one small voice

One of my guilty pleasures is supporting Ipswich Town Football Club. It’s good for humility and helps me learn to cope with disappointment. A couple of times a year I like to go to watch them at their home ground, and I like getting there early to watch the preparations for the match – watching the teams ‘warm up’ (if I had warmed up as vigorously as that before a match when I used to play I would have been worn out before we started); seeing the grounds staff set up sprinklers (secretly hoping to squirt one of the opposition players as they warm up – it happened once) and then sort out any rogue divots before the match starts; seeing the interaction between the Ipswich Town mascots (Bluey and Crazee (usually messing around too)) and the crowd; and generally soaking up the atmosphere.



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When you arrive early there are not many people in the stadium. If I tried shouting a football chant or cheering nobody outside the ground would hear me – very few people in the stadium would hear me, and those who did might move away a bit. But slowly the ground fills up and the noise level rises. Then, during the match, when the crowd chants together or cheers people a long way away from the ground will hear them. Indeed I have been told that when there were Sunday lunchtime matches a nearby church had to make sure they finished their services before the match started otherwise they would be drowned out by the crowd.

I was reminded of that this morning when I got an email. This is what it said:

Dear Nick Lear,

Parliament is going to debate the petition you signed – “Jeremy Hunt to resume meaningful contract negotiations with the BMA.”.

The debate is scheduled for 21 March 2016.

Once the debate has happened, we’ll email you a video and transcript.

The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament

On my own my voice would not have been heard. But when lots of people collectively gather together and raise their voice it can be heard and can make a difference. I think it’s part of what we call ‘democracy’. But if lots of small voices hadn’t spoken up nothing would have happened.

(I also wrote to my MP about the Refugee Crisis in Calais and got a letter back on official Houses of Parliament headed paper – but sadly it was a stock reply that didn’t answer any of the points I made. Still, at least my voice was raised and perhaps if lots of voices speak together someone might listen).

It’s funny how many Baptist churches think that they are democracies because they vote in Church Meetings. People think that it’s all about a majority of people getting their way. Yes, we believe that God speaks through a Church Meeting. Yes, one of the mechanisms for seeking to discern God’s voice is through voting. But it’s not a democracy because God doesn’t always speak through a majority. Part of the art of leading a church is to listen for God in the small voices as well as the loud ones. We also have to listen to him speaking through the unexpected, unanticipated person. We have to listen for him in the still small voice. And when we sense him speaking, it makes sense for us to stop and listen because he seems to enjoy speaking through the small, marginalised, apparently insignificant…

Consider Samuel hearing God speak when he was a small boy; Elijah in the cave sensing God in a gentle whisper rather than an earthquake, storm or wildfire; Mary the pregnant teenager; and of course the carpenter’s son from the back of beyond.

Your small voice can make a difference, and it might be that God is speaking through you. He might want you to join your small voice with others. So don’t be silent. And when lots of small voices join together sometimes the powerful stop and listen (which is a lesson to learn both if you are a small voice or if you are powerful).

Be blessed, be a blessing

getting trollied?

No, this is not a bloggage about drunkenness, although it begins with a confession:

I have trolley-lust. There’s something about trollies that I love. It may be that they are so simple, yet so useful (like me?). It may be that they are so mundane and ordinary that we take them for granted (like me?). It may be that they have been around almost as long as wheels have been put on axles (like… er no).

I have recently realised that not only do I like trollies a lot. I now need one. A while ago I did a magic show at Cafechurch in Bluewater Shopping Centre and carried the box of tricks (literally) all the way from my car to the Costa Coffee shop. And back. And afterwards I realised that I had hurt my back. I could have done with a trolley.

I have also recently bought a boat (see this bloggage) and have realised that I will need a trolley to help me convey it to the launch sites because it is so big and there’s kit to go with it.

So I have been looking into buying a trolley, guided by my wife Sally (the voice of wisdom). I really liked this trolley, which is on offer in Robert Dyas at the moment  thumbnail(click on pic for link). It’s big, got rugged wheels and looks like it means business. But the voice of wisdom asked if it wasn’t too big and bulky. Would I fit it into the back of my car for when I needed to transfer items from the car to another venue. She was right (as she usually is) and I have reluctantly agreed that this is not the trolley for me.

But this setback has not diminished my trolley-lust, nor has it made me think that I don’t need one. If anything it heightened my awareness of the need, especially as I have just agreed to do another magic show soon where I will need to lug boxes of tricks from the car. So I searched online for trollies and saw some spectacularly superlative trollies. I also understood more about them. The one pictured above is actually more of a cart than a trolley. And the sort of trolley with two handles, a scoop at the bottom and just two wheels is called a ‘sack trolley’. Who knew?

Hand TrolleyThen, just as I was despairing of ever finding the right trolley for me (budget, size and capability) I came across this one. It’s a sack trolley. But it also transforms into a cart!!! It combines the best of both worlds, and is small enough to load into my car along with the stuff that will need to be trolley-transported.

Do you want to see what it looks like as a cart?

I know you do really.

Here it is…Hand Trolley

Isn’t it magnificent? Just what is needed! And at the moment (May 2012) it’s on special offer!! Woooo Hoooo! [clicks and orders]. (If you want one too, click on the image above.)

I may be getting a bit carried away at the moment (really?) but I think there’s something even more exciting that may happen. You see because I ordered it online, it’s going to be delivered to our house. And what if (deep breath, calm down)… what if it’s transferred from the lorry to our house on another trolley?! That may be the ultimate in trolleyness.

Before you start sending the men in white coats around to our house (and bearing in mind they may strap me to a trolley, which would be self-defeating), I should try to get to the point of this bloggage.

Tucked away in the New Testament is a tiny little letter that Paul wrote to a friend called Philemon. It seems (from the back story) that Paul had met a runaway slave from Philemon’s household by the name of Onesimus. (Bear in mind that slavery in those days was commonplace and that there is a biblical injunction to treat them well – almost as employees). How Paul had met him we don’t know, but he had been helpful to Paul and had become a believer. Paul was sending him back to Philemon (where the law said he should be flogged, or worse, for running away) with this letter in which he asked Philemon to welcome him back as a brother in Christ.

Onesimus means ‘useful’. In the letter Paul makes a pun on this by saying that he had been useless to Philemon (perhaps he was a poor worker) but had become useful to him, and will be useful to Philemon.

The point of all this? The things and people we take for granted can all be useful to God (including us). What we may consider to be useless is useful in God’s eyes. Jesus took a bunch of ordinary people and transformed them into a new movement. He took a boat and turned it into a pulpit. He took a packed lunch and turned it into mass catering. He took bread and wine and turned them into an encounter with him. He took his own death and turned it into new life for all who love him.

Don’t write anyone or anything off. It’s all useful to God – even more useful than a trolley that converts into a cart.

Be blessed, be a blessing.