dustbin days

One of the things I remember from my days at Bible College is that it is important to have ‘dustbin days’ from time to time. These are days when you have a clear out. You sort through the pile that has overwhelmed your in-tray. You clear the stuff that has accumulated on your desk and remind yourself what colour the desk actually is. You throw out the bits and pieces that you have kept ‘because they might come in handy’. And you go through your email inbox and answer / delete the emails (my target is single figures).

I do this from time to time and find myself feeling quite virtuous afterwards. I cherish the tidy desk, the empty in-tray, the single-figure email inbox and the sense of order that accompany them.

2014-03-13 12.49.56Last time I did this I came across this object, which has sat on my desk for as long as I can remember. I had no recollection about its origin, but thought that it might have been something I had made on a retreat sometime. I didn’t use it, it was taking up space (not much, it’s 8cm in diameter) and it looked a bit shabby.

I picked it up and moved towards my rubbish bin, ready to dispose of this shabby unwanted piece of hardened clay and chipped paint. Just before I threw it away something prompted me to look underneath it. This is what I saw.2014-03-13 12.50.08

You may be able to make out the feint writing that is etched into the bottom of the clay. It says: “Thomas ’97”.

It had been made by my son at preschool. Suddenly this changed my perspective. Now it was something invaluable. Now it was impossible to throw away.

How often do we do that with people? How often do we judge people by outward appearances without looking deeper and seeing their true value. A person’s value is not determined by what they look like, their financial status, their health or any of the other shallow indicators that are used to define people in our culture. Their value is determined by who made them.

Sadly sometimes people have received the message from churches that we think everyone is a worthless sinner. Richard Dawkins recently posted a disingenuous piece of propaganda with a picture of a child holding a list that said that “According to religion I am broken, flawed, sinful, dumb, weak, nothing.” Have a look at Krish Kandiah’s response to this, which I think is brilliant.

You are someone who is ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ in the likeness of your Creator. You are someone whose is loved beyond all loves by your heavenly Father so much that he gave up Jesus so that whoever believes in him can inherit eternal life. You are brilliant. You are amazing. You are spectacular. You are unique.

And so is everyone else whom you will meet.

Let’s challenge the politics and politicians, the social trends and the economic structures that seek to discard anyone in the pursuit of tidiness, popularity or expediency.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Epiphanies

light on handAn epiphany is a sudden realisation or revelation about something. It comes from a New Testament Greek word that means ‘appearing’ or ‘manifestation’. It is also the name of a Christian feast day celebrated on the twelfth day after Christmas, traditionally linked to the visit of the wise men to the infant Jesus, but is more about recognising who Jesus is than about the wise men.

I had a bit of an epiphany today. I had a hospital appointment in London (follow up for the operation I had last year). I travelled in on the train and London Underground and arrived in time for the appointment. Surprisingly they were only running about 15 minutes late, and I went in to see the doctor aware that they wanted to check the wound site and how my cyber-brain gadget was working.

Two minutes later I was leaving the office having had a very brief visual check and asked if it was all okay (it is). I then had the return journey that was extended by having to travel on a specific train (in order to get a cheap ticket). All that travelling and time for just a couple of minutes? I could have sent a photo or done it by Skype and saved a lot of time, effort and money!

And as I grumped about it I had my epiphany. How did the wise men feel after they had travelled such a long way home again. They had found the baby in a modest house (not a stable if you read Matthew – presumably they moved out of the stable rather promptly!) rather than the royal palace from which they had been redirected? Did they wonder if the journey had been worth it? Did they wonder if they had got it wrong?

I suspect that they were nowhere near as grumpy as I was. They had been led by an astronomical anomaly. They had been redirected following a search of Hebrew Scriptures. The star had stopped above the right house. And then there was the dream that warned them to avoid Jerusalem on the way home. For them it had been worth it. They had risked their reputations, their finances (in travel costs and generous gifts) and their time (a very long journey!) to spend a few moments with a peasant family, but it was the highlight of their lives.

I am often humbled by people’s gratitude. Not because something I have done has been the highlight of their life (far from it!!!) but because God has used something apparently insignificant to bless them. In physical terms I may not have done anything remarkable, but somehow God has used a visit, a prayer, even a sermon, and blessed people out of proportion to my involvement. He does that, you know. He takes what we offer and feeds multitudes. He takes words and speaks through them. He takes a visit and encourages through it. He takes bread and wine and inspires and blesses.

And in case you are thinking it, this is NOT limited to Ministers. God uses all of us. That includes you. That’s probably not an epiphany for you, but it’s always good to be reminded! It’s worth the effort, and worth rejoicing about on the way home afterwards.

Be blessed, be a blessing.