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

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.”

going, going…

 Happy New Week!

Work has begun today on removing the pulpit from our church and reconstructing the platform so it is solid and we won’t fall through it. This is part of a project that we believe will make it easier for people to see what is going on at the front of the church, including a video camera that will show what is happening on strategically placed screens. I am wondering if it is possible to show people who are asleep, doodling, chatting or eating sweets – it might make for some interesting Youtube clips!

While removing the pulpit our lovely friends at Nelson Woodcraft found three time capsules under the floor. When I first heard that I was intrigued. I thought it would be really interesting to see what people from hundreds of years ago had put in a time capsule for us to discover.

However the capsules were only put there in 2000, and have labels on them asking people not to open them until 2100AD. Ah. there is still a temptation to explore them and then replace everything, but I have not given it to that. They will be kept safe during the work and then carefully replaced to wait another 89 years. I hope that in 2100 someone does realise that they are there, and that the contents (whatever they are) will be interesting, give an insight into the life of people in our church in 2000, and might also make them smile.

I am assuming that in the capsules are some books, photographs and descriptions of life in Colchester in 2000. I wonder if those who open the capsules will giggle that we used books rather than have everything displayed electronically on our clothes? Will they laugh at photographs that are printed on paper rather than holographic 3D projections with which we can interact? Will they snigger at the idea that we drive cars rather than fly around in personal rocket packs?

Or would they laugh at those thoughts? Will books still survive? Will we still print out photographs? Will we still be earthbound in our personal transportation?

I hope and pray that there will be some things the same. I hope and pray that the Bible is as important to them as it is to us (in whatever format they read it). I hope and pray that they will still interact with God in prayer. I hope and pray that God’s Spirit will still move and inspire them. Most of all I hope and pray that the good news of Jesus will have flourished in the town and in the country. Of course if that is to happen, it needs to start now. With me. With us. With our own personal renovation.

Two carpenters were working on a house. The one who was nailing down siding would reach into his nail pouch, pull out a nail and either toss it over his shoulder or nail it in.

The other, figuring this was worth looking into, asked, “Why are you throwing those nails away?”

The first explained, “If I pull a nail out of my pouch and it’s pointed toward me, I throw it away ’cause it’s defective. If it’s pointed toward the house, then I nail it in!”

The second carpenter got completely upset and yelled, “You moron! The nails pointed toward you aren’t defective! They’re for the other side of the house!”

Bob is contagious

My car is called ‘Shrek’. That is because when you look at its shadow when the sun is behind you the sticky-out wing mirrors and bulky body shell make it look like the animated character Shrek’s head. The observant among you will have noticed that while the car in the picture bears a strong resemblance to Shrek (my car not the animated character) there is a fundamental difference. Can you spot it for 100 points?

Sadly Shrek has been poorly. He caught the automotive version of Bob (see ‘Side efftects’ blog last week if you don’t understand that reference) and has been coughing and spluttering since. He had a service last week (after he had caught autoBob) and they did lots of lovely things to it to help Shrek run better. But they did not cure Shrek of autoBob. After the service, when he was running smoothly he sounded really happy that he had had a service. But then from time to time he coughed and spluttered again, sounding like a VW camper van rather than a well-tuned Renault.

Today the mechanics cured Shrek of autoBob. Apparently one or two of the ignition coils were failing. They replaced all of them (on the basis that if one or two were failing the others would go soon). I am hoping now that the car is happy and will not suffer any further complications from autoBob, or side effects from the treatment. (What is the automotive equivalent of Black Hairy Tongue? Suggestions welcome!).

Illness is a strange thing, robbing us of our normal ‘joie de vivre’, that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that we have when we feel healthy… and speaking French apparently. I think that there are times when we suffer from the spiritual equivalent of Bob or autoBob. Following Jesus becomes more of a struggle than a joy and we find that our spiritual get up and go has got up and gone.

I have found that when I become aware that this is what has happened to me God helps me to recover – usually through a combination of being refreshed by taking time and space to read the Bible and pray, listening to (and sometimes singing along with) inspiring music and receiving encouragement and blessing from the ministry of others. The key thing is to realise that we have caught GodBob. How are you feeling?

Car-related humour. Genuine statements written on insurance claim forms, sent to me by a friend in the industry:

“The car in front hit the pedestrian but he got up so I hit him again.”
“I started to slow down but the traffic was more stationary than I thought.”

“A car drove away at speed catching our client who went up in the air and his head went through the windscreen and then rolled off at the traffic lights a good few feet away. The car then sped off and miraculously our client remained conscious and managed to cross the road.”

“I am responsible for the accident as I was miles away at the time.”

“I had one eye on a parked car, another on approaching lorries, and another on the woman behind”.

“I knew the dog was possessive about the car but I would not have asked her to drive it if I had thought there was any risk.”

“While proceeding through ‘Monkey Jungle’, the vehicle was enveloped by small fat brown grinning monkeys. Number three fat brown monkey (with buck teeth) proceeded to swing in an anticlockwise direction on the radio aerial. Repeated requests to desist were ignored. Approximately 2 minutes and 43 seconds later, small fat brown monkey disappeared in ‘Monkey Jungle’ clutching radio aerial.”

“I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in- law and headed over the embankment.”

“To avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front I struck the pedestrian.”

“I was thrown from the car as it left the road. I was later found in a ditch by some stray cows.”

A customer collided with a cow. The questions and answers on the claim form were:
Q – What warning was given by you?
A – Horn
Q – What warning was given by the other party?
A – Moo


Behind the blog

I have had many people comment to me about this blog. Not this blog entry, obviously, because it has not been seen by anyone yet and is in the process of being created. The comments are about my blogsite. What intrigues me is that most of them are along the lines of: “I’m amazed you have the time!” not “I have enjoyed the blog entries,” or, “I have found the blogs helpful.”

Now I am NOT trawling for compliments here. My point is that I am fascinated that people wonder how I find the time to write these blogs. What is behind the question?

Some people may think that this is a waste of my time and I should be getting on with more important things.

Others may be under the delusion that I spend hours contemplating and compiling the blog entries rather than simply vomiting out thoughts through my fingers onto the computer. (Sorry for the use of the word ‘vomiting’. Aargh, I just used it again. Sorry. I seem to have digital diarrhoea. Now I have used the word ‘diarrhoea’! Twice. Better stop this parenthesis and get back to the main point.)

It may be that some people think that the blogs are irreverent or irrelevant.

All of the above may be true, and there may be other motivations behind the comments. The reality is that I find that blogging is a useful part of my daily reflections. It forces me to stop and think for a short while (it really doesn’t take me that long to write them – I am surprised that is not obvious). It enables me to make some space and think about what is happening in my life and to listen to see if God is saying anything to me through the noise and busy-ness. And just occasionally I hear from someone who has been helped by a blog what I wrote.

So, please do not fret, dear blog reader. Listening for God’s voice is the most important thing any of us can do. I don’t spend all day creating these blog entries (but am trying to spend my day listening out for God – in my thoughts, other people, circumstances, events, and of course the Bible). And while the entries may be irreverent sometimes I am pleased that just occasionally someone finds them to be relevant – a bit like my sermons!

And now, a blog joke:

A man was driving recklessly up a steep, narrow logging track in his open top sports car. As he went around a sharp bend he swerved to avoid a woman coming down the track on a mountain bike.

The woman screamed at him: “Pig!”

“Cow!” bellowed the man back at her.

As he continued around the corner he crashed into a pig.

OK, it was a joke about logs not blogs.

OK, OK it was a joke about traffic and sexism that mentioned a logging track.

You try and find a good joke about blogs.