple of guests, neither sure about what they believe, but both wanted to be there and came back next week, and we made the choice to carry on praying and worshipping in exactly the same way as we did when it was just Christians

Last week too tough lads smirking almost squared up to me and asked me if I could do “one of them gay weddings right there in the pub”… One of those things they didn’t teach me at theological college! It had the potential to be interesting (and by “interesting” I mean I could get punched in the face!). Yet with a bit of chatting and warmth the ice-melted and they admitted they both had girlfriends but thought it’d be funny to see how I reacted! From that my friend Harry began asking one of them if he had a faith, and ended up praying for him that he’d come to know Jesus -I thought Harry was pushing his luck and again expected him to be told to “**** off!” but instead the guy seemed genuinely moved shaking Harry’s and my hands warmly and thumping his chest in a “love you guys kinda way”.

It would be easy to read these stories and feel like we are sorted, but we are not, far from it, I still find even after the umpteenth time going out on the street that I feel nervous, and often wandering away I think of “what I should have said” -not what I did say!, but I believe we are gradually learning what it means to be a missional people living their lives everyday.

I know I and my friends still are far from sorted, but I know too that God is helping us be bolder and riskier in sharing him and seeing people respond.

I remember the line the overseer of The Turning Pastor Yinka says “the fields are white to the harvest and the workers are YOU” -what can we do?

Then we realise that God has gone before us and prepared the way ahead, opened doors and been tapping on lives already.

what an awesome privilege to partner this fantastic God.

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Dreams, hope, Politica, steadfast, vision

Things can only get better?

Yesterday it was the 20th anniversary of Tony Blair’s historic Labour landslide in 1997, for many of us it was our first time voting in a general election, also the Tories were all we could remember, they had (it seemed to us) been there forever.

I remember a couple of weeks before the election and a friend said in the pub “I still reckon that some how those unscrupulous Tory ******* will some how get back in!”

Yet here before our eyes we saw history being made, as seats bluer than Bernard Mannings joke book became New Labour Scarlet, and many of the giants of the Tory Party were felled by the voters.

I have heard people say that the biggest killer is apathy, but my generation wasn’t particularly apathetic, I voted first thing in the morning as soon as the polling station was open, and at work the next day many of us were bleary eyed from staying up until about 3ish -“did you see Portillo?”

Britain was changing and would never be the same again.

For us, we saw that our vote changed things. That change was possible. That what had looked like it was set in concrete wasn’t. More-over the mistakes of our parents generation (not that my parents have ever voted Tory I’m pleased to say) could be rectified, this was a generation forging its own future with a new set of values.

I remember the song that was the Labour Parties Election theme “Things Can Only Get Better”, I remember being struck by the message of Hope, bill-boards said “Labour: Class sizes will get smaller” or “Labour: wages will increase”.

Fast forward a few years and I remember 10 years ago Barak Obama getting elected the first black President of the United States, the same message of Hope, “YES we CAN!” -in fact Obama called his autobiography “the Audacity of Hope”. It is incredible to think of a black president of the United States of America when as recently as the 1960’s Blacks and whites weren’t even allowed to sit together on buses.

I remember reading “Rosa (Parks) sat so Martin (Luther King Jr) could walk, Martin walked so (Barak) Obama could stand, Obama stood so our children can fly”.

The idea that we are making history and the world a better place for our children is a compelling vision.

Yet fast-forward to today.

Sadly the achievements of Labour were blighted by the Iraq war and the global recession and they are back in opposition, the Tories look unbeatable again.

Young people who probably have seen both Labour and Conservative in power probably think “why bother”, and ask does my vote change anything.

Obama’s “YES we CAN” has been replaced by the world asking of America “They Can’t Can They?”

This election is not fuelled by hope but fears.

“Things can only get better” is not the mood of the country which is more fearful than I can remember in a long time.

So, is this blog about my political viewpoint? well no, actually it is about something far deeper, it is about not letting a dream die.

It is easy to say “wasn’t that good” or be nostalgic for the good old days, easy to set a moment as a ‘golden era’ never to be equalled let alone excelled, it is easy to think that the hopes of our youth have matured as we have become more jaded, cynical and our defeatism can have an older sounding rhetoric.

It is amazing how quickly we forget that things can and do change.

It is amazing how quick we can feel disenfranchised again, how discouraging circumstances stop us dreaming those big, crazy audacious dreams of a different world.

More over if we stop dreaming that a better and different world is possible, we wont bother to fight and achieve it.

Take hope out of our hearts and we are lost.

The Tories are saying they are going to defeat Corbyn with a landslide, and is a clever tactic because if people give up before the start then we have lost.

If you don’t play to win in sport you nearly always loose.

Battles that are fought are won or lost in our minds.

Some one once said “do events happen to us, or do we happen to events?”

It is amazing how the radical revolutionary sinks back into the mire of the despondency.

Imagine for a moment the earliest of disciples, locked in the upper room for fear of the Jews, hidden away, and when the Holy Spirit came they were filled with boldness (which is a fruit of Hope) and this small group of uneducated artisans went out speaking to the people and changed the world forever.

Yet despite seeing thousands come to Christ, soon persecution happened and things went badly wrong, and yet despite their change in circumstances, the challenges and the opposition they kept on going…

Here is Paul talking about his recently Missionary endeavours “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers” 2 Corinthians 11. Yet Paul never gave up.

So, as we approach this election, as we are in very different circumstances in a time that feels very different, my message to myself and to anyone who reads this blog, is don’t let discouragements and oppositions burst our dreams of making the world a better place for our children.

In fact the world seems a darker place than 20 years ago, but when it gets darker the light shines more brightly.

when times are at their most challenging and depressing we need the dreamers and the prophets more than others.

Anyone can be an optimist on the mountain top, but it takes bravery and courage to be an optimist in the valley.

we may live in a very different time, and the world may feel very different, but lets “not grow weary in doing good for at the right time we will reap a reward if we do not give up!”

In the film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves Robin is fighting in the water and he shouts to Azeem his friend to ask hat to do, and Azeem tells him to “get up and keep fighting”. I think that is a message for all of us who maybe feel a bit weary and battle warn, when maybe Hope feels more like a distant memory that a present reality.

I’ll end wth a quote from CS Lewis who said “You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream” -So let’s keep dreaming and fighting to turn these dreams to reality.

I

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