If I could turn back time…

This morning on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show (yes, I am a Radio 2 listener now) they were attempting to give away some tickets to a concert tonight. People had texted in the day before and they called one person back to offer them the tickets on the basis that they would be prepared to cancel their arrangements today and go to the concert.

The first person who was called turned off their phone (perhaps by mistake) and the call failed. The next person they called did not pick up. Neither did the following one. Finally on the fourth attempt the person they were calling picked up and was given the tickets. The man was very happy, but how must those other people be feeling?

Did the first person hit the wrong button on their phone? Were the others driving or in another room and unable to get to answer the phone in time? Are they now feeling really disappointed at the missed opportunity? Do they regret not answering in time?

It is easy to let regrets over missed opportunities take root in our lives. They can easily take on a significance greater than the missed event. I have written about regret before in bloggages: “If only” are two of the saddest words in the English language when we put them together. They suggest sadness, disappointment, unfulfilled potential, a desire to be able to turn back time and do things differently.

SundialBut we experience time in a linear fashion and it is only going in one direction: forwards. Unless or until someone invents a working time machine (and if they do, I would like them to come back in time and tap me on the shoulder now to…. aaaaarggh. Who are you? The Doctor? Oh. Thank you for reading my bloggage in the future).

Subject to the words in parenthesis ever becoming more than silliness, what I said before still stands. We only experience time going forwards. We cannot go back. We can ask for forgiveness and / receive it. We can attempt to repair any damage we have caused. We can seek to pick up loose threads and start afresh. But we can’t undo what has been done.

Except that God is beyond time. He is not bound by our unidrectional experience. He did limit himself to that in Christ for 33 years, living within our time-space continuum, and he does exist within it now, yet he is also able to see the beginning and the end of time (as well as being the source of the beginning and end). The Cross of Christ is the moment in time when eternity breaks in. Jesus’ death is the means by which all humanity can be reconciled to God – those before him, those who witnessed it, and those who live after him. It could be seen as a fracture in the space-time continuum (Yes, alright Doctor, I know that it’s made up of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff). It’s the moment when past and future failings are dealt with and reconciliation with God is made possible. And Jesus’ resurrection is what seals the deal.

He can help turn ‘if only’ into the cathartic ‘I’m sorry’, or ‘please forgive me’, or ‘can we start again please’? He won’t turn back time but he will help to transform the effects of what has happened in the past. When we turn to him for forgiveness he wipes the slate clean from his perspective. He can also help us to release regrets linked to the past. He can help heal wounds, soothe the pain of memories, calm trouble thoughts. He is the God of fresh starts.

Be blessed, be a blessing

And apologies to any non-Doctor Who fans for the oblique references.

[clears throat]

Ladies and Gentlemen, bloggists and twitterers, I have an important announcement.

[cue fanfare. You will have to do your own as I am too much of a cheapskate to have audio files added to this blog].

Today is another day.

I know. Profound isn’t it?

tempus fugit (translation: ‘we briefly apply fudge to the situation’)

Actually, today is the 46th anniversary of the day I arrived kicking and screaming on this planet (forcing my father to abandon a round of golf in the process).But it’s also just another day. It follows February 17th 2013 and (assuming it happens) it precedes February 19th 2013.

Don’t get me wrong, I love birthdays. It is lovely when people send birthday greetings in card form, in person, on the phone, and now in virtual internet-friendly formats too. I am really grateful for them, it is great to be remembered, blessed and encouraged by people.

But if my mother had eaten a hot curry the day before, or if my dad had not abandoned his round of golf, if they had been in a different part of the planet I could have been born on a different day.

We humans have aligned ourselves closely with calendars. We associate events with certain dates on the calendar. Some are good and we want to rejoice, some are sad and we would rather not be reminded of them. It seems that almost every day has been adopted by some organisation or another as their special day.

We also have a number of clichés that we trot out about dates: today is the first day of the rest of your life; tomorrow is another day; take it one day at a time…

Given that God exists beyond time, how does he respond to our calendar-driven routines? If he was remote and disinterested he may view it with vague amusement. But because he is involved in our lives, because he is the God of history, because Jesus is God with us, he shares our joys and sorrows. He celebrates with those who celebrate and weeps with those who weep. And because he is God he can hold the two together – even when the two coincide on the same day. His Spirit within us knows our deepest needs and feelings and shares them.

So, whenever it is that you mark the moment of your arrival on this planet, happy birthday. Whatever today reminds you of, bless you.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

A fellow was very much in love with a beautiful girl. One day she told him that the next day was her birthday. He told her he would send her a bouquet of roses… one for each year of her life.

That evening he called the local florist and ordered twenty-one roses with instructions that they be delivered first thing the next morning.

As the florist was preparing the order, he decided that since the young man was such a good customer, he would put an extra dozen roses in the bouquet.

The fellow never did find out what made the young girl so angry with him.


The boss is watching, look buzzy

I have spent the morning sitting in the garden, reading a book as part of my sabbatical leave. Having been challenged by the content of the book I paused for a while to reflect. My gaze was drawn to some nearby flowers on which some bees were busy (and buzzy) foraging. I want to share some disparate thoughts that have come to me so far today in the hope that by writing them down they may make sense to me and perhaps even to you!

My understanding of bees is limited and may be erroneous, so please don’t use this bloggerel as material for an educational paper. However, I believe that when a foraging bee finds some flowers it will return to the hive and communicate the location of the flowers by a complex ‘waggle dance’. The first book that I have read suggests that churches need to explore using creative arts far more in our communication, but I am not about to replace my sermons with some interpretive dance! However the playful part of me likes Eddie Izzard’s reflections that it would be far easier for the bee to buzz the instructions to his colleagues, yet instead the creative and excitable bee chooses to dance. I think there is something here about joyful communication of good news. If we communicate the most exciting news in the Universe in a boring way few people will listen.

The thing that blew me away was remembering the phrase ‘busy as a bee’. The nectar / pollen gathering of these worker bees is relentless. They go at it all day. (Perhaps the dancing is how they relax and let off steam?) I recognise in myself a tendency to be busy. I have seen it as a virtue, I have prided myself on comments from others on how busy I am. I feel that God must be pleased with me because of how much he sees me doing. Don’t get me wrong, being busy is not wrong, and it is certainly better than sloth (or sloths).

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

Jesus invited those who were weary and burdened to come to him in order that he might give them work to do, that they might feel virtuous about all the things they do for him.


Jesus invited those who were weary and burdened to come to him in order that he might give them rest.

When is your time with God? Where is it? Are you too busy for him to give you rest?

Be blessed, be a blessing

Can you spot the tenuous link with this joke?

An old man was wondering if his wife had a hearing problem. So one night, he stood behind her while she was sitting in her lounge chair. He spoke softly to her, “Honey, can you hear me?”

There was no response.

He moved a little closer and said again, “Honey, can you hear me?”

Still, there was no response.

Finally he moved right behind her and said, “Honey, can you hear me?”

She replied, “For the third time, Yes!”

tick tick tick

No, the blog title doesn’t refer to how my teachers used to mark my work at school.

Today is a significant landmark in our family. It is the final formal moment in our son’s Secondary education. Other than collecting his A Level results next month he won’t be going back. Today is Speech Day, and he will be receiving two subject prizes (turn proud parent mode to maximum). As I thought about this today I was reminded of the famous passage in Ecclesiastes:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
(Ecc 3:1-8)

Perhaps there should also be ‘a time to finish’ and ‘a time to start something new’ in there too. I think that because it is such an evocative passage many people have heard of it (the Byrds’ song based on it does help keep it in our consciousness).

I remember hearing a sermon on this passage many years ago (I think I was a teenager) and the preacher said that while we can take this and get all poetic and sentimental about it, you can also look at it as describing the relentless, driving passage of time. If you imagine a metronome ticking away in the background it takes on a different perspective. Life just keeps coming at us and there’s nothing we can do about it. Time keeps passing and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Except that we can mark time. Not in the way that marching soldiers do, but we can mark the moments. I think it is great that there is a Speech Day to conclude our son’s time at school and that he has been awarded some prizes. It makes it memorable.

And for me that’s the key. Memorable moments mark time. It doesn’t have to be spectacular or impressive, but writing in the margin of your Bible when God speaks to you through a passage, writing a prayer journal or even a blog all help to record memories to which you can refer later and give thanks to God as you remember. Many times in the Old Testament the people of God were urged to remember the narratives of how God had been with them in the past so they could gain courage and strength in the present and assurance and hope to face the future.

If you don’t have your own memorable moments with God yet, read the Bible and borrow some of his. You may well find that some start for you as you do.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

A man was due to receive an award at a ceremony and it was dragging on and on so that by the time he was presented with the award it was very late and he sensed that people were restless. He stood up to give an acceptance speech.

“I have two speeches tonight,” he said, “a long one and a short one. In view of the lateness of the hour I will give you the short one.”

There was an appreciative ripple of applause.

“Thank you,” said the award winner, and sat down.

The master of ceremonies was a bit taken aback and insisted that the man to give the longer speech as well.

Reluctantly the man rose to his feet again to give the longer speech.

“Thank you very much,” he said, and sat down again to tumultuous applause.

Tomorrow comes a day early

It’s highly unlikely that I will have much time to blog tomorrow, so I am offering some bloggerel today so that you can read something tomorrow if you visit the site and want some bloggage.

Of course by then I will have written this yesterday. And it will be today. Unless of course you are reading this on another occasion altogether: in which case you will have to imagine I wrote this the night before the day you are reading this.

Confused yet?

Time is something we’d all like more of. Time with someone. Time to complete a task. Time to relax. Before I sound too much like Ecclesiastes I will simply offer you this observation – God has given you all the time you need to do what he wants. What you do with that time is up to you.

Use that time wisely. Nobody on their death bed says, “I wish I had spent more time at work.”

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

switching off

power buttonTechnically today is a day off. But that does not stop me trying to be a good free sample of Jesus, nor does it stop me caring about the people I am pastoring. It’s difficult to switch off.

Today I have watched Dr Who from last Saturday. OOOH, that was good!

I tried watching some American Football I recorded from the middle of last night (you can fast forward through the breaks and it doesn’t last half as long). But I dropped off, so decided not to bother watching the rest.

I tried writing some more of my novel, but using the Windows 7 voice recognition software. That ended up being frustrating because it did not recognise my voice in the real world half as well as it did in the training session… but then in the training session IT was telling ME what to say, so it knew what I was going to say before I said it. The software is not so intuitive when writing a book!

And I went off to the golf driving range and whacked 100 balls. Some of them even went in the right direction for the right distance. If only I could predict which ones it would be…

As well as doing some clothes washing, preparing tea (toad in the hole in one – stray golf ball) I have managed to keep my mind occupied. But when I pause I think about people in the church in need of prayer or support, those visits I need to get around to, next Sunday’s services and the ideas I had which I have now forgotten, and so on.

A friend is having almost the opposite experience. He is undergoing some tests this week (medical, not academic) that will require lots of sitting and lying around. He asked me to suggest some Bible passages on which he could meditate while the tests were ongoing – something spiritual to take his mind off the tests!

I guess the problem for all of us is that there should be no line between our life and faith. Our work is our worship. If we are as integrated as Jesus, our activity is all for God, whether it is putting clothes in a washing machine, whacking golf balls, working behind a desk or a counter or even sitting with tubes sticking out of us. That is (I hope) why many of these bloggages are based on my reflecting on my life. I am trying to look for evidence that God is at work in me as I am at work for him.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

For Nellie’s oldest employee:

In the hospital, the relatives gathered in the waiting room, where a family member lay gravely ill. Finally, the doctor came in looking tired and sombre.

“I’m afraid I’m the bearer of bad news” he said as he surveyed the worried faces.

“The only hope left for your loved one at this time is a brain transplant. It’s an experimental procedure, quite risky, and you’ll have to pay for the brain yourselves.”

The family members sat silent as they absorbed the news. At length, someone asked, “Well, how much does a brain cost?”

The doctor quickly responded, “A female brain goes for £20,000. A male brain costs £50,000.”

The moment turned awkward. Men in the room tried not to smile, avoiding eye contact with the women, but some actually smirked.

A girl, unable to control her curiosity, blurted out the question everyone wanted to ask, “Why does the male brain cost so much more?”

The doctor smiled at her childish innocence and then said to the entire group,”It’s a standard pricing procedure. We mark the female brains down because they’re used.”

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