(un)familiar routines

On Saturday afternoon I will be doing a quick (15 mins) Magic Show at Stanway Spring Fayre.* I have been working on a couple of routines for the show, which will be for all ages (so no sawing people in half, chopping off hands, or putting skewers through my thumb). One is a routine that I have done before but which I have re-worked and is now being further refined. The other is a new routine that I have been working on and this Saturday will be my first opportunity to present it to an audience.

I feel a lot more confident about the first routine than the second. That is not because either is more complex than the other. It is because the first one is one that I have had more time to rehearse and I have also had the chance to perform before my friends at the Mid Essex Magical Society** and receive positive feedback (see this bloggage). That has given me confidence that I can do the trick and that it will go down well. The second is a step into the unknown. I know I can do it, but I have never done it before under public scrutiny and I don’t know how it will be received.

Except for a few ultra-confident extroverts I imagine most of us are much more comfortable with what is familiar to us. We like staying in our comfort zone. We are happiest when we feel most relaxed.

Sadly Jesus does not call his followers to a comfortable life. He invites us to follow him and that can often take us into unfamiliar places and doing new things. I am in the middle of preparing for Sunday morning at our church and looking at Luke 9:1-17, where Jesus sent his 12 friends so far out of their comfort zones that the cz was just a speck on the horizon. He sent them on a mission trip and told them not to take any supplies. Then later he told them to do the catering for an impromptu party – for 5,000+ people!

We may not be asked to do those things today, but we are still invited to “take up your cross… and follow me”, which is definitely a step into the unknown. Crosses are not known for their comfort and Jesus had a habit of going into uncomfortable situations.

This is not an encouragement for us not to prepare. I am much happier when I am prepared. But we need to be prepared for the unexpected, the unusual, the uncomfortable. How? Well ‘following’ is easier when you are in earshot of the person you are following rather than them being a long way ahead of you. The twelve disciples had spent time being in earshot of Jesus: watching, listening and participating.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

“Our Minister’s sermons always have a happy ending. When he ends we are happy.”

*2-4pm in Stanway Village Hall if you’re interested.

** Available to come and perform at very reasonable rates at your fundraising event in the Essex area. See their website for more information.

the clergy carol, verse two

Spending time in preparation
Fa la la la la la la la.
Searching for the inspiration
Fa la la la la la la la.
Reading books and praying hard
Fa la la la la la la la.
‘Til services are all prepared
Fa la la la la la la laaaa.
 

Time is passing far too quickly
Fa la la la la la la la.
Deadlines looming, feeling sickly
Fa la la la la la la la.
Can’t I use last year’s sermon?
Fa la la la la la la la.
None recall it that’s for certain
Fa la la la la la la la.
 

Verse three to follow tomorrow

The clergy carol

Spending time in preparation
Fa la la la la la la la.
Searching for the inspiration
Fa la la la la la la la.
Reading books and praying hard
Fa la la la la la la la.
‘Til services are all prepared
Fa la la la la la la laaaa.
 

>a tidy desk is a sign that you do not have enough to do...Anyone care to add any verses? Today’s bloggage is brief because I am in the middle of doing the above…

Be blessed, be a blessing.

preparation, preparation, preparation

I am getting ridiculously ahead of myself at the moment. I have already prepared the service for this Sunday morning at our church; I have the talks ready for two sessions next week; we have planned the Easter Morning service at our church; I only have to finish planning for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday Services… phew! It’s a good thing that God does not limit his Spirit’s inspiration to a certain period before events.

I used to think that he did. Yes, honestly! It was to do with prayers and liturgy that had been prepared and written down in advance. Shamefully I have to admit that I (perhaps subconsciously) used to think that they were not as inspired as prayers and liturgy that emerged ‘in the moment’. I had no theology behind my attitude, merely free-church prejudice. And I was unaware of the blatant hypocrisy of this attitude.

You see, I hold the Bible very dearly to me. It is the most wonderful book written and is the scaffolding that supports me as my life and faith are built up day by day. But if I was correct (that inspiration ‘in the moment’ trumps inspiration that has been written down beforehand) surely I had to discount the Bible as being less reliable, less inspired than any thoughts that come to me today which I believe come from God. That leads to a whimsical faith which is subject to being blown around by whatever fads are current in the church and influenced as much by how much cheese I have eaten as by God. That is not to say that God is unreliable, but I am.

On the other hand, if the Bible is the collection of writings of people who have been inspired to write by God’s Spirit, as I believe it to be I cannot be disparaging about prayers, liturgies and poems that have been written down beforehand. They do need to be weighed against the Bible, but they can be as God-inspired and infused as any contemporaneous prayer… and in fact are often more helpful because there has been time to hone and refine and for God’s Spirit to edit out the bits that are not of him!

I hope that the same may be true of all that I prepare this week in advance of next week!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

A pome:

Perspectives on History
History is boring, history is bunk
It leaves me snoring, looking at junk
Stuff that happened years ago can’t help me today
It’s out of date if it happened yesterday
 
History is boring deep down into the past
Illuminating old things to light our current path
If Og hadn’t invented the wheel and fire
We’d still be darkly walking everywhere

underprepared, overprepared, ministering free…

Very quick lunchtime blog today as I am almost overwhelmed by stuff I have to get done.

Yesterday I was at an inspirational conference about how churches respond to the Big Society agenda. It was delivered by Steve Chalke and gave us lots to think about. At the end of the day there was a panel discussion with Steve Chalke, Bob Russell (our local MP), one of our Councillors, a Christian businessman, a youth worker, and, erm, me. I found out at the moment the panel was invited to sit at the front. Short notice or what!? Thinking time was virtually zero!

Today I prepared for a regular meeting at our church, went to the church and discovered that the meeting was not happening. I should have checked our weekly notice sheet. D’Oh! I am annoyed with myself but now have the talk I was going to give ready to roll next month! Over-prepared!

For me as a minister the biggest problem I have is making sure I leave myself enough time to prepare well for what I have to do. I hate ‘flying by the seat of my pants’ although I do find that when those moments occur God is gracious and helps me out. I hate rushing out of the door with the ink still wet on what I have prepared. I like to take a relaxed approach to preparation. I have taken to putting preparation time into my diary, but know that I am sometimes more generous in giving it away than I should be.

So how do you prepare for what God wants you to do? Do you arrive at the next thing and ‘wing it’ or have you spent time asking God what he wants from you?

Unrelated joke:
“Doctor, Doctor, I think I am a labrador. I slobber and dribble everywhere, I chase sticks and I walk round in circles three times before I lie down in my bed.”
“Well, lie down on this couch and we’ll talk about it.”
“I can’t. I’m not allowed on the furniture.”