sweeping changes


Luke 10:38-42

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

41 ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’

A while ago I read the passage above and wrote some reflections on it based on sermons I had heard about it which always criticised Martha and commended Mary. I wondered if there were other ways of looking at what happened…

Bad Martha?

Busy Martha

Distracted Martha

Humiliated Martha? (Jesus defended Mary)

Hurt Martha?

Jealous Martha? (would she have liked to be listening to Jesus too?)

Brave Martha (for telling Jesus what to do)

Being hospitable Martha

Caring Martha

Faithful Martha (exercising the gift of hospitality)

Neglected Martha (working in the background and nobody had noticed)

Devoted Mary

Wise Mary

Spiritual Mary

Smug Mary? (Jesus commended her)

Naughty Mary (going against cultural norms by sitting with the men)

Thoughtless Mary?

Inhospitable Mary?

Selfish Mary?

Scroll through to John 11:17-32. When their brother, Lazarus, died who showed faith In Jesus and who blamed him for her brother’s death? Who’s the spiritual one and who’s the practical one now?

Be blessed, be a blessing


I would like to apologise to avid bloggists for the intermittent bloggages this week. It’s not due to a lack of reflection, but a lack of time to tell you about it. We should always be looking for glimpses of God. However I will post something later this weekend.

In the meantime, remember that poor mathematicians don’t count and that some people don’t know what to do with punctuation – full stop.


Sorry about the lack of bloggage yesterday (a lackage?). The last few days have been the sort of days where I have been able to do all I have set out to do, but each activity has flowed into the next without much breathing space in between. I find I can sustain that level for a short time but I soon need space to breathe and reflect at a more gentle pace.

I have been doing lots of different things, meeting lots of different people – planned and unplanned, writing, reading, studying, making phone calls, taking phone calls, writing and sending emails, receiving emails, and much more besides. I have (to coin a phrase) been busy as a bee.

bee 2That’s an interesting phrase. Because bees seem to spend a lot of their time resting on flowers sucking up nectar. The cross-pollination that takes place because of the pollen that sticks to their furry little bodies is not their beesyness. Their real beesyness is to collect nectar to feed the bee colony.

It is very easy to justify your existence (especially as a Minister) by how busy you are. I know of some Ministers who are always on duty, always active on church business, always available. Their identity is their role: their role is their identity. Take away church and they haven’t got much else.

But is that a sensible or even a Biblical approach? We don’t have to read very far into the Bible to read about God taking a day off! Recreation is re-creation and it’s essential if we are to function properly as human beings.

I have a rechargeable battery inside me. It supplies power to an occipital nerve stimulator that is successfully moderating chronic migraine and cluster headaches, but that’s another story. I have to recharge it regularly as the electronics are rather sensitive. If I allow the battery to discharge completely there can be problems. I have been told that it is possible that the ONS can be restarted if I let the battery run out once. If it happens twice it is unlikely to be restarted. A third time would almost certainly be fatal to the system and it would need to be replaced with all of the cost and surgery involved. I am acutely aware of the need to recharge.

We all need to be re-charged, re-created and re-freshed: emotionally, spiritually, physically. There is no special prize in heaven for getting there early because you worked yourself into an early grave!

So what re-charges , re-creates and re-freshes you? Is it a regular part of your routine? If not I hope you also have a superhero cape to go with your superman / superwoman powers!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

busy as a bee

beeWhy do we say that someone is busy as a bee? Surely it should be buzzy as a bee? Yes I know that these are very active and diligent in collecting pollen, but we don’t say that we are as busy as other insects who are equally active and diligent. And while I’m thinking about it why is it that the buzzier an insect is the less capable it is of flying out of an open window? Silent insects seem to have no problem flying back out the way they came in. But buzzy ones spend ages bashing their heads against a window right next door to the space through which they entered.

Today I have an extremely busy day. It might even be a minor miracle if I manage to get to all of the different activities on time, unflustered, and able to focus on the different aspects of all I have to do. The success or otherwise of this busy day will depend on the availability of parking spaces and the free movement of traffic to enable me to move between meetings with a minimum of stress.

Two brief thoughts occur to me as I contemplate today: the first is that the busier I am the more time I need to spend in prayerful reflection. This enables me to get things in the right perspective and recognise that I am not indispensable.

The second is that often I concentrate on the meetings/events and not what happens between them. But without the time, movement and activity between the meetings/events the meetings/events will not happen. God wants to be involved as much in the ‘down time’ as in the moments of activity. Indeed I can use the ‘down time’ to focus more on him than perhaps I’m able to do when I’m busy.

Be blessed, be a blessing



The Fourfold Leadership of Jesus: Come, Follow, Wait, GoI have just finished reading another book for my Sabbatical: The Fourfold Leadership of Jesus by Andrew Watson. The book has a chequered history. Not the publication, the actual copy.

It was a gift to me from a group of people I served while working for the Baptist Union of Great Britain, over four years ago. One of the group was tasked with providing it for me and only finally got around to it this year. It has then sat on a bookshelf waiting for my sabbatical leave in order for me to read it.

I am glad I have. It has been helpful in confirming some of my leadership styles, challenging others and inspiring me to think of new ways of doing things. One of the suggestions is that as well as pithy mission statements we should also consider some ‘unmission statements’. These are statements articulating what we are not called to do. The idea is that if we articulate these things we can stop doing them, or can stop ourselves from starting to do them.

I am starting to work on my ‘unmission statement’, and I suspect that it will grow and develop over the rest of my sabbatical leave. For that reason I am not going to reveal any items from it just yet, but here are some generic categories.

Some of the things on the list are obvious because I am not gifted in those areas, have no interest or need to be involved in them and there are gifted and brilliant people who are doing those things already. Some of the things on this part of list are things I think I am good at but other people can do them better. These are the Bezalel items. (Bezalel was delegated to design and create the fancy bits for the Tabernacle, not something Moses needed to do or would have been any good at).

Some of the things on the list are things that I do because they are urgent but not because they are important. These are my Jethro items. (He was Moses’ Father-in-law and advised Moses to delegate some tasks to others).

Some of the things on the list are things that I could do easily, but by me doing them I am preventing other people from using their gifts and talents in those areas. These are my Elisha items. (Elisha was called to take over from Elijah but had a period of apprenticeship).

Some of the things on the list (the most difficult group) are things I enjoy doing but are not a good use of my time and can distract me from the things that are on God’s ‘To Do’ list for me. These are my Galilee items. (Peter and the disciples went fishing in Galilee after Jesus’ death and resurrection).

I need to be careful not to put things on the list that I don’t like doing but which God is asking me to do. I am calling these items my ‘burning bush’ items. (Moses at the burning bush had a whole lot of excuses about why he should not do what God wanted him to, including the brutally honest, “Please send someone else!”).

So what should be on your ‘unmission statement’?

Be blessed, be a blessing.


Some infernal beatitudes:

Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend an hour once a week with their fellow Christians in Church.

Blessed are those who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked.

Blessed are those who are touchy. Soon they will stop going to church.

Blessed are those who always want to get their own way.

Blessed are those who have no time to pray.

Blessed are those who gossip.

Blessed are you when you read this and think it has everything to do with other people, and nothing to do with you.


The boss is watching, look buzzy

I have spent the morning sitting in the garden, reading a book as part of my sabbatical leave. Having been challenged by the content of the book I paused for a while to reflect. My gaze was drawn to some nearby flowers on which some bees were busy (and buzzy) foraging. I want to share some disparate thoughts that have come to me so far today in the hope that by writing them down they may make sense to me and perhaps even to you!

My understanding of bees is limited and may be erroneous, so please don’t use this bloggerel as material for an educational paper. However, I believe that when a foraging bee finds some flowers it will return to the hive and communicate the location of the flowers by a complex ‘waggle dance’. The first book that I have read suggests that churches need to explore using creative arts far more in our communication, but I am not about to replace my sermons with some interpretive dance! However the playful part of me likes Eddie Izzard’s reflections that it would be far easier for the bee to buzz the instructions to his colleagues, yet instead the creative and excitable bee chooses to dance. I think there is something here about joyful communication of good news. If we communicate the most exciting news in the Universe in a boring way few people will listen.

The thing that blew me away was remembering the phrase ‘busy as a bee’. The nectar / pollen gathering of these worker bees is relentless. They go at it all day. (Perhaps the dancing is how they relax and let off steam?) I recognise in myself a tendency to be busy. I have seen it as a virtue, I have prided myself on comments from others on how busy I am. I feel that God must be pleased with me because of how much he sees me doing. Don’t get me wrong, being busy is not wrong, and it is certainly better than sloth (or sloths).

But I am too busy if I lack time and space to be with God, or if I justify not doing so (to myself or others) by reference to all the things I have to do for him.

Jesus invited those who were weary and burdened to come to him in order that he might give them work to do, that they might feel virtuous about all the things they do for him.


Jesus invited those who were weary and burdened to come to him in order that he might give them rest.

When is your time with God? Where is it? Are you too busy for him to give you rest?

Be blessed, be a blessing

Can you spot the tenuous link with this joke?

An old man was wondering if his wife had a hearing problem. So one night, he stood behind her while she was sitting in her lounge chair. He spoke softly to her, “Honey, can you hear me?”

There was no response.

He moved a little closer and said again, “Honey, can you hear me?”

Still, there was no response.

Finally he moved right behind her and said, “Honey, can you hear me?”

She replied, “For the third time, Yes!”


Today’s bloggage is curtailed due to an excess of work and a shortage of available time. Now that the interpregnum* is over (my colleague, Lynsey, is back from maternity leave) there should theoretically be a higher MPE rating (Ministers Per Event) within the church. However it seems that the work has expanded to fill the available Ministers.

One of the main reasons is that Lynsey’s work is complementary to mine. Yes, she is sharing the preaching again (which reduces that load a bit) but she is also focusing on other missional activities and pastoring people I would not normally pastor, so in part she has taken up the slack elsewhere. It’s also true to say that she has been doing some of these things in her spare time during the interpregnum, so I have not needed to do them.

So the point of this bloggage is… there is always more to do. Only one person has been able to declare of God’s work, “It is finished!” and then he started again, inviting us to join in until he calls time again. There may be no rest for the wicked, but the righteous are pretty busy too.

*yet another new word invented by me. Oxford English Dictionary – you read it here first! Interpregnum: a period of ministerial vacancy in a church as a result of maternity leave.

Signs your Minister may need a day off

.|Two hands & many Phones|.Their Outlook Diary reminds them of an appointment and offers them the chance to ‘snooze’. They take the opportunity to close their eyes…

They find a post-it note from their spouse on their computer to ask for an appointment to see them.

They forget someone’s birthday – their own!

You hear them replying through gritted teeth, “I’m NOT stressed!”

Their Sky+ Box contains programmes they recorded last year that they have not had a chance to watch.

They cheer wildly, pull their shirt over their head and run around as if they have scored a winning goal when you cancel an appointment or meeting.

They have to put post-it notes in their diary because there’s no space for them to write in it.

People in your church have been telling you how wonderful your Minister is because they are so hardworking.

They fall asleep in their own sermon.

They have not realised that their children have left home.

Their car has clocked up 20,000 miles this year – driving around town.

They install a new phone answering system: “Thank you for calling your Minister. Your call is important to him/her. Please hold. You are number thirteen in the queue.”

izzy wizzy let’s not be so bizzy

There are some rules in life that have been attributed to Murphy or his less savoury cousin – Sod.

Toast will land butter side down.
Computers will crash when you need them most (and more spectacularly the more important the occasion).
Printers use up ink faster when you don’t have a spare cartridge.
Spots grow faster on your face when you want to look your best.
And so on.

Well I want to introduce Nick’s Law of blogging – the length of a blog entry (bloggage for the uninitiated) is inversely proportional to the busy-ness of the day ahead.

When this is also linked to my personal reflection time I need to be careful.

Busy day ahea…

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

blank looks

I use an electronic diary. My life is synchronised between my phone and my computer, so that in theory both of them know what I should be doing. There are disadvantages to electronic diaries compared to paper. Paper does not crash (but it can burn). Paper pages can be easier to turn (but you can’t search by subject). Paper is tangible and you can write notes in the margins (electronic is amendable without crossing out and you don’t need to remember a pen).

On balance I am happy with the electronic diary. One of the things I like is that you can adjust the view from one day right up to a whole year. I had a shock this week when I looked at my week view on the screen. There are almost no blank spaces between when I am supposed to wake up and when I am supposed to go to bed. That is scary. That is unhealthy. That is unsustainable.

Next week there are LOTS of blank spaces at the moment, which is good. I intend to take advantage of some of them to be recreated. I also plan to use some of them to visit people I have not been able to see for a while because there have been no blank spaces in the diary. And I plan to try to sort out some admin that has been put to one side for a while, awaiting a blank space in the diary. I know that these things could be put into the diary and take up some of the blank spaces, but at the moment it is therapeutic for me to look at the blank spaces and imagine what God might want me to do with them. They are an offering to him.

Where are the blank spaces in your life? No, not in your head! Where are the spaces when anything could happen? Where are the moments when you can stop, pause, reflect, wait, listen? No, not your holiday. I know that this week is unusual and that it is unsustainable in the longer term. Unusually busy weeks are okay, but unless I have blank spaces in my weeks the opportunities to reflect, to listen for God and to pause are diminished. I tend to blog if I have a blank space. (Today I have stolen the time from preparing for something else!)

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Talking about spaces…

A minister parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short of time and couldn’t find a space anywhere. So he put a note under the windscreen wiper that read: “I have circled the block 100 times. If I don’t park here, I’ll miss my appointment. FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES.”

When he returned, he found a parking fine along with this note. “I’ve circled this block for 10 years. If I don’t give you a ticket, I’ll lose my job. LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.”