appreciating assets

Happy KidIt’s nearly here. I am getting quite excited, and it’s not even the day yet. I have to admit I have been doing one or two sneaky things to prepare for the big event. I have been doing a little bit of shopping to make sure that I have everything I need. I have been writing a list of all of the things that I need to do, people with whom I need to correspond, activities that need preparation, you know the sort of thing.

No, I’m not talking about Christmas, I’m talking about my return to work. I have been away from the church I serve for just over three months: most of it on sabbatical leave and the last three weeks on sick leave following an operation that we hope will once again relieve the constant migraine that plagues my brain. (In case you were wondering, it will take several months before we know how effective the new gadget is).

I am really looking forward to going back to work. I have not done any of the normal ministry-type things for 3 1/2 months. I have missed sermon preparation and preaching. I have missed visiting people in their homes. I have even missed Deacon’s Meetings and Church Meetings – honestly, they are a real blessing in our church even when we are discussing difficult matters.

But most of all I have missed the people who are Colchester Baptist Church. we are an eclectic bunch with a range of preferences, ideas, emphases, personalities, backgrounds, experiences, ages and many other differences. But the most important thing is that we love one another as we are all followers of Jesus, committed to doing that through being part of Colchester Baptist Church.

I’m looking forward to catching up with people and finding out what has been happening in their lives. I’m looking forward to hearing what God has been doing with people as individuals and families, and with the church. I’m looking forward to worshipping God together with my spiritual family once again.

It is said that you only truly appreciate something when you no longer have it. I suspect that this has been one of the benefits of my sabbatical leave: not that I took our church for granted beforehand, but it has helped me recognise how important the church is to me (remembering of course at the church of the people not the institution).

One of the joys of sabbatical leave is that I will have the opportunity to return to what I have missed. I am preaching my first sermon this coming Sunday morning. several people have asked me whether I had been preparing this sermon for 3 1/2 months, which suggests there is a certain degree of expectation! No pressure then.

And then it’s Christmas, which I absolutely love in the local church. It is one of the things that I missed most when I worked in our denomination’s national office and I’m so glad that I will be back in time to celebrate together with my spiritual family.

There used to be a Peanuts cartoon with Snoopy on top of his kennel, with the caption ‘Appreciate me now and avoid the rush’. Perhaps rather than waiting for the rush we should show our appreciation for one another more frequently.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

run away, run away!

This will probably be the last bloggage… for a week.

(I can hear a strange noise all of a sudden. It sounds like cheering)

The Sheldon Centre, where I will be retreating

This weekend I am heading down to Devon for a week’s retreat* at the Society of Mary and Martha. It’s a retreat designed for Ministers and is called a ‘12,000 mile service’. The website says that “Guests are free to choose their own pace and activities as the week unfolds. A chance to recharge batteries, take out dents in the bodywork or test the brakes, perhaps?”

I would rather not have any comments about dents in my bodywork, please, and I will be going into hospital in Mid November to get a rechargeable battery fitted, so perhaps what I need to concentrate on is testing the brakes.

The sabbatical leave that I am currently enjoying has been a wonderful experience. I have stopped the busy activity associated with being a Minister and have had the opportunity to rest, relax, refresh, read, refocus and practice my alliteration. One of the things that has come to me afresh is the need to ensure that when the sabbatical time is over I need to make sure that I put regular and frequent time and space in the diary to do those things (perhaps not practicing the alliteration). Once every seven (or in my case nine) years is not sufficient to maintain yourself at peak spiritual condition. That is not only true for Ministers, it’s true for all of us.

For some people Sundays are those moments in their week. (Often less so for Ministers because it can be our busiest day). But can we honestly say that our relationship with God is going to be at its deepest and most amazing with just an hour a week spent focusing on him? Can we even think that this will be the case if we give him fifteen minutes every day as we do our daily Bible reading?

I have friends with whom I have not spoken or corresponded for months / years. It’s wonderful when we do catch up, but I can’t say that there is any depth to those relationships. Not when you compare them to the relationships I have with my wife and my children with whom I share so much more of my life. They get to see the good and the bad. They get to share the laughter and the tears. They experience the joy and the pain.

That may seem very obvious, but that does not make it any less true. If we confine our relationship with God to special moments in our day then we are short-changing him and ourselves. We are treating him like a hamster that we take out of its cage once a day to play with and enjoy and then put back to allow them to get on with running around in his little wheel while we run around in ours. God deserves and wants so much more than that for us.

I have sometimes felt that being a Minister is a bit like being a hamster running in a wheel. You run as fast as your little legs can carry you but if you are not careful and you don’t keep up the wheel will keep on turning and you will be spun around madly. That’s true for all of us, not just Ministers, which is why God designed a sabbatical for each one of us. It’s his commandment (not recommendation) to rest, recreate and relax for one day in seven (sabbath). The idea was not that we dedicate one day a week to being with God, but that we take one day a week to be refreshed. (If you feel like a hamster in a wheel, watch this video and enjoy the ride – perhaps there’s a team ministry analogy here?).

So how? Well I am sure I have blogged about this before, but I find it helps to associate different activities with him. When I wash at a sink and look in the mirror in front of me I try to remember that it’s a moment to reflect on whether I need God to cleanse and forgive me for anything. In my car I will sometimes put a CD of worship music on and sing my lungs out as I drive around. Regular time reading the Bible is essential: but don’t short-change yourself by limiting yourself to a quick burst in the morning.

But above all, have a dialogue with Jesus. The twelve disciples had that privilege as they travelled around first century Israel with him, but we have that privilege too – he is with us by his Spirit. Ask him about what you are doing, or going to be doing. Ask him to speak to you through it or through someone whom you will meet. Tell him how you’re feeling. When something makes you laugh, thank Jesus for the joy. When something makes you weep, thank him that he is there with you and ask that you will sense his presence (through others or more directly through peace within). Whatever you do has a Jesus-related dimension and as you involve him in your daily life more and more you will find that he feels closer (even though he has never been away).

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*retreat = running away, in case you wonder what the bloggage title has to do with the bloggerel here. Actually it’s often more tactical than that, but I had in mind the scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail where Arthur and his knights beat a hasty retreat from the onslaught of their foes.

two weeks

CalendárioToday marks the end of the second week of my sabbatical leave. I am pleased with how things are going. I am ahead of schedule in my reading and am getting some helpful responses to my enquiries about growing churches. Next week I hope to sift the data coming back and start to arrange some visits.

In my sabbatical reading so far I have come across a number of very helpful and pertinent passages. Some relate to me and my faith, some relate to me as a church leader and some relate to our church. One of my tasks is to sift these prayerfully and try to discern which are more relevant at this time than others. I have decided to post some of the things I have discovered so far here and offer you the opportunity to comment on them too:

I am too busy if I lack time or space to be with God, or I justify not doing so by reference to all the things I have to do for him.

God intends churches to grow. But numerical growth is more than just attendance at Sunday Services – it’s about making disciples.

If God intends churches to grow we should be asking what we are doing that is hindering that growth.

Leadership is about influence, not position. If nobody is following you you are not a leader.

“Churches with money problems often actually have a vision problem.” (Rick Warren)

Goodness is more contagious than evil.

Laughter is more infectious than grumpiness.

Open-ended communication (perhaps through creative arts) can leave space for God to speak creatively.

What do you think?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

A little girl pointed to the dusty Bible on the shelf.

“Whose book is that?” she asked her mother.

Her mother quite startled by her daughters question replied, “Why honey, don’t you know? That is God’s book!”

The child demonstrating that she had a very practical turn to her mind said, “Don’t you think that we had better give it back to him? No one around here ever reads it.”

thanks, thanks and thanks again

Greetings bloggites. I have now started my sabbatical leave and have decided that I will continue to post bloggerel here. There are two reasons: vanity and necessity.

The vanity part comes from not wanting to lose any bloggites like you from my list of followers due to inactivity. I love to see the hit ticker counting upwards and it won’t do that if I am silent here.

The necessity part is not because of some compulsive blogging disorder, but because for me my blog is one way in which I reflect on what God may be saying to me. If I stop and / or get out of that routine I reckon it would undermine one of the purposes of sabbatical leave – to reflect. So, when it is possible I will be continuing to pour out the usual bloggerel.

Today’s comes in the form of a clock. This was a kind and mischievous gift from some good friends in the church, and is designed to help me keep track of my time and plan my days.

I now know what to do during my sabbatical leave

Thank you!

Last week was a family holiday week in Devon, and when we got home there was an envelope waiting for me with some money in it to boost my coffee fund during the sabbatical leave.

The gift was anonymous, but if it was you: Thank you!

Another kind person in the church has given some money towards the cost of the sabbatical leave.

Thank you!

I have received a grant from BUGB towards the costs of the sabbatical leave as well.

Thank you!

And then there’s the opportunity to take sabbatical leave at all. The church has been generous in making this possible: giving me the time and space to reflect, refresh, re-envision, (go on) retreat, relax and alliterate.

Thank you very much!

People have been very generous to me, and I feel incredibly blessed by it all. And that does not even begin to scratch the surface of how I have experienced generosity:

My brilliant colleague Lynsey has been generous in taking over while I have this leave.

Thank you!

My family are having to adjust their routines a bit to cope with me being around a bit more (especially in the evenings).

Thank you!

Many people have assured me of their ongoing prayer support during this time of sabbatical leave.

Thank you!

Others have sent me messages of blessing and good wishes.

Thank you!

And then there are all the blessings I have received from God, exerpeienced through and because of the greatest gift of all, Jesus:

Love, grace, forgiveness, eternal life, His Spirit, peace, spiritual gifts, spiritual fruit, perseverance, his presence, fresh starts, refreshment, the Bible, this church, the list is as endless as his blessings.

So, finally, an enormous THANK YOU! goes to him.

How have you been blessed recently? Whom have you blessed?

Be blessed, be a blessing.

 

There’s this guy who had been lost and walking in the desert for about 2 weeks. One hot day, he sees the home of a missionary. Tired and weak, he crawls up to the house and collapses on the doorstep. The missionary finds him and nurses him back to health. Feeling better, the man asks the missionary for directions to the nearest town. On his way out the backdoor, he sees this horse. He goes back into the house and asks the missionary, “Could I borrow your horse and give it back when I reach the town?”

The missionary says, “Sure but there is a special thing about this horse. You have to say ‘Thank God’ to make it go and ‘Amen’ to make it stop.”

Not paying much attetion, the man says, “Sure, ok.”

So he gets on the horse and says, “Thank God” and the horse starts walking. Then he says, “Thank God, thank God,” and the horse starts trotting. Feeling really brave, the man says, “Thank God, thank God, thank God, thank God, thank God” and the horse just takes off. Pretty soon he sees this cliff coming up and he’s doing everything he can to make the horse stop.

“Whoa, stop, hold on!!!!”

Finally he remembers, “Amen!!”

The horse stops 4 inches from the cliff. Then the man leans back in the saddle and says, “Thank God.”