say what you see

The TV show Catchphrase is based on cryptic visual clues to well known words and phrases. It has its own catchphrase – “Say what you see.” But outside of TV shows politeness and manners seem to prevent us from being quite so forward. Unless you are a child.

I was visiting a couple in the evening recently to discuss their call to Baptist Ministry. When I arrived Dad was upstairs settling the two children into bed. I was shown into the lounge by Mum. While we waited for Dad to finish we heard small footsteps on the stairs and their seven-year-old son appeared in the doorway, informing us that his Dad had given him permission to come downstairs to see who had arrived. He took one look at me and said:

“I didn’t know you were bald!”

I was rather surprised – not as his observational skills but at his forwardness. I struggled to think of a good reply. The best I came up with was:

“I didn’t know you had hair.”

The instant reply came:

“I didn’t know you had ears!”

If I am honest I didn’t quite hear him so I just laughed. (If I had heard I would probably have explained that if I didn’t have ears my glasses would fall off.) After this Mum shooed him off to bed, presumably before he could make any other statements.

I found it hilarious that the young boy was so unafraid to say what was on his mind. He had none of the grown-up filters that we often apply (and which internet trolls seem unable to access) and simply said what he was thinking.

It reminded me this week of the moment when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. There was a mahoosive celebration going on that annoyed the religious leaders who were busy trying to plot Jesus’ downfall. Matthew tells us that when Jesus got to the Temple (the centre of Jewish worship in his day) he cleared out the courtyard that had been turned into a marketplace and healed people. There were some children there and they were shouting what they had heard the crowd chanting earlier: “Hosanna to the Son of David.”*

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.

“Yes,” replied Jesus, “Have you never read: ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth praise’?” (Matthew 21:16)

The children were unafraid, perhaps unaware of hoiw inflammatory they were being. They were simply joining in. One of the things that I regret deeply is how in churches (and society) we still seem to want to shush children’s voices and don’t encourage them to speak their mind. Because when they do, sometimes we hear God speaking to us.

And I reckon God would much rather we spoke our mind than pretended with him. Say what you see.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*This was not only a statement of praise, it was a revolutionary statement suggesting that Jesus was the one who was going to sort things out for God’s people.

links to a narticle wot I roted

A while ago I was asked to write an article for the Baptist Union magazine Baptists Together. They were putting together an edition about children, young people and families and asked me to write something a little bit provocative. So I did.
That magazine has now been circulated around Baptist Churches and you can download a PDF version of the magazine here. There are lots of excellent articles in it on the wider subject of church for all… and there’s my article too! The article has also been published in a shortened form by ethicsdaily.com and you can see part one here if you are interested.

Be blessed, be a blessing

pulling our lego(TM)?

Some of the children in one of our Sunday morning groups were invited to write a letter to the church. They have been exploring some of the letters written to the churches in the New Testament and were given the opportunity to write to our church.

Some of them will be read out on Sunday morning in our Harvest / Communion service so I won’t quote them now. Perhaps next week…

One of them (cheekily?) wrote this:

Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team
Everything is awesome
When we’re living our dream

Everything is better when we stick together
Side by side
You and I
Gonna win forever
Let’s party forever

We’re the same
I’m like you
You’re like me
We’re all working in harmony

Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team
Everything is awesome
When we’re living our dream

legoThose of you who have seen the Lego Movie are now singing it in your head. If you haven’t seen that film it’s worth watching – it’s not just for children. There are all sorts of ways in which it can be seen as a parable, as an exploration for the nature of God, good vs evil and so on. Plus it’s great fun!

Look again at the words of the song, though. They really could be a letter to our churches. And not just churches on their own, but groups of churches in a town, or in a denominational stream, or worldwide! Try placing the words as a template over your church. Do they ring true? If not, perhaps God might be saying something to us.

In some ways I am sad that this ‘letter’ was filtered out. The message is a great one, an optimistic one, a challenging one and yet one that contains hope.

Perhaps we should sing it in church instead!!!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

freaking out a parent

girl with teddyI had a slightly freaky moment yesterday.

I was in the town centre (where our church is located) and walking along, minding my own business, when I heard a small voice enthusiastically say, “Hello!”

I looked down and there was a girl, probably about 7 years old, grinning and waving at me…

Immediately her horrified mother dragged her away, looking at me suspiciously. My knee-jerk response had been to say, “Hello,” (which I did) but before I could say anything else the moment and the family had passed.

You see the child was not from our church or connected to us. Her mother would have had no idea at all who this strange man was whom her daughter was joyfully greeting. I think, as I was still trying to work out what had happened, I heard her mother anxiously ask her who I was, but I didn’t hear the girl’s reply.

I suspect that the girl was someone who has been in the regular school assemblies I have taken at one of our local primary schools. She recognised me (even without Stew the Rabbit) and naturally wanted to greet me. To her it was the natural thing to do – I am part of her school experience. As far as she is concerned she knows me.

To her mother I am an unknown man whom her daughter was happily greeting in a way that may have aroused all sorts of fears… As far as she is concerned she doesn’t know me and she wants to know how her daughter does know me.

I am disappointed that the moment passed so quickly that I didn’t have an opportunity to explain myself and allay the mother’s fears. I am disappointed that I don’t know for sure where that young girl had met me.

But I hope and pray that God will redeem the situation. I hope and pray that the girl’s reply will have allayed her mother’s natural fears. I hope and pray that she may even have remembered something that Stew the Rabbit and I shared with the school about living as a follower of Jesus, and that she then shared that with her mother.

We must do all we can to protect our children and vulnerable adults from those who would exploit and harm them. But please God may we never find ourselves in a situation where childhood innocence, joy, exuberance and excitement are completely erased in a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to protect children.

After all, Jesus told adults to become like children, not the other way around!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

what a star

One of the joys of being on sabbatical leave is that I can visit other churches. I have been spreading myself around: making impromptu visits to local churches. Last Sunday I went to another church and had a lovely time. I did, however, have to suppress an attack of the giggles.

The lady who was leading the children’s talk / all age time / bit people remember was using an illustration of how she uses her binoculars to look at the stars at night. She got some children to look through the binoculars and had placed some people at the back who occasionally put up some stars on sticks. The point was that we can’t always see what we are looking for first time and have to keep looking, and praying is like that – we don’t always see the answer first time.

What got me giggling was that the Minister’s son (why is it always the Minister’s son?) was trying to get his toy in the line of sight of the girls who were looking through the binoculars. He was stretching as far as he could to get the toy in front of them. Those attempts were funny, but what almost had me laughing out loud was that his toy was a toy space shuttle! How did he know to bring that toy? Genius!

And what can we learn from this?

Perhaps God was having a laugh with us. Laughter is an underused gift from God: Martin Luther wrote: “If you are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.”

OR

Children have the ability to upstage anyone.

Be blessed, be a blessing.