water works

Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

The evening service was about to begin. There was a good number of people in the church, many of them there because the young people were going to be leading the service. This was a service that the young people had put together with their leaders so as the Youth Minister I was there with a sense of pride and anticipation.

A hush descended and the service began. One of the young people came onto the stage and it became clear that she was acting out being in a bathroom at someone else’s house. There was a bathroom cabinet there and she was clearly tempted to open it and have a look, but resisted.

Then she proceeded to mime sitting down on the toilet (using a chair, thankfully). “Okaaaay…” I thought, “I wonder where this is going.”

Then the sound effects started.

Water was poured into a bucket and this was amplified through the sound system. I could see a number of the older folk present tense up and I could see others visibly agitated. The water pouring finished and (I think) there was a flushing sound.

Then the young person could not resist the temptation to open the cabinet and when she opened it a whole load of polystyrene packing balls streamed out.

The theme of the service was ‘temptation’. But I have a feeling that the theme is not the thing that most people remembered. I was reminded of this just now when I was pouring out a glass of water. And I confess that I chuckled to myself. I chuckled because I remember being torn at the time about whether it was appropriate, especially with the sound effects, based on the reactions of some and at the same time wanting to applaud the imagination and creativity of the young people involved.

I thought about writing about it on this blog (which I am doing) and I chuckled to myself again because I know that some of the (formerly) young people who would have been involved in that service read my bloggages and will be reading this. I wonder how they’re feeling as they read this?

I am feeling an immense sense of pride and joy. It’s because so many of these (formerly) young people are still strong in their faith and I played a little part in that. It’s because so many of these (formerly) young people still want to be known as my friends 20+ years later. It’s because I can see how God has been and is at work in their lives. Some of them are even in leadership roles in churches that I serve.

What positive part have you played in the life of others? How have others been blessed by you? Be encouraged.

How about thanking some of the people who have played a positive part in your life?

Be blessed, be a blessing

links to a narticle wot I roted

A while ago I was asked to write an article for the Baptist Union magazine Baptists Together. They were putting together an edition about children, young people and families and asked me to write something a little bit provocative. So I did.
That magazine has now been circulated around Baptist Churches and you can download a PDF version of the magazine here. There are lots of excellent articles in it on the wider subject of church for all… and there’s my article too! The article has also been published in a shortened form by ethicsdaily.com and you can see part one here if you are interested.

Be blessed, be a blessing

the wisdom of youth

In my daily reading from Wordlive we were looking at one of Job’s friends, Elihu. He is the youngest of Job’s so-called comforters and can’t believe the poor quality of advice Job has received from the older friends. He has been sitting patiently and quietly – listening respectfully – until he can keep quiet no longer:

9 It is not only the old who are wise,
not only the aged who understand what is right.

10 “Therefore I say: Listen to me;
I too will tell you what I know.

11 I waited while you spoke,
I listened to your reasoning;
while you were searching for words,

12 I gave you my full attention.
But not one of you has proved Job wrong;
none of you has answered his arguments.

13 Do not say, ‘We have found wisdom;
let God refute him, not a mere mortal.’

14 But Job has not marshaled his words against me,
and I will not answer him with your arguments.

15 “They are dismayed and have no more to say;
words have failed them.

16 Must I wait, now that they are silent,
now that they stand there with no reply?

17 I too will have my say;
I too will tell what I know.

18 For I am full of words,
and the spirit within me compels me;

19 inside I am like bottled-up wine,
like new wineskins ready to burst. (Job 32)

Several thoughts jumped off the page at me. One is a reminder that we need to listen to young people as much as to old people. In church it seems that (wrongly) old age counts more than young age.

I can remember the first church meeting I ever attended where there was a serious discussion about membership criteria. It seemed from the comments people were making that the church was leaning towards a more open membership stance. Until, that is, one of the oldest members in the church stood up and gave an impassioned ‘over my dead body’ type speech. Suddenly the mood in the meeting changed and nobody spoke to contradict him after that and the changes were not made.

On the other hand, at the first church where I was a minister some of the young people who were members wanted to remove the arbitrary age limit that was placed on voting in church meetings. I encouraged them to speak for themselves, to share their heart and speak about young people in the Bible through whom God spoke and acted. The initial opposition melted away in the face of their passionate, articulate presentation and the rule was changed almost unanimously.

The second thing that struck me from Elihu was his phrase about being like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins about to burst (a bit like when you put Mentos in Coke – see this link for an example). Jesus used the same image to describe how you can’t contain the new relationship with God that he had come to offer to the world in the old structures of Judaism. New wine was placed in new leather ‘bottles’ that were pliable and could expand as the wine continued to ferment. They would expand to bursting point.

I am challenged to consider whether I am bursting to tell people about Jesus and the new relationship with God that he offers. Or am I content to leave that to those who are more gifted, more extrovert, more confident, more enthusiastic?

I don’t remember Jesus placing caveats on ‘go’ (Matt. 28:19).

Please God, fill me with your Spirit until I am about to burst…

Be blessed, be a blessing.

reminiscing

When I was little we lived in North Devon. My Dad was Headmaster of a nearby village school in Highampton and we lived in a (rented) thatched cottage on the outskirts of a village called Sheepwash. No, it’s not a made up name. It’s a lovely picturesque village that has often been used as the backdrop for TV dramas set in the countryside.

I googled Sheepwash in order to find a photo for you and was doubly astonished. Firstly there’s a second Sheepwash – in Yorkshire. Don’t confuse them. Secondly, the house in which we used to live is now set up with a converted barn for holiday lets. The photo here is of the cottage in which we used to live!

Aaah. Nostalgia.

My memories of that part of my life are pretty hazy. I was only a toddler, after all. I have been told that I swore. My sister had been told off for saying something she had heard (rhymes with ‘rugger’). She had found me in my cot and had taught me the new word. Mum and Dad found her saying, “What is it I mustn’t say?” and me bouncing up and down in my cot repeating the word enthusiastically!

I do remember Mr Trace, though. He was the local farmer from whom we rented the cottage and he semi-adopted me. He used to call me ‘McTavish’ for some reason I have never discovered. I couldn’t say that so would call myself ‘Tabish’. I used to accompany Mr Trace around his farm in his Landrover. I also used to ‘help’ him on the farm.

He had chicken sheds and I would help him muck them out. I had a little blue tricycle with a red trailer and would pedal around to where he was shovelling. He would put a shovelful of ‘muck’ in the trailer and I would pedal around to the pile, empty out the trailer and then head back for more.

I used to accompany him to market on occasions – at Black Torrington. It seems that each time I went I would come back with a new toy tractor. Tractors were (and still are) cool. I would spend hours lying on my side ‘brumming’ the tractors back and forth until I wore them out.

I have been told that I also caused trouble. On one occasion Mr Trace left me in the cab of his Landrover while he went to check something and when he came back he could see two chubby little legs sticking up. I had managed to slide head-first through the steering wheel and got myself stuck. On another occasion I apparently shorted out the Landrover by sticking my fingers in the socket for power tools.

Why all the reminiscing? I am not sure what triggered it, but I do know that I treasure that time with Mr Trace. He was so kind, patient, generous and I looked up to him (literally and figuratively). He was a significant person in my formative years. I am sure he did not think of himself in that way. I am sure he just thought of himself as an ordinary man.

We have the privilege of being able to do that too. Not only for children and young people, although that is a massive privilege and responsibility. But for those who are young in the faith. Whether we like it or not, whether we realise it or not, other believers are looking at us and basing their experience and image of Jesus on us.

They need our patience when they make mistakes. They need our encouragement. They need opportunities to use the gifts that they have and grow in their faith. We all need to be able to look at our fellow followers of Jesus and see glimpses of him to we can seek to emulate.

Be blessed. Be a blessing.