MOTs and Posters – find a link if you can!

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Go on car, you can do it!

This morning I dropped my car off at a garage for its annual MOT test. I don’t think that there is anything major wrong with it, but I always leave it with a sense of apprehension in case there is something terminal or expensive hidden under the bodywork.

 

As I was walking home I noticed posters in peoples’ homes and cars supporting different political parties in the imminent elections (local and European). I wondered why people do that. Is it simply to declare their allegiance? Is it in the hope that if enough people do it for one party the resulting peer pressure will encourage others to vote the same way, or perhaps deter people who would support another candidate from bothering to vote because they don’t think they will make a difference? Are they hoping that the sight of a poster in a car in front of me will persuade me to vote that way? (And if so, why haven’t I heard more about the ‘Baby on Board’ party?)

It got me reflecting a little bit on how people perceive churches. Not the people, but the buildings. (Yes I know the church is the people, but we confusingly use the same word for our premises). Ours is currently clad in scaffolding as we have a new roof fitted. But it almost looks as if the building is being demolished. We have now put up a banner across the scaffolding that says ‘Welcome to Colchester Baptist Church’ to convey the message that we are still very much open for business. But ancient buildings (especially if in a state of disrepair) can convey a message.

And then there are the posters outside. I think that we churches may have cornered the market in cheese, for example: “CH–CH – what’s missing? UR”. But is it better that we have something outside the premises than nothing? It is certainly possible that God will use a poster to speak to someone, but I have not heard of it yet.

Do you advertise your weekly events? We have a list of the weekly activities in one of our notice boards at the front, which is changed weekly. We have also recently put a QR code* on it so that people can get linked directly to our website if the so choose.

And that then brings me to the virtual street front. Websites can attract or deter people. If they are visually unattractive or contain out of date information it conveys a different message to the well-designed and up to date website. I think our church’s website is rather good (have a look at it at www.colchesterbaptistchurch.org.uk). I know that we often have people come to our church because they found us on the internet. It does help that our website usually comes up first when you search for ‘Colchester church’ because two of the three parts of our name are in that search. If we slipped down the list I would be tempted to suggest that we change our name to ‘AAA Colchester Baptist Church’!

However, believe it or not, (and regular bloggists will believe it) I wasn’t going to write about how churches visually represent themselves. I was going to write a bloggage about the importance of regular maintenance for your car in order to keep it in good condition so it will sail through the MOT test. It is when a car is neglected that problems are more likely to get worse because they are not recognised and dealt with early. It is when a car is driven relentlessly and we don’t check the oil levels or other fluids that damage can occur to the engine.

And of course the same is true of our faith. If we take God for granted, if we neglect to feed on the Bible, if we don’t spend time in prayer, if we are not spending time being nourished in worship, if we are not taking care of our ‘soul’ we should not be surprised if God feels distant and our faith feels dry.

And that (tadaaa!) brings me to draw together the disparate threads of this bloggage and appear to be coherent. Because while the premises (physical and virtual) do speak about the church, it is of course the state of the church (ie the people) that will make most impact on those around us. Back to us being good free samples of Jesus I suppose.

Best not wait for an MOT to find out how we’re doing…

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*QR codes are those strange squares with a mixture of black and white blocks in them. They are a different sort of bar code – each one unique.

isn’t it ironic?

In the last week I have posted twice about the renovation that I have carried out on a toy car (see here and here if you have missed them). Today I took my real car to a garage because it has been making some less than healthy noises. I had checked online and it seemed to me that there was a fault with the flywheel.

I have just had a call from the garage and my diagnosis was correct. The flywheel was definitely on its way out and needs replacing – along with the clutch system at the same time (since they are there). I had checked out the price of the parts and had expected that it wouldn’t be cheap and it isn’t. But it needs to be done.

The irony of the situation struck me a moment ago – I have been expressing joy at how my toy car repair has been going while all the time the real one has been slowly disintegrating.

I think you can do your own application here about priorities!

Not much point being able to rev a lot if the car won't move!
Not much point being able to rev a lot if the car won’t move!

What I was actually thinking about this morning is how (for normal non-mechanic mortals like me) if you had asked me to name the parts of a car I would have been very unlikely to have come up with ‘Dual Mass Flywheel’. But it is an essential component. Without it driving would be a very jerky clunky affair, if you could do it at all. The flywheel is the bit attached to the engine that spins around and smooths out a lot of the vibrations and provides continuous rotation within the engine. It would be very difficult to get the power from the engine through to the wheels on the road without other components being torn apart by the torque if there wasn’t a flywheel. It’s also the bit that keeps the engine turning over after you have got ‘ignition’, and is usually the bit the starter motor turns to get the engine going in the first place. *

I have learnt stuff about flywheels today!

Who or what are the flywheels in your life? Who or what keeps you going? What helps you to smooth out the bumps and cope with the vibration of life? Who are the unsung heroes of your life, of your church, of your business, of your community? Who are the ones who are only noticed when they are not there?

Perhaps today should be national flywheel day in honour of those people. Give them a hug, a phone call, a text message, send them a letter, give them chocolate (or a low fat, diabetic-friendly alternative). Let them know they are appreciated.

Give thanks to God for the flywheels in your life.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

*According to the websites I looked at – I don’t really understand too much more than I have written here so please don’t start asking me any technical questions! And don’t get too critical if my low tech explanation is incorrect.

 

work in progress

When I was a little boy I was given lots of toy cars. I loved toy cars. I would lie on my side with a car in my hand, get my face right down low so my eyes were really at ground level, and then spend ages pushing the car around so I could see how realistic it looked. I would line them all up in different orders (colour, size and so on). And when my dad built me a wooden multi-storey car park I was ecstatic. It had a lift that you wound up and down, three levels, ramps between the levels and lots of things you would find on one of the plastic ones you can buy nowadays. I loved it and used it until I wore it out.

I don’t remember all the toy cars I had (although I do remember having a surfeit of tractors – but that’s another story!). But I do remember one in particular. It was a Corgi Whizzwheels Tour de France Manager’s Car. It was the fastest car I had and I thought it was brilliant. I took it to school with me one day because I was proud of it and during lunch time my friends and I took turns in whizzing it across the playground. It had never had such an open space on which to be whizzed and it shot across the playground at record speed. But every so often it would hit a stone or a wall and crash. By the end of the lunch hour its lovely bright red paintwork was badly scuffed, the plastic windows were broken, there were dents in the bodywork and the wheels looked worn out. What I had once cherished was badly damaged and although I was sad about it at the time I don’t remember being too upset. But the car got consigned to the bottom of my car tin and never saw the light of day again – up to the day when it was thrown out because it was so badly damaged.

Somehow I never forgot that car and a year or so ago I remembered it and wondered if I might find one on a popular online auction site. So I went online and searched for it. I was delighted when a few hits came up and when I clicked on them I was presented with pristine versions of my beloved car. I then looked at the prices. The minimum price was £100, and if you wanted one ‘mint in box’ you were looking at £200+. I couldn’t believe it. My first thought was regret: “Why didn’t I keep it in its box?” and then sadness: “I can never afford one of those.”

So I didn’t bid on any of them. But one of the things that popular auction website does is remember when you have searched for something and it keeps offering you similar items. A couple of months ago it offered me a scratched, damaged Corgi Whizzwheels Tour de France Manager’s Car. It was not being bid on so I put in a low bid and waited. I watched and waited. I grew anxious and excited as I watched and waited and the time for the auction drew near. I was still the winning bid with a couple of minutes to go.

The tension was quite palpable.

The timer counted down. And then at the last minute someone else outbid me and I lost the car. I was really disappointed. But I resolved to keep checking to see if similar cars turned up. A month ago another one did. I put in a similar bid to the previous time and tried to be relaxed and nonchalant about it. If I didn’t win I was not going to worry.

The timer ticked down but I didn’t check it.

I waited, not daring to look, and when I checked at the end of the auction I had won! I was thrilled. A few days later the car arrived and I held one in my hands again after all those years. It was a special moment. Then I looked at the damage. The paintwork was scratched. The stickers on it were in pieces. The plastic front bumper was scratched and a bit was missing. The wheels had seen better days. And the aerial on the top was missing. This is the car as it arrived. 

I resolved that I would restore it. I took it under my coat to a car spares shop in town and surreptitiously held it up against the cans of car paint to find the best match for the red paintwork. I looked online and found places that sold replacement stickers and new windscreens. And I started the process of restoring it.

I dismantled the car and took it back to its component pieces. I stripped the paint off and re-sprayed the bodywork. I cleaned up the grubby bits of plastic. I bought some plastic filler and re-built the front bumper. I found some chrome paint and repainted the bumper. I even rebuilt the aerial.

I haven’t finished yet. I still have to finish the wheels, repaint the underside, paint the aerial and put the stickers on it. But it is getting there. Soon it will be finished. I will post a picture of the finished car when I do. I hope the car feels cherished.

The reflection today is probably one you’ve already considered. God is far more passionate about us than I am about my little car. He has paid a priceless price for us in Jesus. And he wants to restore us by the work of his Spirit in us – changing us slowly to become what he created us to be. I hope you feel cherished and special. And we should all realised that God hasn’t finished the restoration process for any of us yet, so let’s be patient with one another.

Be blessed, be a blessing

complications

it looks like this

We are about to buy a new car. Well, when I say ‘new’ it’s new to us, but is about 7 years old. Yesterday we went to have a look at it and tried it out for size.

Literally.

Our son is now 6’6″ tall so we needed to find a car with adequate legroom (and headroom). That is not easy. But we have found a car and I have just put down a deposit. Hopefully we will have it on Saturday.

The decision to buy, and the placing of a deposit, has been the easier bit. Now comes the complicated stuff…

Sorting out the car loan.

Getting insurance cover.

Arranging road tax (once the cover note has been arranged).

Getting all the documents together for the car we are part-exchanging.

Clearing out the debris and detritus that has accumulated in the car we are part-exchanging over the 8 years we have owned it.

Arranging a refund of the road tax for the car we are part-exchanging.

Sending off the documents to DVLA for the old and new cars.

Arranging for car parking permits to be transferred to the new car.

Driving home in the new car (the bit I am really looking forward to).

It’s so complicated because lots of different things have to be done more or less simultaneously, but in the correct order. We need insurance on the new car before we can get the road tax. We need the loan for the new car before we can pay for it. We need to drive to the garage in the old car before I can remove the road tax from that car before I can send it off to get it refunded.

I am so glad that I don’t have to go through all that rigmarole for most purchases!

How complicated have we made it for people to find faith in Jesus? How difficult is it for people who have drifted from their faith to come back? In no particular order (because it’s not like buying a car):

People have to learn our church jargon.

They have to learn our traditions.

They have to adjust their routines (to fit church (back) in).

They have to get to know lots of new people (or face some familiar people with whom they have lost touch).

They have to learn new songs.

They have to change their priorities.

They have to stop doing some things.

It came home to me recently when I visited a church of a very different tradition and style to that with which I am familiar. I kept asking myself questions about why they did some things, what some words meant, what I was allowed to do, what I was expected to do…

And that’s not the half of it. I love it when we have new believers in our church and they have so many questions. It reminds me that we should make it easier for people. Even a handbook would be helpful! Perhaps we should have a FAQ page on our church website (actually, that’s not a bad idea!)

But when it comes down to it, do they HAVE to do those things to follow Jesus? What’s essential? What is simply about following Jesus and what is about church? How many of the things included in (and hidden behind) that list are actually for the comfort and convenience for those who are already following Jesus?

Jesus spent a considerable amount of time tearing down barriers that religious people had put in the way of others finding God… and in two millennia we have built a lot more!

The message of Jesus is enough of a stumbling block… heaven forbid we make or maintain others. Literally.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

from cartoonchurch.com

brief day-offish bloggage

Driving along today, listening to the radio, I glanced in my rearview mirror (as I do occasionally). I noticed a car pull up behind me and saw that the driver’s mouth was moving.

I then realised it was moving in sync with what I was listening to on the radio: she was singing heartily along to the song. It was mesmerising – I had the singer in my car and someone lip-syncing in the mirror. It was all I could do to tear my eyes away and watch the queue ahead of me.

The singer in the mirror was happy, oblivious, carefree. It struck me as an interesting metaphor for my following Jesus – he’s the singer and invites me to join in: happy, oblivious, carefree.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Here in my car…

As I was driving to church yesterday I glanced in my rear-view mirror (I do that occasionally to see what mayhem I have caused) and noticed that the man behind me was busy eating a doughnut as he drove along. His insurance claim form would have been interesting if he had crashed.

Yellow Car

This morning I saw someone in a car next to mine who was, erm, exploring his nasal cavities with a finger.

Sadly I often still see people talking on their mobile phones while driving.

It made me wonder whether, because we are isolated from the rest of the world inside our car, we subconsciously feel that nobody can see us. We feel safe. Cocooned. Cossetted. Comfortable.

I wonder if we are like that in our churches too. I don’t mean doughnut-eating, nose-gardening or phone calls… although doughnuts may be involved in cafe-style services… but because we feel safe, cocooned, cossetted, comfortable, we act as if nobody is able to see us. But they can.

So the fruit of the Spirit appears a bit mouldy if we grumble, complain, gossip and bicker. Jesus’ teaching appears rather lame if we only look after ourselves, ignore the weak and vulnerable and seek revenge or fail to forgive. The gospel seems ineffectual if our lives are too focused on gaining wealth, status and power.

The problem is that we are reliant on God’s grace and his Spirit to renew and transform us. We are ALL works in progress. But people observing us from outside may not realise that. They don’t know the back-story. We need to pray that they are willing to ask or listen.

And… The man with the doughnut may have been diabetic and needed a sugar boost. The man with the finger and nose issues may have been struggling to breath. The people on the phone may have been responding to an emergency (although it’s still illegal).

Be blessed. Be a blessing.

A man in a hurry taking his 8-year-old son to school, made a U-turn at a red light where it was prohibited.

“Uh-oh, I just made an illegal turn!” the man said.

“It’s okay, Dad,” the son said. “The police car right behind us did the same thing.”

what sort are you?

A seemingly random question, to which I will return at the end of this blog: if you were to describe yourself as a car or a motorbike, what sort of car or bike would you be?

This is predominantly a week of preparation for me. As well as having to prepare for two services (incl sermons) for Sunday I have prepared a story to tell at Bright Sparks (like an activity-rich toddler group), and still need to work on a school assembly tomorrow for years 1-3, an Alpha talk for Wednesday and a couple of sessions for a 20s-30s group from another church on Saturday. It’s all a bit busy and I am worried I will go stir crazy in my study.

So it was initially with disappointment that I noticed that on Thursday I am spending the day away from the study at a ‘retreat’ / ‘reflection’ day with a number of local Baptist Ministers. I can’t spare the time.

Except that if I don’t spare the time I will be diminished in my relationship with God and therefore in my ministry. I do find that I am blessed, energised and encouraged in preparation. But it is not the same as spending focused time with God. There is a temptation to allow my preparation to become my personal devotional time. But it is not the same as coming to God with an open Bible, an empty agenda and space in the day. There is a temptation to allow myself to seek to worship God only in the songs I sing on Sundays. But it is not the same as living a life of worship and thankfulness.

So it is with a glad heart that I am going to spend the day away on Thursday. I am looking forward to what God may say and do.

So what sort of car or motorbike are you*? It doesn’t matter which you are, none of them will go once they have run out of petrol. Neither will you if you don’t refuel spiritually.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

I went into town the other day, I was only away from the car for about 5 minutes and when I came out there was a traffic warden writing a parking ticket. So I went up to him and said, ‘Come on buddy, how about giving a guy a break?’

He ignored me and continued writing the ticket.

So I called him a yellow and black striped parking fascist. He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having bald tires!!

So I told him he had a face like a horse. He finished the second ticket and put it on the car with the first. Then he started writing a third ticket!!

This went on for about 20 minutes, the more I abused him, the more tickets he wrote.

I didn’t care. My car was parked around the corner.

*I reckon I may be a Ford Mondeo with a sun roof – family oriented, fairly bog-standard, with a bit missing on top.