Don’t just pray there do something

Desperation, desperation, desperation

Drives many people to their knees

Making deals with the Lord of Creation:

“I’ll do this… help me please.”

 

Inspiration, inspiration, inspiration

The answer that comes from ‘above’

Can be ideas and opportunities for fresh direction

And a friendly motivational shove.

 

Perspiration, perspiration, perspiration

We all have a part to play

In being part of the answer to our supplication

Partners with God along the way.

 

Nick Lear 2012

This poem was inspired by the thought that while God invites us to pray in all circumstances, he wants us to grow and learn: which won’t happen if he does everything for us so he invites us to be part of the answer.

prayerpome

I wish I could pray like Teresa:

I wish it just came to me quick

she’s so calm and serene and so godly

and I only pray like, erm, Nick.

When Teresa prays we all listen:

with ears pricked and mouths open wide

in awe at the depth of the insight

that comes from her saintly inside.

I wish I could pray like Teresa:

with words that are gentle and kind

pastorally sensitive praying

not the first thing that comes to my mind.

I wish I could pray like Teresa:

a top-notch grade 1 intercessor

well my stuttering words come weakly

in rough phrases that fail to impress her.

Teresa’s prayers are always so perfect:

fluently considered aforethoughts

that flow from her mouth like a poem

that rhymes and resonates like it ought.

I wish I could pray like Teresa:

expressing the depths of her soul.

but God doesn’t want me to be her

he just wants me to say what I think… even if it doesn’t rhyme or make much sense

a Christmas pome for you all

Was the nativity scene actually Christmas card serenity
When you arrived kicking and screaming out of eternity?
Would you rather have been back inside Mary’s belly?
Than in prickly hay – all animal-slobber-smelly?
Were your parents concerned about where you were lying?
Did you keep the animals awake with your new-born crying…
And the cattle get their own back by lowing when you slept?
Did Joseph survey the scene, feeling inadequate and inept?
And did your mother Mary look on and wonder
if this was detail-planned or a cosmic blunder:
That the son of God should star in this sorry story
While above the hills angels proclaimed his glory?
And how much does God love us that he endured the nativity
so we can eat, drink and enjoy the seasonal festivity?
 
Nick Lear 2011 

 

time stands still

Today’s is probably the last bloggage of the week as I am heading overseas (well, Northern Ireland) to take part in a wedding service for one of our members and her fiance. It is possible that I will find the time to do some mobile blogging, but please don’t take this as a threat or a promise.

It seems that yesterday God did a repeat of Joshua 10:13 and made time stand still for a while. I managed to prepare almost everything I need for Sunday’s services when I was fully anticipating that by today I would only be about halfway through the preparation. I am incredibly grateful to him for that as it takes the pressure off me today.

I have wondered how God managed it – in Joshua’s day and mine. My experience is probably more to do with feeling his inspiration, but how could God put the cosmos on pause without wrecking gravity, planetary orbits, seasons and the like? It seems unlikely, but then so does feeding 5000 people with a handful of rolls and a couple of sardines.

I suspect a lot of people have tried to rationalise the miracles in the Bible and I can sympathise with a desire to make sense of it all. But while my brain can’t cope with the how, my faith allows me to believe that the One who set the laws of physics that govern our Universe is quite capable of bending or suspending them.

I wrote this poem a while ago to express this, but you need to read it ironically… it got banned from a church news sheet once because the minister was worried that people would think it was serious. Hmmm.

Moses lit the burning bush
by using ‘firelights’.
Joshua flattened Jericho
with the help of dynamite.
Israel crossed the Red Sea
in inflatable rubber boats.
And Joseph’s dazzling jacket
was an army surplus coat.
 
 Elijah beat the prophets of Baal
with petrol and a match
‘Jonah and the whale’ concerns
a massive fishing catch.
The skyscraper of Babel
was built by chain gangs.
Manna was not from heaven but
was ready-mix meringue.
 
Solomon wasn’t really wise he’d
an encyclopaedia
David’s bashing of Goliath was
invented by the media!
The prophecies are all a hoax
they’ve been written ‘post hoc’.
And there was interior plumbing
when Moses hit the rock.
 
The feeding of the 5,000
was done by outside caterers,
Galilee was frozen over, so
Jesus was a skater-er.
Raising Jesus from the dead
was all special effects.
Any fool can tell you that
no-one resurrects!
 
© 1987 Nick Lear

funny: you should say that

The levity levels on this blog have dropped to worryingly low levels this week. Yesterday I even had the temerity to suggest that you go and find your own joke!

Sorry.

It won’t happen again.

By way of apology, here is a quick thought and jokes to illustrate:

God created laughter. We should use that gift as much as possible – especially by giving it to others.

A couple loaded down with suitcases staggered to the airline check-in counter.

As they approached the line, the husband glanced at the pile of luggage and said to the wife, “Why didn’t you bring the piano, too?”

“Are you trying to be funny?” she replied.

“No, I really wish you had,” he sighed. “I left the tickets on it.”

For a while Houdini used a lot of trap doors in his escapology acts. But it was just a stage he was going through.

And a pome wot I writ:

Thinking is a funny thing.
If you think about it.
Chemical reactions & neural impulses
Are interpreted
By our consciousness
Into comprehensible cognitive concepts and inexplicably incomprehensible ideas.
Such as this poem.
Which is funny
If you think about it.

footprints

I was thinking earlier this morning [sound of readers fainting in surprise] and for some reason the phrase ‘leave nothing behind except your footprints’ came to my mind. Psychologists may have fun with analysing that but I want to lead you along my train of thought that came from that starting point.

FootprintsThe phrase is one which is used to describe how we should treat the countryside when walking through it or camping in it. In other words take all your rubbish with you, leave no human-made objects behind you and minimise the impact on the environment to that which will soon fade naturally.

I realise that it is not intended as a description of our life, but I sometimes wonder if sometimes I live in the same way – leaving nothing behind me except my footprints. Most of us want to be remembered when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, and I guess most of us want to be remembered fondly. But what will be our legacy? Not financial, but what difference will our lives have made?

I think this is where it links to yesterday’s blog. How many people will give thanks to God because we led them to him? How many people will be in heaven because of us? How many people will give thanks to God because we were his hands and feet and voice and hug and encouragement and cook and shopper and gardener and chauffeur and … and … and…

This is not so we can have a great eulogy at our funeral or so there will have to be a full-page spread in the paper to print our obituary. It is about making a difference in the name of Jesus so people will say how wonderful he is.

Footprints

WARNING – if the ‘footprints in the sand’ reflection / poem is precious to you I would advise you to stop reading this blog at this point and re-read ‘footprints in the sand’ instead for your edification and encouragement. Reading on will probably ruin it for you.

OK?

Still here?

You have been warned.

A man had a dream. In his dream he saw himself walking along a beach. He looked back and saw footprints in the sand behind him and realised that he was looking at his life stretching out behind him. He saw all of the major events in his life.

As he looked he realised that alongside his footprints there was another set of footprints that belonged to Jesus – his constant companion.

He looked closer and realised that there were occasions when instead of two sets of footprints in the sand there was only one set of footprints.

The man turned to Jesus and asked, “Lord, why are there times when there is only one set of footprints? Is that because you were carrying me?”

Jesus turned to him and smiled. “My son,” he said, “that’s when we were hopping!”

Keep on hopping with Jesus 😀

I once was lost and now am

found frustrated

Why is it that the thing you have lost and have spent ages looking for is always in the last place you look? Yes, I know that by definition it will be in the last place you look! I think my question should be: why is it that when you have lost something important you have to spend ages looking for it: why isn’t it always somewhere easy to find so you can find it really quickly?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our homes had search engines!
I know that there are differences in the ways that blokes and women look for things. Blokes look on the surface, women look underneath and behind things. Blokes look in the same way that we shop – we have a quick look to see if we can find what we are looking for and if we can’t then we move on. Women look in the same way they shop – methodically going through everything so that they can be sure they have eliminated all possibilities.
You may have gathered that I have lost something (you are SO perceptive). It is something important. And my wife, Sally, is at work at the moment so I am having to resort to desperate measures: I am looking for it myself.

All this looking and searching reminds me of the parable Jesus told in Luke 15. No, not the famous one about the two sons, nor the almost as famous one about the errant sheep. The one about the woman who had lost a coin. It was only 10% of the coins she owned (whether or not they formed part of her dowry is open to debate, and boy is it debated). But the point of the parable is not the identity of what was lost, it is the extent of the search and the overwhelming joy when the coin is found. She throws a party for her friends which, in my imagination, costs more than the coin is worth.

God’s like that. No, not good at losing things, but relentless in his pursuit of us and his joy when we repent and are ‘found’ is seriously exuberant. I need to be found on a regular basis, but God never stops rejoicing when I am. That’s grace for you!

I am going to break the habit of a blogtime and repeat something for you. This poem what I writ seems very apt, but is one I have put on the blog before… sorry for the repeat!

Symbiosis
My wife says I’m a loser

I’m inclined to think she’s right.
I don’t know where my things are but
She doesn’t share my plight.

Though my keys aren’t where I leave them
She always finds them there.
Somehow they’re invisible
Despite how hard I stare.

My mobile phone IS mobile
I’m sure it runs around:
I can look in vain for hours but
In seconds she has it found.

She says I don’t look properly
When I overlook it
And start an inquisition
To find out just who took it.


I’m sure my searching’s thorough:
That I look in the right places
Which is why I get so ratty
In my oh-so frantic chases.

“Where did you last see it?”
She asks me through my bile.
“If I knew I wouldn’t need your help.”
I sulk back like a child.

My wife knows where to start things:
“I’ve already looked there twice”
Means that’s her quest’s beginning
And where she finds the prize.


As I’m reunited with what I lost
And turn off my pressure cooker
I consider it a huge blessing
That I married such a looker.

the rhythm of life

Three days and counting… 

(Spoken in monotonous voice with foreign accent, in the style of countdowns in old Bond movies)

It’s amazing how much we live by routines. There is a rhythm to our daily, weekly and monthly lives that shapes what we do and enables us to live. The obvious things are meals and sleep, work and leisure, weekdays and weekends, even things as mundane as paydays (or pension / benefit days). There’s a song from the musical ‘Sweet Charity’ that talks about the Rhythm of Life which we are attempting to sing in our gospel singing group at our church. I had not come across it until we started singing it but I am really enjoying it. One of the things about the arrangement we are singing is that there is a relentless beat that goes through it in the main part of the song and then there are sudden changes of tempo. To me that reflects our lives – a relentless beat punctuated by changes in tempo.

That’s one of the messages I find in Genesis as we see creativity and activity in a driving rhythm that then changes into a slow relaxation on the seventh day. I am not someone who holds strictly that we should not work on Sundays (it would put me out of work for a start!) but I do feel that it is very important that we have at least one day in seven when we change pace and relax.

There’s another famous passage in the Bible that has a relentless rhythm to it – Ecclesiastes 3:

1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

It was made famous by the song ‘Turn, turn, turn’ sung by the Byrds. But rather than being a beautiful poem about the rhythm of life I see it as one person’s reflection on the relentless and hectic lives that we lead and which ultimately are fruitless if that’s all there is to life. It is only when we see things from God’s eternal perspective and bring that into our daily living that we can make sense of things. We do not live to work, we work to find satisfaction in our creativity just as God did in Genesis.

newly discovered chapter in the Book of Genesis has provided the answer to “Where do pets come from?” Adam said, “Lord, when I was in the garden, you walked with me everyday. Now I do not see you anymore. I am lonely here and it is difficult for me to remember how much you love me.”

And God said, “No problem! I will create a companion for you that will be with you forever and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will love me even when you cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourself.”

And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam. And it was a good animal. And God was pleased. And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and he wagged his tail. And Adam said, “Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom and I cannot think of a name for this new animal.”

And God said, “No problem! Because I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG.”

And Dog lived with Adam and was a companion to him and loved him. And Adam was comforted. And God was pleased. And Dog was content and wagged his tail.

After a while, it came to pass that Adam’s guardian angel came to the Lord and said, “Lord, Adam has become filled with pride. He struts and preens like a peacock and he believes he is worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught him that he is loved, but perhaps too well.”

And the Lord said, “No problem! I will create for him a companion who will be with him forever and who will see him as he is. The companion will remind him of his limitations, so he will know that he is not always worthy of adoration.”

And God created CAT to be a companion to Adam. And Cat would not obey Adam. And when Adam gazed into Cat’s eyes, he was reminded that he was not the supreme being. And Adam learned humility.

And God was pleased.

And Adam was greatly improved. 
And Dog was happy.
And the Cat didn’t give a hoot one way or the other.

Poetry is in the ear of the beholder

At our Ministers’ Conference we have been blessed by both the main speakers. Viv O’Brien has been challenging and inspiring as we consider preaching styles and looking after ourselves pastorally. 

Stewart Henderson (www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/presenters/stewart_henderson.shtml) has been equally inspiring and also engaging as he has shared some of his life and experience and (brilliantly) some of his poems. I love the way in which he paints such evocative pictures using unusual and unexpected combinations of the 26 letters in our alphabet. 

I confess to being an amateur amateur poet myself and have been in awe of the creativity and power of the poems which Stewart has written and performed for us. There is a wonderful juxtaposition of humour and sobriety in some of the poems that is delicious to behold. The humour disarms and then the point is made while the defences are down so that it strikes deep and true. Jonathan Miller described humour as “a sabbatical from reality” that enables us to see things from a different perspective and then re-evaluate reality. That seems to be what is happening in the poems and I love it.

One of the points Stewart made was how different people receive different things from the same poem, some of which may not have been intended by the poet at all. I guess that’s because we all receive the poems through the graphic equaliser of our experiences and personality that diminishes the volume of some aspects of the poem and accentuates others. I had this experience a while ago when I read a poem at the start of a sermon. The poem was intended to be a light-hearted poke at my own inability to find things I have mislaid in comparison to my wife’s apparent ability to know where everything is in the house at any given time. I was using it to open a sermon on the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin (Luke 15) by illustrating how hard we look for things.

I had not anticipated that the opening line might cause upset for a member of the congregation who had divorced from his wife and whose ex-wife had been verbally abusive towards him. I apologise again to him (if he should ever read this blog) and anyone else who is offended by the poem but I am going to take my courage in both hands and reproduce the poem for you here in the confident hope that Stewart Henderson is highly unlikely ever to read it (at least not until after the conference, when I will be a long way away!).

Symbiosis

My wife says I'm a loser
I'm inclined to think she's right.
I don't know where my things are but
She doesn't share my plight. 
Though my keys aren't where I leave them
She always finds them there.
Somehow they're invisible
Despite how hard I stare. 
My mobile phone IS mobile
I'm sure it runs around:
I can look in vain for hours but
In seconds she has it found. 
She says I don't look properly
When I overlook it
And start an inquisition
To find out just who took it.
I'm sure my searching's thorough:
That I look in the right places
Which is why I get so ratty
In my oh-so frantic chases.
"Where did you last see it?"
She asks me through my bile.
"If I knew I wouldn't need your help."
I sulk back like a child. 
My wife's knows where to start things:
"I've already looked there twice"
Means that's her quest's beginning
And where she finds the prize.
As I'm reunited with what I lost
And turn off my pressure cooker
I consider it a huge blessing
That I married such a looker.