And… relax?

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The last few days have been unbelievably busy. I think I met myself coming in the opposite direction!
I am not complaining- just observing. And perhaps putting a little disclaimer out there to explain why I have not responded to emails or phone messages yet. I will get around to it!
The problem with busyness is that it can become an excuse for sloth. Yes, really. Being busy can mask a lazy attitude because we justify not doing things by virtue of the lack of available time (and maybe post bloggages about how busy we are!). We can hide behind a full diary.
I think that’s why it’s important to put space into your diary too. Space to think. Space to reflect. Space to deal with the requests for your time and attention. Space to put things in God’s perspective.
Jesus often took time out when he was busiest. Re-creation is built into the fabric of the planet’s yearly cycle (autumn and winter).
So why do I think I know better?
Be blessed, be a blessing.

almost done

Following last week’s Work In Progress bloggage I have a progress update. The renovation of my little car is almost done. What do you think? It has gone from this

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To this

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It may look finished but there is an important detail that has yet to be done. When I was disassembling the car prior to taking all the paint off and respraying it I had to drill out the rivet that Corgi used to hold the car together. I now need to find a way of holding the car together and ideally put a fake rivet head onto the car. And to complete the picture I have put a replica box on my Christmas list.

I am very pleased with the progress, but there’s more to be done.

I would like to think that’s how God views me. Certainly anyone who is tempted to think that they or anyone else is the finished product had better realise that underneath the glossy facade we all try to present there’s still more work to be done! That is the same for everyone, which is a good reason never to put anyone on a pedestal. 🙂

Be blessed, be a blessing.

work in progress

When I was a little boy I was given lots of toy cars. I loved toy cars. I would lie on my side with a car in my hand, get my face right down low so my eyes were really at ground level, and then spend ages pushing the car around so I could see how realistic it looked. I would line them all up in different orders (colour, size and so on). And when my dad built me a wooden multi-storey car park I was ecstatic. It had a lift that you wound up and down, three levels, ramps between the levels and lots of things you would find on one of the plastic ones you can buy nowadays. I loved it and used it until I wore it out.

I don’t remember all the toy cars I had (although I do remember having a surfeit of tractors – but that’s another story!). But I do remember one in particular. It was a Corgi Whizzwheels Tour de France Manager’s Car. It was the fastest car I had and I thought it was brilliant. I took it to school with me one day because I was proud of it and during lunch time my friends and I took turns in whizzing it across the playground. It had never had such an open space on which to be whizzed and it shot across the playground at record speed. But every so often it would hit a stone or a wall and crash. By the end of the lunch hour its lovely bright red paintwork was badly scuffed, the plastic windows were broken, there were dents in the bodywork and the wheels looked worn out. What I had once cherished was badly damaged and although I was sad about it at the time I don’t remember being too upset. But the car got consigned to the bottom of my car tin and never saw the light of day again – up to the day when it was thrown out because it was so badly damaged.

Somehow I never forgot that car and a year or so ago I remembered it and wondered if I might find one on a popular online auction site. So I went online and searched for it. I was delighted when a few hits came up and when I clicked on them I was presented with pristine versions of my beloved car. I then looked at the prices. The minimum price was ÂŁ100, and if you wanted one ‘mint in box’ you were looking at ÂŁ200+. I couldn’t believe it. My first thought was regret: “Why didn’t I keep it in its box?” and then sadness: “I can never afford one of those.”

So I didn’t bid on any of them. But one of the things that popular auction website does is remember when you have searched for something and it keeps offering you similar items. A couple of months ago it offered me a scratched, damaged Corgi Whizzwheels Tour de France Manager’s Car. It was not being bid on so I put in a low bid and waited. I watched and waited. I grew anxious and excited as I watched and waited and the time for the auction drew near. I was still the winning bid with a couple of minutes to go.

The tension was quite palpable.

The timer counted down. And then at the last minute someone else outbid me and I lost the car. I was really disappointed. But I resolved to keep checking to see if similar cars turned up. A month ago another one did. I put in a similar bid to the previous time and tried to be relaxed and nonchalant about it. If I didn’t win I was not going to worry.

The timer ticked down but I didn’t check it.

I waited, not daring to look, and when I checked at the end of the auction I had won! I was thrilled. A few days later the car arrived and I held one in my hands again after all those years. It was a special moment. Then I looked at the damage. The paintwork was scratched. The stickers on it were in pieces. The plastic front bumper was scratched and a bit was missing. The wheels had seen better days. And the aerial on the top was missing. This is the car as it arrived. 

I resolved that I would restore it. I took it under my coat to a car spares shop in town and surreptitiously held it up against the cans of car paint to find the best match for the red paintwork. I looked online and found places that sold replacement stickers and new windscreens. And I started the process of restoring it.

I dismantled the car and took it back to its component pieces. I stripped the paint off and re-sprayed the bodywork. I cleaned up the grubby bits of plastic. I bought some plastic filler and re-built the front bumper. I found some chrome paint and repainted the bumper. I even rebuilt the aerial.

I haven’t finished yet. I still have to finish the wheels, repaint the underside, paint the aerial and put the stickers on it. But it is getting there. Soon it will be finished. I will post a picture of the finished car when I do. I hope the car feels cherished.

The reflection today is probably one you’ve already considered. God is far more passionate about us than I am about my little car. He has paid a priceless price for us in Jesus. And he wants to restore us by the work of his Spirit in us – changing us slowly to become what he created us to be. I hope you feel cherished and special. And we should all realised that God hasn’t finished the restoration process for any of us yet, so let’s be patient with one another.

Be blessed, be a blessing

time travel

Time FliesWe human beings are obsessed with time. Our lives are shaped by the rudimentary 24 hour clock which God built into the solar system: the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. With the advent of timepieces (sundials giving way to clocks and watches) we have been able to be more precise about timing (admittedly sundials are less useful in cloudy / rainy countries and at night).

So phrases like ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ have become everyday expressions, reflecting the reality that when we are enjoying ourselves (or just busy) we are less conscious of the passage of time. We know too that when we are bored time seems to stand still. We know that ‘time is money’ and that a ‘stitch in time saves nine’…

Time travel has been an idea with which fiction writers and film makers have played, and it fascinates us because our experience of time is exclusively unidirectionally linear. It goes in one direction. The ‘what if’ of time travel is exciting because it breaks one of the most fundamental rules of our existence.

If you could travel in time what would you want to see? Where would you want to go? One of the apparently fundamental rules of time travel (especially if you go backwards) is that you don’t change anything. If you change something you may change an event that significantly alters our present reality – so in ‘Back to the Future’ Marty McFly inadvertently stops his mother meeting his father and falling in love, and so his own existence is threatened.

If you could go back in time and change something, what would you change? What would you do differently? There is no guarantee that the change you make or the different action would result in a better outcome than the one you have experienced. Wishful thinking, regrets, ‘if only’, and similar thoughts often reflect that things have not turned out as well as we had hoped: we rarely think that we would like to be able to go back and change something that worked out well!

We can’t turn back time. This side of death we are stuck in our unidirectionally linear existence. But God can redeem our failure. He doesn’t change what happened, but he can transform how we feel about the past and the present as well as the future. Grace, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace are all gifts that he longs to give us. It’s not always easy. I don’t pretend that these things instantly change our reality. They are gifts that sometimes we have to receive over time and with much prayer. Sometimes we need other people to help us to receive them. But they are possible.

When Peter realised he had denied knowing Jesus in the courtyard outside his trial he ‘went out and wept bitterly’. I love the way Jesus restored him (John 21 if you want to have a look). He did not change the past but he offered forgiveness, restoration, a hope and a future.

Because Jesus is risen from the dead the Christian faith is an optimistic faith. You cannot change the past, but he can change the way that the past affects your present and your future. He is in the business of giving fresh starts. There is no mess that God cannot sort out if we allow him to. There is no sin he cannot forgive if we ask him. There is nothing that can separate us from his love.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

je ne regrette rien

We are following a series of sermons at our church at the moment: ‘Living life in all its fullness’. On Sunday morning we will be looking at ‘Living without regret’. It’s a theme that seemed important when I prepared the series. In preparation I have been wrestling with Peter after he had denied knowing Jesus. Or more accurately I have been wrestling with the passages about Peter.

I remembered that I had reflected on this before, and it had motivated me to write two pomes. They are in the ‘pomes’ section of the blog, under Bible, but I reproduce them here to save you from clicking.

I hate mornings.
I hate the sounds of life carrying on.
I hate the normality of it all.
It’s the end of my world and no-one has noticed.
And most of all I hate the sound
of that
damned
wretched
cockerel.
© 1995 Nick Lear

If only
I’d kept my mouth shut – making promises he knew I wouldn’t keep.
If only
I’d kept my eyes open – instead of falling asleep.
If only
I’d kept my mouth shut – when they
accused me.
If only
I could stop the tears from flowing.
© 1995 Nick Lear

 

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Regret is not a bad thing. It is the beginning of repentance, restoration and renewal so long as we move on from regret. Peter’s regret was transformed by his encounter with the risen Jesus. It may seem naive and stating as I am about to will appear simplistic for anyone who lives in the shadow of deep regret, but I believe that the same is true for us today. Because Jesus is alive, the past can be forgiven, there is a mandate to live for today and we have a hope for the future. Peter found forgiveness, a mandate and hope after a cooked breakfast on the beach at Galilee.

The experience of this may be a process rather than an event, but it is part of living life in all its fullness as followers of Jesus.

Be blessed, be a blessing.