sweeping changes

broom-2

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

satnav software problem

My satnav is an invaluable resource. Because it gives me live traffic updates it can navigate me around jams and queues. It has saved me hours of frustrated sitting in the car going nowhere.

But in the last few days it has irritated me. The first occasion was when it alerted me to a lengthy queue ahead and offered me a route that would be longer in distance but shorter in time. You may be wondering what’s wrong with that.

Timing.

It offered me the new route just as I went past the exit it was recommending and the queue started just around the corner. Why didn’t it tell me earlier?

The second was this morning when as I was happily going along a route I use regularly I turned off onto an exit only to find myself joining a lengthy queue on the slip road and beyond. Why didn’t it warn me? Was it sulking because I was unhappy with it at the weekend?

As I reflect on both situations I think there’s a common problem. A software problem.

image

Me.

You see I think, on reflection, that in the first case the satnav probably did offer me an alternative route sooner than I realised but because I was wearing sunglasses I couldn’t see it clearly. In the second situation I did hear the satnav say something but assumed it was telling me to turn off rather than keep going. I wasn’t listening properly because I was confident in my own ability.

I make the same mistakes with God. Sometimes I ignore him or I am distracted by other things or I am overconfident in my own ability. And then I wonder why he didn’t say anything.

Hmm.  Note to self: pay more attention to God and my satnav.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

radio control

IMGP0410My sailing boat is radio-controlled (It’s the one with the green hull). I have discovered that there are two types of radio control units. The radio signal from my controller tells the receiver unit in the boat what I want it to do and the boat responds. But the two types of controller are different:

One, the type I have, is analogue and the signals are broadcast over a particular frequency but in a way that any other boat that is tuned into the same frequency will also receive the same instructions. So I have to have a second set of crystals tuned to a different frequency to change over in that event.

The other type of control system is digital. The controller and receiver are linked together in a unique way and nothing else shares that unique ‘signature’. There is no interference, no fear that someone else might be affected by my transmitter.

In my mind it’s the difference between a loud hailer and a mobile phone. A loud hailer (megaphone) broadcasts loud and clear to anyone and everyone in the vicinity. Anyone can hear what is being said. A mobile phone has a unique number and only the person who has that phone can receive what is being said (unless they are on a train in which case everyone hears).

Sometimes God speaks in the same way as an analogue signal, or a loud hailer. His words and thoughts are for everyone to hear. An appreciation of his creativity is available to anyone who looks at the wonders of nature. An awareness of his love for us and how much he values us is available to anyone who cares to read a Bible (if you never have I suggest you start with one of the Gospels – Luke is my favourite). A sense of awe about who he is available to anyone who attends a service in church or who gets to look at the night sky without any light pollution. You get the idea.

But sometimes he speaks with a digital signal, through direct phone number. Those words are specifically for us. The amazing thing is that sometimes that comes even when I am listening to a wider ‘broadcast’ from him. Specific words and thoughts come through to me (perhaps in the same way that my boat receives and responds to the analogue signals intended for it). And sometimes the words come to me through a person who unwittingly says exactly what I needed to hear. And sometimes they come as I read the Bible and see words that were written thousands of years ago that are exactly relevant to me today (not surprising if the One who inspired them is also the One to whom I am trying to listen).

But, as I said in my earlier bloggage, the art is to be listening to him. He never stops broadcasting analogue and digital signals. My job is to tune in to him, to be receptive to him and to respond.

Be blessed, be a blessing

can you hear him?

This next few days are very busy and my opportunities to inflict bloggages on you will be limited, so this will have to do for a while. Let me explain why…

Today I am planning to enjoy a day off. I am planning to go sailing with Sally (model yacht sailing) and this evening I will be with my friends at Mid Essex Magical Society.

Tomorrow I am spending the day in Newport Pagnell in a meeting that will be making recommendations about the level of support that can be given to churches that cannot afford a Minister on their own. And in the evening I will be at a leaders’ meeting for one of the 60 churches I serve.

On Thursday I will be at Spurgeon’s College Conference. It’s the annual get together for students (former and current) who have trained at the College and this year the incoming President is Juliet Kilpin who I believe is one of the prophets of our day – speaking out for those whom society (and churches) often ignore.

Friday will be spent catching up on emails that will have flooded in over the next 3 days and in preparation for our EBA Annual Assembly which will be taking place in Felixstowe over the weekend. I hope too to spend some time reading and reflecting before travelling to Felixstowe.

Saturday is the main day of the Assembly and there will be lots of opportunities for conversations with people, seminars to attend where I can learn, meetings to enable through the medium of PowerPoint, magic to perform in the afternoon free space, all age worship to enjoy, and an England football match to enjoy or endure.

Sunday will conclude the Assembly in the morning with a service, and then it’s a drive across the country to collect our daughter from University.

Then on Monday it’s some more meetings and in the evening I have my interview at the Magic Circle – part of the application process for me joining the prestigious organisation.

But just because I am not expecting many opportunities to write bloggages, it does not mean that I won’t be looking out for what God is saying to me. I fully expect to encounter him in all of the scheduled activities I have mentioned, and also in the gaps in between. In fact it’s often in the gaps that I find God speaks more obviously.

For example, he’s speaking through the dawn chorus at the moment as I type – reminding me that Jesus said that if God cares for a sparrow, how much more does he care for me? He speaks through the calmness and gentleness of quiet moments, encouraging me to relax in him. He speaks through a song on the radio as I am driving. He speaks through an unexpected encounter with someone while I am out in the street. He’s always speaking: the question is whether I am listening.

soundI am going to post a second bloggage today that reflects on sailing my boat, which I hope will expand on this thought. In the meantime be blessed and be a blessing.

 

attention!

paperworkEveryone wants our attention nowadays don’t they? Our mobile phones let us know when we have received a message and then flash a light at us incessantly until we have acknowledged that fact. It seems to me that junk mail is on the increase (particularly the sort that is pushed through everybody’s letterbox indiscriminately (pizza companies, gardeners, Indian takeaways, free newspapers… you know the sort of thing*). And all of the junk mail is trying to get our attention. Then there are the adverts on television. I know they’ve been there on commercial channels since they began but if you try to watch a sporting event with 2 halves on one of those channels the number of advert breaks before the match, during the interval, and after the match is incredible. (I know that’s how they fund the channels but it doesn’t stop it being annoying).

And don’t get me started on the pop-ups in apps and on websites!

And really don’t get me started on the spam emails!!

And really really don’t get me started on those constant unsolicited phone calls!!!

A Chicago company is one of the world’s largest subscription fulfilment companies. They have a computer database that records everyone’s subscriptions to various magazines and automatically sends out reminders and renewal notices when the subscription expires.

One day the computer malfunctioned. Soon afterwards, a rancher in Colorado received 9,734 separate mailings, informing him that his subscription to National Geographic Magazine had expired. This got his attention. He stopped what he was doing and travelled the 10 miles to the nearest post office, where he sent in his money for his renewal – along with a note, which said, “I give up! Send me your magazine!”

In the face of this impersonal onslaught don’t you find yourself sometimes almost screaming, “I don’t want any more junk mail, automated calls, spam emails, pop-ups… I just want to talk to a person!”

Do you ever get the sense that in the midst of all of this clamour for our attention God is gently and patiently coughing: “Ahem, I’d really like us to have a chat. That is if you’re not too busy for me.”

Too busy for God?! Now there’s an interesting concept. God’s approach to us is not to bully us into submission. He does not demand our attention but he does crave it. And the good news is that God so loved the world that he didn’t send spam emails, make unsolicited phone calls, send junk mail or bombard us with adverts – he sent his Son: a person to whom we can relate. Someone with whom we can talk.

If we’re not too busy dealing with everyone else who wants our attention.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*When the flow of junk mail gets particularly intense I am tempted to put a notice on the letterbox saying ‘thank you but no thank you’ and then I wonder what would happen if everyone did that. It would take away employment (albeit very low-paid and almost thankless) simply because I am feeling inconvenienced. I accept that if everybody stopped receiving such a large volume of paperwork we might save a few million trees, but that’s a different question.

communication

A piece of advice we were given before we got married was ‘always kiss each other goodnight’. As well as being romantic, it also ensures that there are no lasting grievances between you that are unresolved at the end of the day. Good advice I think – it’s worked for us for 25 years.

A couple had an argument that was unresolved. They were still not talking to each other when the husband stomped off to bed early because he had to get up to catch a flight. He knew his wife was always up early so he wrote a note and left it on her pillow:

“Wake me up at seven.”

He went to sleep and when he woke up the next day he was alarmed and then angry when he saw that the time was nine o’clock!

Then he noticed a note on his pillow:

“Wake up!”

I felt a little bit like that this morning. I have been expecting a delivery and it was coming by tracked mail. This morning, at 6.26, an email arrived in my inbox telling me that the parcel had arrived at the Colchester delivery office and would be delivered today. While I was still sleeping, blissfully unaware of this, an attempt was made to deliver the parcel. Thankfully my wife was up and able to sign for the parcel.

If the purpose of the email was to alert me that the parcel could be delivered today and to be ready for it, it failed. It was only Sally’s internal alarm clock that meant someone was ready to receive it.

How often do we fail to communicate with people? We think we have, but effective communication requires effective delivery and receipt. We might ping off an email but if it is not read it is useless. We might send a text message but if the phone is switched off it is not received. We could write a bloggage but if nobody reads it it’s just words on a website. We might talk to someone but if they are not listening then we might a well not have said anything.

I wonder if that’s how God feels sometimes about us. He tries to communicate in so many different ways, but if we are not switched on, listening, reading, alert or waiting to encounter him then there has not been effective communication. I think we all know which end of the line is at fault!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

listening to the satnav

satnavDo you have a Satellite Navigation System? And if you do, do you talk back to yours, or is it just me? Do you argue with yours, or is it just me? Do you always obey yours?

My satnav has live traffic updates and about a week ago as I was travelling to a meeting it suggested that I should divert around a problem. I couldn’t see why that was necessary especially as I was in a moving flow of traffic, so I ignored it. Then I arrived at a section of road that was flooded and, while passable, required gentle navigation and tested the waterproofness of my car floor (it passed). Then it said that I should divert around another problem ahead. But I could see that stretch of road and it was empty. No flood. No cars. No problem. So I told my satnav not to be such a worrier and carried on without an issue.

On Sunday I was travelling to a church and the satnav was taking me on a lovely country road when it told me to turn right. I was singing along to a song so didn’t think about the instruction – I blindly followed it and indicated right. It was only as I turned right that I questioned what the satnav was doing as I drove down what looked like a farm track. It did come out onto another main road but I wondered whether the satnav would have been better keeping me on the main roads.

Yesterday I was heading to another meeting when the satnav started telling me to leave the dual carriageway I was on and follow a route along more minor roads. I was unconvinced, especially after the experience last week, but wondered whether or not to listen to the satnav anyway especially as it was telling me that if I followed the diversion I would be 15 minutes late for my meeting. So I ignored it and carried on along the dual carriageway.

Then the satnav offered another alternative route if I came off at the next junction. I admired its persistence and began to wonder whether I should listen to it. Just at that point my car radio was interrupted by a local traffic report that told me that the dual carriageway I was on was blocked ahead and that the queues went back for miles.

I decided to listen to my satnav.

I followed an interesting ‘cross country’ route which I imagine was probably the main route before the dual carriageway was constructed. The satnav told me where and when to turn and I was completely at its mercy. And wonderfully I arrived at my destination less than 10 minutes late (I didn’t speed, but the satnav had overestimated the delay).

At certain points in the journey the minor road I was on went parallel to the dual carriageway and I could see the massive tailback with stationary traffic (as opposed to stationery traffic which is made of paper). I tried not to feel smug, but enjoyed the experience of being in moving traffic.

Whose opinion do you trust? Whose voice do you listen to? What are the criteria by which you judge whether or not someone is trustworthy: previous experience; corroboration from other sources; the ‘authority’ of the speaker?

Do you apply those same criteria to questions of faith or how you read the Bible?

Be blessed, be a blessing