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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Resigned, Step of faith, trust

I’ve resigned…

I’ve resigned.

I’ve written to the Bishop.

I’ve signed some legal paper work and made the announcements to the Churches.

It was really tough.

Yet, I do feel it is the right choice.

Yet like many right choices it’s often the harder path.

I don’t have another job to go to, although with some inheritance we might be able to get a home of our own (which is both scary and exciting but in a different way).

This has been something I have really prayed over, probably one of (if not the hardest) choices I’ve made in my Christian life.

A picture I have had as I have prayed into this is that the coach and the manager often have a better view of the game than the players, and although I do want to play the full 90 minutes, often it has been that choice to swap players in the final minutes of the game that has transformed the game itself. As a Man U supporter when Fergie (the manager) pulled off some great player (can’t remember who) and brought Solscar on the pitch as fresh legs that changed the whole game. Sometimes, trusting that the coach knows both the game and you better than you, is a tough lesson to learn, but victories are won by trusting the coach/manager. In fact here locally, George whitefield was doing a great job with the Kingswood Miners -no one else in the country was as good at reaching miners that whitefield- and yet he felt God call him to the America’s and that is when God called John Wesley and the nation was changed and transformed. The greatest fruit comes from obedience, if whitefield had stayed the Christian world would have been so much poorer.

Yet, ultimately it is a step of faith knowing that the one who calls us is faithful. This faithfulness is not just to the place and people we serve, but too us personally as his children. I have recently been so challenged to see my identity not just as his servant, a worker for God, but as his child, his son, beloved by my Father.

Scary too, to re-discover the disciple beneath the dog collar.

Realise afresh the vital calling of being a good husband, good dad, good son, good friend all role and callings I have at times sacrificed on the altar of ministry. Ironic as a bitter old vicars kid, I swore I’d never do that, but amazing how easily we can fall into the old familiar traps!

I am very worried about leaving people in Church the lurch -especially people I have come to love- and I hate letting them down, I think for some of us as Christians ‘guilt’ and ‘duty’ can be a real driver, and although it is good to be conscientious, sometimes this can over-swing.

Yet trusting that actually the mission of God is his mission and not ours. Someone once said that “it’s not the Church that has the mission of God, but rather the missionary God who has a Church”, ultimately the people in our care are his too and “he will be there shepherd”.

Sometimes we have to learn the lesson that we are not indispensable and actually much of discipleship is actually about surrendering. Yet we are surrendering to the lover of our souls, the God who loves us and cares for us, the God who has our best interests at heart. In surrender we find freedom and fulfilment, it is tough, surrender is not easy, but in doing so we trust God to be God, and his faithfulness.

To often when we take a step of faith, we want to know the end from the beginning and to see the safety net clearly. Yet in my experience God’s faithfulness often kicks in, after and not before we take that step.

Reminded of Noah who we reckon might have been in the boat for about 7 days, or the widow sharing her bread with Elijah (using it all up and finding it didn’t run out) or Peter stepping out of the boat to walk on water. Faith came first and God’s faithfulness followed.

As we take that step of faith, I am reminded by some of the stuff the Bible says about 3rd days. It was the third days happen loads in the Bible, 3rd day the wine ran out, 3rd day Lazarus was raised and obviously 3rd day Jesus rose from the dead. As I thought about this, often we make the choice, we have that terrible “Holy Saturday” moment of pain and anxiety before we have the Easter Sunday time of God coming through, sometimes these Holy Saturdays last a while and others are relatively short, yet no matter what God is faithful (even when it doesn’t always look like we think it should).

Sometimes the reason why faith is faith is because it doesn’t always make logical sense to us, but I believe that one day from the perspective of eternity everything will make sense, and God’s plan is the plan that makes perfect sense.

Our last day (and last Sunday) is 1st October, the day after the 10th anniversary of my ‘priesting’ (or more accurately “ordination as a presbyter” -but that’s a whole different blog about why “priest” isn’t the right name for Vicars!)

It has been a journey both with some wonderful highs and some huge lows, sorrows and joys.

I have been honest in other blog about having depression and going to counselling, and now in stepping down, and my hope is that other people will know afresh that God copes with our brokenness and is faithful, and obedience in laying things down is okay because we are loved and he is good, gracious and kind, we don’t have to prove anything to God just keep listening for the coach, the coach that knows us and the game better and we can trust him.

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