evicted

Emergency ExitToday is my eviction anniversary*. 48 years ago I was unceremoniously evicted from the comforting, nurturing, nourishing place I had spent the first 9 months of my existence into a cold, bright, noisy environment that I had never imagined existed. I don’t think I wanted to leave the womb-warmth – which may explain why most babies start crying soon after they emerge.

But so much has happened for me since that I am rather glad that I was evicted (and I am sure my Mum was!). It may have been somewhat traumatic at the time (for me and my mother) but that trauma has been followed by growth, learning, friendship, love, companionship, excitement, sadness, distress, struggles and so much more. I have gone from the relative comfort of monochrome existence to the astonishing experience of beyond-high-definition multi-coloured life with more pixels than you can imagine and billions of colours and shades.

How often is that true for us? We like our comfort zones, our security blankets, our safety. Change threatens that security and we cannot be sure that it will be better so we often prefer to stay where we are than risk an unknown future. Yet, there is so much more to experience of life. If we stay in the womb we won’t experience all of that.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*Thank you to so many of you for your birthday greetings, that means a lot to me.

the parable of the creativity

Today I have been creative. Well, I think I have been creative. I have put together combinations of letters to form words that I believe make some sort of sense when I put them together. I have put images with words to illustrate them.

I have sent some of the creativity to other people for them to use, adapt, change or delete. And some of it has been prepared for later consumption and I hope that they will be helpful there too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut after launching this creativity out into the world I am no longer able to control it. I have to wave goodbye and watch it leave home. I can’t control how it is received. I can’t demand that people look at it or read it a particular way. I can’t make people like it. I run the risk of being misunderstood, misrepresented and having my creativity misappropriated.

Perhaps the best way would be if I could somehow be present when people read the words and see the images and then I could explain to them what I meant and help them to understand. But that’s not possible. Is it?

Perhaps there is a parable here?

In the beginning was the Creativity…

Be blessed, be a blessing

autopilot

Computers apparently take the fun out of everything. That seems to be the message that we get from motoring programmes because invariably when they are testing a car around a track the presenters turn off the computer aided traction control systems. This is followed by lots of tyre smoke, high-speed cornering, power slides and whoops of delight. I am not sure what it says about me but I have a traction control system on my car and I am terrified that the idea of turning it off. I am blessed by the cruise control however.

Flight 1549 on the Hudson, picture from http://www.guardian.co.uk/

Computers are also very good at flying aeroplanes. Autopilots enable an aeroplane to fly on a predetermined course and altitude without deviation, and auto land systems can even land an aeroplane successfully. I am glad that these systems exist on passenger aircraft but they would be no good for the Red Arrows! and they cannot adapt to emergency situations. When US Airways flight 1549 struck a flock of Canada geese and needed to make an emergency landing it needed the skill and experience of Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger to land it spectacularly on the Hudson River enabling all 155 occupants to evacuate safely.

This morning I am preparing the next session in our “Expedition Through the Bible” course that I am leading at our church. This week we are looking at how we interpret what we read and is part of it I will be explaining how I prepare a sermon. The process of trying to explain the process of sermon preparation has made me realise that when I approach a passage I am on autopilot: my preparation processes happen automatically and without me thinking too much about them. That does not make it a fair process, any more than the ability to drive without having to think too much about what you are doing makes that bad. But it has been helpful for me just to pause and reflect on the process that I go through in order to try and ensure that I am not relying solely on a tried and tested routine and excluding God from some aspects of that preparation.

I guess that same principle applies to all aspects of our lives. Something is we do automatically, without thinking about it, without involving God and it.  It is worth pausing sometimes and reflecting on how we are living to make sure that we are not excluding God from any aspect of our lives. And yet when we pause and reflect we will find that involving God makes a difference. It is like turning off the traction control system on a car or the autopilot on an aeroplane. Suddenly it is a little bit riskier, a little bit more dangerous, more faith filled, less conventional. But instead of us being behind the wheel or the yoke we relinquish control to God and strap ourselves in beside him!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

 

travelling companions

This weekend has been provocative, inspiring, encouraging and challenging at different times. Ideas and possibilities of whirring through my mind and I am trying to assimilate them all. I am trying to work out what God not concerned to me and to our church through all of these different thoughts and ideas.

One of the things that has inspired me has been the people with whom I have experienced this weekend. On Saturday I went with some of the 20s and 30s of our church to an event in which we were encouraged to take the good news of Jesus as onto the streets, at the same time stepping out of our own comfort zones. To help us to apply what we have learned rather than simply take notes we then went out into the town and put those ideas into practice. I was blessed and inspired by the enthusiasm of my companions and their willingness to take some risks for the sake of sharing the good news of Jesus. That was almost more inspiring and encouraging them the talks from the main speaker!

Today I travelled with some fellow ministers to another gathering with the same main speaker. Whilst the time in the gathering was positive, encouraging and once again inspirational, it was the conversations with my travelling companions and others whom I met at the gathering that really blessed me. prayers that were offered words of encouragement that we shared were really encouraging. It is always encouraging when you see God at work through people. It reassures us that he can and will do the same through asked if we allow him to do so.

But the overarching theme of Saturday and today has been to be “bighearted”. This is the theme of the Baptist union of Great Britain’s current president, Chris Duffett*. He is the one who has been encouraging us to step out of our comfort zones and be good news to the people whom we meet. He has a natural gift for this and has many clever and exciting ways in which he helps people to encounter God’s love. the one for which he is most famous is standing in the middle of a street holding a sign that says ‘free hugs’. He says that he has probably hugged thousands of people doing this and they have been blessed and encouraged by encountering God’s love in a hug.

I am not a huggy person. That sort of thing feels unnatural to me. But to others it is the most natural thing in the world. I know that there are other ways in which I can communicate God’s love which don’t involve hugs with strangers. What Chris has been trying to encourage us is to do something, almost anything, in order to show God’s love and grace to people who desperately need. What might this look like in our church? Watch this space. What might this look like in your life?

Sandwiched between those two days has been a Sunday in which I preached at another church in the morning and on a complicated passage from Daniel in the evening at our church. On both those occasions people said to me afterwards that God had spoken to them through those passages. Awesome. That is the greatest accolade and puffing for which I pray more than anything else in preparing. I would gladly swap 100 people telling me how much they enjoyed the sermon with one person telling me that God had spoken to them through it.

How about swapping 100 people telling us how wonderful we are for one person who has experienced God through us being a good free sample of Jesus, or telling us that God had spoken to them through us?

*Chris, for your encouragement and to add to your own story on Saturday, I have been dictating this through my computer and it interpreted your surname as ‘stuff it’.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

YAW – that’s way out of order (see recent blogs for context)

out of our depth?

“Don’t go out of your depth!”

Olympic PoolI can still vividly remember that repeated injunction from my parents when we went to the swimming pool or the beach. The rule was that I was always supposed to be able to put my feet down on the bottom of the pool or the sea bed and still be able to keep my head above water. That was a wise rule for someone who was not a strong swimmer. (I was limited to doggy paddle, a weak breaststroke and a couple of strokes of front crawl. I was such a weak swimmer that when I did my 10 yards certificate at primary school my body was so low in the water that it looked like I was walking. (I wasn’t!))

But the instruction not to go out of my depth meant that I was frequently stopping to check that I could still touch the bottom while keeping my head above water. I was worried about what would happen if I accidentally strayed out of my depth. That does not help with encouraging confidence, consistency in swimming or endurance.

You’re probably well ahead of me at this point (definitely if we were swimming!). I think that Christian leaders can often consciously or unconsciously give the same message to the people in our churches. “Don’t go out of your depth!”

“Don’t try something new or different in case people do not like it.”

“Don’t start talking to someone about Jesus in case they ask you a question you can’t answer.”

“Don’t admit to having doubts.”

“Don’t ask why it seems that God doesn’t always answer your prayers.”

“Don’t invite people to come with you to a normal church service, they may not like it. Wait until we do something special.”

And so on. I hope that I have never consciously said any of the above. But can people sometimes pick up those messages from me? Do I always play it safe, suggesting that others should not try something different? Do I present an image that I have all the answers and never have doubts, disempowering people who know they don’t have all the answers and who may have doubts? Do I ever admit that God has not always answered my prayers in the ways that I want, or that sometimes it even feels that they bounce back off the ceiling? By promoting special events at church and encouraging people to invite friends do I sometimes also give the message that ‘normal’ services are not for inviting friends to?

If so, then I am sorry. By reading this blog I hope you will realise that I am incredibly fallible, don’t have all the answers and am simply seeking to be the best free sample of Jesus I can, empowered by God’s Spirit. Do I need to be more honest? Yes and no. People need to know that I am normal (just talk to my family if you are under any illusions that I am some sort of super-Christian!) but also need to know that I am confident in Jesus and in following him. It’s a difficult balance to strike and I know I err on the side of caution. Perhaps I need to go out of my depth a bit more.

Teacher: “How do you spell ‘pneumatic’?”
Pupil: “N E U M A T I C”
Teacher: “Isn”t there a letter missing?”
Pupil: [thinks] “Oh yes! There’s a silent P like in swimming!”