stumpbusting

Our stumps are being busted today.

A new tree stumpI wonder what that sentence means to you. Some of you may be thinking it’s medical, dental, mis-typing, ‘yoof-speek’, or just ‘confused’. Others will have jumped to the right conclusion (probably guided by the photo): people are coming with a machine to chomp up the tree stumps in our garden.

 am sure it’s an effective process. These people come recommended by a friend who had them remove a stump from their garden. I haven’t seen them in action yet, but their website suggests that the machine will turn the stumps into chippings and grind down to below the soil level so that all evidence of the stump is removed (apart from the chippings). While all the roots remain, there is no regrowth and they gradually rot away.

I am sure there’s a parable here. Some of the bad habits we adopt, mistakes we make and stuff we do that lets God and others down need to be eradicated from our lives. We need to be radical, get rid of it, kill it. We may well need God’s Spirit to help us by helping to change our priorities, attitudes, desires and habits. It’s possible that we may need others to help us, to support us and to encourage us. It may not be easy, it may be painful, but it needs doing.

God’s grace and forgiveness are greater than anything we can do that could offend and upset him. It is always available to us. And it is the best place to start. Sometimes it’s enough. Sometimes there is more work to do.

But while the stump of sin can be busted, there will almost certainly be something left behind that will take time to rot away. It could be hurt that we have caused others. It could be physical damage we have caused ourselves. It could be economic impact. It may be residual memories. Perhaps, like those struggling with addictive habits and behaviour, we will remain recovering addicts taking one day at a time.

But those stumps need busting. God’s Spirit will be with us all the way. We may experience him powerfully or gently, through other people or directly, in the pages of the Bible or the words of others.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Garden-related joke from Clean Jokes

My daughter-in-law Alma and grandson Eddy were digging for fishing bait in my garden. Uncovering a many-legged creature, Eddy proudly dangled it before his mother.

“No, honey, he won’t do for bait,” his mother said. “He’s not an earthworm.”

“He’s not?” Eddy asked, his eyes wide. “What planet is he from?”

the parable of the lost pen

There was a man who had a favourite pen. It was not an expensive pen, but it wrote nicely and he had bought some refills for it so he could continue to use it for a long time as well
Pilot Begreen Green Tecpoint Rollerball Pen 0.5mm Tip 0.3mm Line Black Ref 145101001 [Pack of 10] as being more environmentally friendly.

One day, when he was looking to write something with his pen, he could not find it. It was not in the pen pot on his desk. It was not obviously in view on his desk. He started to look under different piles of paper on his desk. It was not there. He looked on the floor under his desk. It was not there. He decided that one of his family had ‘borrowed’ it, so he accused them of nabbing it.

They all denied that they had nabbed the pen, and were a bit hurt by the accusation because they knew that he was very protective of the pens in his study.

The man continued to search for the pen in all of the usual places that the pen often turned up in. He checked his briefcase and other bags. No pen.

He checked a folder he used to put sermon notes in. No pen.

He started checking some less usual places. Still no pen.

The man was frustrated that he had lost the pen. He still had a couple of refills left for it, and he really needed to use the pen.

So he went out in his car to the stationery store and looked for a similar pen. There were none on the shelves. So the man bought some other pens and soon forgot all about the old pen.

The man reflected on how churches sometimes treated people like that. People can drift away and while we make efforts to talk with them and encourage them to come back, some don’t. After a while other things replace them and we forget about those people, who feel hurt and upset. The man wished it was not like that and resolved to try to do better in his church.

The story has not ended, however. Because this morning the man picked up a folder he had not used for a month. When he opened it the lost pen fell out. How the man rejoiced! He went out into the streets and danced around, shouting that he had found his lost pen. (Actually that last sentence is fiction). The man was pleased that he had found his lost pen, however, and resolved to look more carefully next time it went missing.

And the man reflected that Jesus had said how much rejoicing there is in heaven over one ‘sinner’ who repents. He reflected that God never gives up on us, even when we give up on ourselves. He remembered that he himself was a frequent cause of rejoicing in heaven. He asked for God’s help to show his love and grace more effectively and ‘normally’.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

talking with technology

One of my Christmas presents this year has been transforming the way that I interact with my computer. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is allowing me to dictate directly into e-mails, documents and even my blog. I have been very impressed with the accuracy of the program and as well as saving wear until my fingers is also enabling me to process information as I think it. This probably also saves time in the long run. I haven’t yet attempted to write a sermon with it (that’s today’s job) but so far I have written letters, added to my book manuscript, sent e-mails and spewed forth bloggerel.

I need to speak more clearly than normal and (sadly) needs to be in a relatively quiet environment. This means that I can’t have music playing in the background while I study if I am intending to dictate to my computer. I think I will miss that, but I’m sure get used to it.

Is this a ‘parablette’ about my relationship with God? I don’t want to stretch it too far as an analogy but the thought did occur to me that perhaps I need to be clearer in the way that I speak to God – articulating what I’m really thinking rather than what I think he wants me to say. it’s only when I’m honest with him and myself that my relationship with him can flourish in the way that it should.

Perhaps too I need to spend more time in relative quiet in order to concentrate on him. I have often promised myself that I will go on more retreats but so far since I have been in Colchester that has been more limited. Do I sense a new year’s resolution coming up? Maybe, although I prefer not to confine my personal improvement ambitions to the first few days of January each year. I think I’ll probably be revisiting this throughout the year.

There are a couple of small problems with dictating to the computer. It cannot always distinguish between when you are speaking to somebody else and talking to it and I can find that (forgetting that the microphone is still on) I am will talk to a member of the family and then turned back to the screen to find all manner of garbage has been produced. [Insert your own sermon writing jokes here]. It also struggles to interpret coughs and sneezes for what they are so it may be less useful when I have a cold. Who would have thought that mucus could frustrate technology?!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

surprise!

Yesterday was a day with several surprises. One was something I should have been expecting and the other was an invitation to do something, which came out of the blue. (More about this after it has happened next year.) The thing I should have been expecting was the arrival of a book I had ordered a long time ago. It is a book of modern parables and psalms: written by people in Baptist churches.

Bible Messages for TodayIt’s called ‘Bible Messages for Today’ and I will probably be quoting from it a lot. There are a couple of entries in it from me, which is probably why I only ordered one copy, but there are some brilliantly imaginative and powerful entries. Get your copy (or copies) from here. I hope it’s okay to share an entry or two with you… consider them free samples!

Just to be safe, I am sharing my entries with you, but don’t let them put you off: there are lots of better ones! They are sort of poetic psalms – psoems? polms?

My church gave me an asbo for shouting during prayers

They said I was disruptive: I said I didn’t care

My church gave me an asbo for crawling under pews

They said it was distracting – untying people’s shoes

My church gave me an asbo for singing the wrong words

They said it was disgusting: I thought they were absurd

My church gave me an asbo for laughing far too loud

They said it was despicable: I felt rather proud

My church gave me an asbo for sticking out my tongue

They said I’m disrespectful: I was having fun

My church gave me an asbo for running in the aisle

They said it’s dangerous for a seven year-old child

 

 

In the beginning was the Word

but we refused to listen.

In the beginning was the Word

but we were illiterate.

In the beginning was the Word

but we misspelt him.

In the beginning was the Word

but we didn’t speak his language.

In the beginning was the Word

but we turned him into a sentence.

In the beginning was the Word

but we preferred our own words.

In the beginning was the Word

but we were into moving pictures.

In the beginning was the Word

but we changed the subject.

In the beginning was the Word

but we used him as an expletive.

In the beginning was the Word

but we queried his grammar.

In the beginning was the Word

but we put him in a PowerPoint presentation.

In the beginning was the Word

but we abbreviated him.

 

Be blessed, be a blessing

the parable of the parcel delivery

Fragile ParcelHow do they do it? Do they have some sort of sixth sense? Or (more sinisterly) do they have cameras monitoring what we are doing?

What am I talking about? Delivery people. How do they know when is the most inconvenient time to call? I know it must be in their best interests not to have to take things away because they have not been able to deliver, but my experience is such that I almost suspect that they get a bonus if they are able to put a ‘sorry we missed you’ card through the door. This morning is a case in point.

Our children leave the house on school days just before 8 am. It is at this moment that a calm descends on the house. Because I was expecting a delivery I told Sally that I would wait until she could answer the door before I used the bathroom. We were on alert. We were prepared. We were waiting.

So imagine the frustration when I discovered a card on the doormat at 9.30 saying that they had attempted a delivery at 8am and nobody answered! Did they knock quietly so as not to disturb us? Grrr.

I think there’s a parable in there.

The Kingdom of God is like this: a person is waiting for a parcel to be delivered. They make sure that they are in. They watch out for the delivery van. But when they are distracted for just a few minutes the delivery person knocks on the door and when there is no answer posts a card through the door that says, “We missed you.” Nobody knows when the parcel of the Kingdom will be delivered. Make sure you are ready for it.

Be blessed, be a blessing (especially if you deliver parcels!)

A new postperson (male or female, it doesn’t matter. In fact we will call them ‘Bobby’ as that is a gender-neutral name) came to a house where there was a big sign, “Beware of the Dog”. Bobby looked over the fence and saw a large harmless looking old hound lying on the path. Then Bobby noticed the owner of the house looking out of the door.

“Is that the dog I have to beware of?” asked Bobby.

“Yup,” affirmed the owner, not wasting words.

“He doesn’t look like he could bite anyone,” said Bobby.

“Nope,” said the owner, briefly.

“So why do we have to beware of him?”

“Because until I put that sign up people coming to my door were always tripping over him.”

[expletive deleted]

Dear loyal Bloggist,

Thank you for bearing with me during my recent cold. I am sorry that the inspiration levels were low, but mucous and phlegm have that effect on me. But now my nose has stopped training for a marathon and my throat has decided that it’s perhaps alright to breathe and swallow without causing me pain.

Enough of the blatant attempt at drawing sympathy from you. On with the bloggerel.

On Sunday morning we will be celebrating an anniversary at our church. It is 25 years since Open Door began. You can find out more about Open Door on their website but in short is is a drop-in centre for anyone who would like to come and have a cuppa, perhaps wants someone to chat to or to listen to them, maybe needs some help or advice.

I have been helping out there once a week (Fridays) and have experienced laughter (it is banter-central), occasional sadness, great conversations and non-judgemental acceptance. I think Jesus loves it in there.

On my badge I am simply ‘Nick’ and designated as ‘Helper’. But the regulars know that I am one of the Ministers at the church. It’s often the cause of some hilarity to me when someone forgets one of the house rules and an expletive slips out when I am in earshot. The rest will pick up on it and tell the swearer off, while they offer deep and sincere apologies for swearing in my presence. It’s almost as if they think my head will explode if I hear rude words or that my ears are so sensitive that they will fall off if they hear such things. My usual reaction is to accept the apology but try to remind them that I am a normal human being.

I wonder how people spoke around Jesus. Were there Aramaic swear words that people used in his presence and then realised that they were in the presence of the Rabbi and apologised? If so, the gospel-writers have edited those bits out. Perhaps they thought we were too sensitive to cope with them. And if people did swear and curse in Jesus’ presence how did he react? Would he warn them against blasphemy? Would he tut and tell them off? Would he threaten them with lightning bolts from heaven if they did it again? Or would he accept them as they are and hope that they would experience God through him?

I’m not condoning swearing. It saddens me that some words have now become punctuation for some people while others only have one or two adjectives and adverbs to enrich their conversation. But I am reminded of the parable Jesus told of two brothers who were asked to help their father. One said ‘yes’ and did nothing while the other said ‘no’ and then changed his mind. What they did revealed their heart more than what they said.

Hmmm

Read Matthew 21:28-32 if you want a challenge, especially with Jesus’ punchline…

Be blessed, be a blessing.

One day an elderly pastor confides in his parishioners that he’s feeling a bit lonely and depressed. So one of the parishioners suggests to the pastor that he buy a pet. Thinking this a grand idea, the pastor hurries into town and after much deliberation, buys a parrot.

Unfortunately not five minutes after arriving home, the parrot starts hurling a string of expletives at the pastor.

After about an hour it gets to be too much, so the pastor walks up to the parrot, slaps him on the beak, and yells, “QUIT IT!” But this just makes the parrot madder and he starts swearing at the pastor in even more colourful language.

Finally the pastor has had it and says, “All right, that’s it. Grabbing a blanket, the pastor throws it over the parrot’s cage and screams, “Now, SHUT UP!” Well, this really irritates the parrot and he starts clawing and scratching at the bars of his cage. Finally the pastor removes the blanket. Immediately the parrot starts right in on the pastor again.

By this time, the pastor is so infuriated that he grabs the parrot by the throat and throws him into the freezer. Well, the parrot starts swearing and thrashing about so loudly that the pastor is considering killing the bird. Just as he’s thinking this, it gets very…very quiet.

At first the pastor just stares at the refrigerator, but then he starts to think that the parrot might be seriously injured. He becomes so worried that he runs over to the refrigerator and throws open the freezer door.

The parrot climbs out of the freezer, flaps the ice off his wings, and says, “Awfully sorry about the trouble I’ve caused you, rev. In the future, I’ll do my best to improve my vocabulary.”

The pastor is astounded. He can’t believe the sudden transformation that has come over the parrot. Finally the parrot turns to the pastor and says, “Um….by the way, what did the chicken do?”

good humour

Two goldfish are in a tank. One says to the other, “Do you know how to drive this thing?”

Two budgies are sitting on a perch. One says to the other, “Can you smell fish?”

I love these two jokes – not because they are rib-ticklingly funny (although they make me smile) but because they are clever and because they illustrate good humour – the change in use of the word from the expected use takes us to an unexpected conclusion.

Jesus was good at that – the unexpected conclusion…

The Samaritan (boo, hiss) turns out to be the hero.

The profligate son who wished his father dead (boo, hiss) turns out to be welcome and forgiven.

The prudent servant who kept his master’s money safe (hooray!) turns out to have failed.

And the person who has rebelled against God and followed selfish ways turns out to be forgiven while the perfect Son of God dies.

Did you see that one coming? It’s the ultimate punch-line, but God has the last laugh three days later!