punctured

Hello dear Bloggists, did you miss me? Did you even notice the lack of bloggages? A lot has happened in the past couple of weeks and some of those things may form the basis for some blogging in due course. In fact, the most recent incident got my blog juices flowing…

We were driving back from Devon (where we had been on a week’s holiday) yesterday, happily pootling along the motorway at 70mph (yes, I do stick to the speed limit). I had overtaken a vehicle and was pulling back into the inside lane when, as I went over a cat’s eye*, there was a loud bump. I wondered whether the cat’s eye was coming loose, and then a car that was coming past me beeped and the passenger pointed to my front tyre.

I pulled off the motorway and discovered that my tyre was completely flat. There had been no warning and my car’s steering didn’t feel any different. If the car had not beeped I may have carried on for a while longer. We called out a rescue truck because my car does not carry a spare tyre and waited on the hard shoulder of the motorway for an hour – even resorting to playing ‘I spy’.

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the view from behind the safety barrier

The truck arrived eventually and took us to a well-known speedy car tyre replacement emporium nearby. They had a bit of a queue so we went to get some lunch while we waited and eventually I got a call to say that actually both front tyres needed replacing and the tracking needed correcting on the car to get all the wheels pointing in the right direction.

When I got back to the tyre replacement emporium I asked if I could see the old tyres and was alarmed to see that the ‘puncture’ had been caused by the car tyre having worn out on the inside and the rubber had actually given way! The other tyre was similarly worn.

I do check my car tyres relatively regularly as I do a lot of driving and had no idea that this was happening. There looked like there was adequate tread on the tyre when I looked at it. However, because the wear was on the inside of the tyre it was not easy to spot unless the wheel was turned and (with hindsight) I realised that I used to check when the wheels were pointing straight ahead.

Do we cruise through life assuming that everything is okay when actually there is something important that needs attention? Do we think that everything is okay when actually our tyres are wearing dangerously thin on the inside? What about that neglected relationship? What about neglect of our own spirituality? What about that secret ‘sin’ that has stopped bothering us?

UK Cars have an annual Ministry of Transport Test (unless, like mine, they are less than 3 years old) that looks at all of the major (and minor) safety issues to ensure that the car is roadworthy which should pick up issues before they become serious problems: what’s the equivalent for us?

  • Going on a retreat can be a valuable experience to stop, pause, reflect and consider.
  • Of course it’s much better to be carrying out regular maintenance rather than leaving it to once a year: going to church can provide moments when we are more open to what God is saying to us.
  • Meeting with friends with whom we can be honest and whose wise counsel we trust is helpful.
  • Reading the Bible regularly is another way in which we make ourselves open to what God may be saying to us.
  • Not squashing that nagging little voice that is telling us that something’s not right is a good thing to do – it’s often God trying to get our attention.

I’m going to be checking my tyres all over much more regularly in future (personal and on my car). What about you?

Be blessed, be a blessing

*the guides embedded in the road, not a genuine feline eye attached to a moggy

under new management?

So I went into the garage and asked the man, “Have you got a fuel cap for my Skoda?”

And the man thought for a moment and said, “Sounds like a fair swap!”

I wonder if you’ve come across that joke before? Skoda cars used to be the butt of jokes that were based on their build quality, style, reliability, cheapness and so on. But nowadays these jokes are redundant. Skoda come top in surveys about customer satisfaction.

The reason is that they were taken over by Volkswagen about 20 years ago and have adopted their parent company’s values about style and quality. They have undergone a transformation since they became under new management.

Christians often describe ourselves as being under new management – followers of Jesus. But have we really adopted the new management’s values? Are we willing to be transformed? Can you imagine what would have happened to Skoda if they had refused to change?

(In case you are wondering, no I have not taken on a job as a Skoda salesperson. But I have joined the ranks of Skoda drivers… starting on Saturday.)

Be blessed, be a blessing

annoyed by automobile ablutionists

Car WashWhen I visit a local supermarket I am always approached (at least during daylight hours) by men asking me if I want my car washed. Now I know that my car always looks like it needs a wash, especially with all of the extra miles that I am doing now, but I feel a little resentful that they are always asking me the same question as soon as I get out of the car. I don’t want to be bothered by them.

You can tell that constantly being approached in this way bothers me because I have thought about how I can avoid it. I have wondered whether I should have a sign in the windscreen of the car (or written in the dirt) saying ‘I don’t want my car washed, thank you.’ Or perhaps I could seek out a section of the car park that is not frequented by these automobile ablutionists (but that would mean walking further to the supermarket). Or maybe I could walk to the shop or catch the bus (except it’s a bit far to carry the shopping home).

Or perhaps I could wash my car myself so it is obviously clean and shiny that they will know that there is no point in approaching me.

Today as I said, “No thanks” to the approach and walked towards the supermarket feeling resentful I had a moment of reflection on my attitude.

Why was I being resentful? It was because the approaches were frequent and unwanted. (Which might raise questions about how Christians share their faith…)

But was my resentment fair? These men are trying to earn a living. They are working in difficult conditions (it was bitterly cold this morning) and they are offering a service (albeit paid) to people to do something we’d rather not do ourselves (unless you are one of the Sunday Scrubbers and Shiners who takes particular pride in their car).

Whose interventions in your life do you resent? Is that resentment fair? And how can we turn the resentment into blessing?

Next time I go to the supermarket I am going to go to the café and get a takeaway cup of tea to give to the man who offers to clean my car, and if I have time I might even bless my car and the man by saying ‘yes’ to the car wash.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

MOTs and Posters – find a link if you can!

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Go on car, you can do it!

This morning I dropped my car off at a garage for its annual MOT test. I don’t think that there is anything major wrong with it, but I always leave it with a sense of apprehension in case there is something terminal or expensive hidden under the bodywork.

 

As I was walking home I noticed posters in peoples’ homes and cars supporting different political parties in the imminent elections (local and European). I wondered why people do that. Is it simply to declare their allegiance? Is it in the hope that if enough people do it for one party the resulting peer pressure will encourage others to vote the same way, or perhaps deter people who would support another candidate from bothering to vote because they don’t think they will make a difference? Are they hoping that the sight of a poster in a car in front of me will persuade me to vote that way? (And if so, why haven’t I heard more about the ‘Baby on Board’ party?)

It got me reflecting a little bit on how people perceive churches. Not the people, but the buildings. (Yes I know the church is the people, but we confusingly use the same word for our premises). Ours is currently clad in scaffolding as we have a new roof fitted. But it almost looks as if the building is being demolished. We have now put up a banner across the scaffolding that says ‘Welcome to Colchester Baptist Church’ to convey the message that we are still very much open for business. But ancient buildings (especially if in a state of disrepair) can convey a message.

And then there are the posters outside. I think that we churches may have cornered the market in cheese, for example: “CH–CH – what’s missing? UR”. But is it better that we have something outside the premises than nothing? It is certainly possible that God will use a poster to speak to someone, but I have not heard of it yet.

Do you advertise your weekly events? We have a list of the weekly activities in one of our notice boards at the front, which is changed weekly. We have also recently put a QR code* on it so that people can get linked directly to our website if the so choose.

And that then brings me to the virtual street front. Websites can attract or deter people. If they are visually unattractive or contain out of date information it conveys a different message to the well-designed and up to date website. I think our church’s website is rather good (have a look at it at www.colchesterbaptistchurch.org.uk). I know that we often have people come to our church because they found us on the internet. It does help that our website usually comes up first when you search for ‘Colchester church’ because two of the three parts of our name are in that search. If we slipped down the list I would be tempted to suggest that we change our name to ‘AAA Colchester Baptist Church’!

However, believe it or not, (and regular bloggists will believe it) I wasn’t going to write about how churches visually represent themselves. I was going to write a bloggage about the importance of regular maintenance for your car in order to keep it in good condition so it will sail through the MOT test. It is when a car is neglected that problems are more likely to get worse because they are not recognised and dealt with early. It is when a car is driven relentlessly and we don’t check the oil levels or other fluids that damage can occur to the engine.

And of course the same is true of our faith. If we take God for granted, if we neglect to feed on the Bible, if we don’t spend time in prayer, if we are not spending time being nourished in worship, if we are not taking care of our ‘soul’ we should not be surprised if God feels distant and our faith feels dry.

And that (tadaaa!) brings me to draw together the disparate threads of this bloggage and appear to be coherent. Because while the premises (physical and virtual) do speak about the church, it is of course the state of the church (ie the people) that will make most impact on those around us. Back to us being good free samples of Jesus I suppose.

Best not wait for an MOT to find out how we’re doing…

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*QR codes are those strange squares with a mixture of black and white blocks in them. They are a different sort of bar code – each one unique.

spot the difference

2014-03-17 12.41.15I recently needed to change the grille on the front of my car because of some damage to the badge. Actually the badge conceals the access to the mechanism to open the bonnet (hood if you are from across the Atlantic) using the key.

20140327_121204The one at the top of the page is ‘before’ and the one below is ‘after’. Is it just my imagination or does the car look a bit meaner with the black surround to the grille? Is it my imagination or did it take longer for a kind person to let me out when turning onto the main road this morning and is that linked to the meaner look of the car?

We have mixed messages about how something looks: we say that ‘looks can be deceiving’ and ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’ yet we also say that ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’ and ‘beauty is only skin deep’ (although it is also in the eye of the beholder!).

I was watching a TV show recently where someone was commended for how good he looked while in his late 50s. He commented that one reason was that he had a full head of hair. “Hmmm,” thought I, “God gave some people beautiful heads, the rest he had to give hair.” Yet not long afterwards some young people at our church youth club were adding 10 years to my age because I am bald (and understandably taking 10 years off my wife’s age – she loved it!)

If we are honest we often do judge books by their covers. We may choose not to explore a website because it looks rather lame, or prefer one program over another one because it has a cool interface. We may judge someone by the way that they look – I was often told as a child not to worry but I wasn’t worried, it was just the way I looked. We may think that someone is aloof or disinterested because they don’t look at us and smile, not aware of the 101 things on their mind that distracted them. We may think someone is laughing at us when they are actually laughing at a joke someone told them before they saw us.

Thankfully God is not superficial. He knows what we are really like. And he loves us anyway! He knows what we are really like and he wants to enhance the good and diminish the bad.

So, next time you see a car that looks mean, don’t assume that the driver is mean and let them out. And next time you are tempted to judge by appearances, remember that God’s looking way beneath the surface!

Be blessed, be a blessing