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Crazy Love

Kid’s they spend your money, scream at you and lie to your face. You have to clean up their rooms and bodily secretions! You experience tiredness like you never knew, which doesnt help you not to slipp into shouting at them on a line from time to time to all of the time.

Yet, there is no question that you would give your last breath or go without that new item of clothing or shiny piece of technology because of how much you love with your children.

Isn’t it strange how just one kiss, one hug, one “thank you mummy or daddy” immediately transports you to a universe full of proud parent moments, which obscure and blots out the ruggedness or rudeness of day to day parenting?

God is clever with this parenting stuff, they look like us, so we see ourselves in them, and the author of love gives us this great bond of love that is both an embrace and protective shield.

However for some kids they don’t get that bond, that protection, they don’t feel it’s warmth or safety. Perhaps it’s not surprising that understanding God as love, or even as a parent, is near impossible for these little ones because for them that parental relationship has been so disfigured.

A parents love is the closest I have come to understanding Gods unconditional love. A love that takes our our arrogant presumptions that we know all that there is to know about God.

I used to see Gods unconditional love in the forgiveness I receive when I mess things up, but now to my surprise and delight I see it also in my interrelationship with my kids.

Everyones Got secrets

The hidden torment of mental health issues in society is rightly being highlighted, and beginning to be de-stigmatised, which clearly is great and about time.

Though it might just be me, but I find myself wondering sometimes, as someone who has their own mental health issues. That does the reporting of the ‘hiddenness of depression’ actually do the sufferer and society a disservice and become a hindrance rather than a help?

Firstly I believe you can tell if you know people well enough, that something might not be  right. It may take you a bit of time, but open your eyes, get to know the people around you ask God to help you.

Secondly, I sometimes wonder if the “not being able to tell someone has depression” monologue, actually lets so called “healthy” people off the hook from being decent humans. Such meeting the stranger or acquaintance with compassion, rather than disdain, love instead of neglect, welcome instead of suspicion, acceptance rather than impatience, interest rather than prejudice.

Thirdly I would like to live in a society where at one level it didn’t matter, what I had or didn’t have going on inside of me, or indeed other people for that matter. That I was evolved enough to know when I have gone too far and make repatriation, or when I needed to step away and take a few deep breaths and for that to be ok. I believe there are places in society that can a place of acceptance of where people are at, understanding and tolerance and actually embody the love your neighbour stuff that Jesus spoke off.

We are surrounded by the hiddenness of peoples inner lives, pregnancy, love, joy, and yes all the other things that surround the dreaded term mental health issues. But we all have mental health, some days that health is good others perhaps not. Just like our physical health needs attention so does our mental health.

I am not trying to trivialise the issue but wherever you are reading this, take a moment to look around, because in this society, the change begins with you, I am not speaking about the big picture of what town you live in or country, but the part of community God has placed you in and with.

Finally many years ago I was walking through the high street of my then home town, and a stranger shouted at me, I didn’t hear her at first, but she repeated it. What she shouted was “hey, you have a lovely smile, so smile…” and you know I did, and  the person remains a stranger to me, but her words stayed with me. Be that person, try to bring out the best in others rather than the worst, recognise the need in others and help them, but first you need to open your eyes and make the first step. This is something I also need to do, so let’s all do act together as one.






Is Your Church Changing To Much?

Working with a range of ages, from the very young to the very old, it is interesting how attitudes to  new things change.

For children change is part of their existence and indeed survival, as they are propelled towards adulthood. They are constantly growing, developing physiologically, emotionally, and spiritually. Whether that’s losing teeth, growing out of shoes, taking on new responsibilities such as making themselves a cup of tea or walking to school.  Change for children can be nerve-wracking but also confidence building, as they are enabled to take increasing control of their lives so that they’re ready for adulthood!

Yet as adults some of us have slipped towards resisting change more than others whereas some of us are always excited by change, for others it breeds uncertainty and anxiety.

So we cling on to what we know, what we understand about God and church. Finding it difficult to be open to the possibility of thinking or doing differently. We may quote scripture that says God does not change. Certainly his love never changes for us, but God does not build a wall around his kingdom. It is an open gate, a low fence easily stepped over, there is welcome and fellowship for all who come, whoever you are and regardless of where you been.

God doesn’t change in all of the right ways, but steps into our journey, allowing us to change to become more like him, to see things differently to what they are.

Let’s not build walls around our hearts and churches, walls that keep everything just as it is on the other side. That protect those inside, from the ticking clock of time, so that everything remains just as they remembered it or just as it was when they first encountered Jesus.

Instead let us walk alongside the other, the outcast, those that don’t yet come.  Allow ourselves to be changed by that relationship in a way that allows us to speak the things of God into their reality. So we can build the kingdom, at their feet, rather than those of our own. In that way faith in the God who is and was and will always be can find new fertile soil in which to grow and flourish and become what the church needs to become and begin to look like.

I do not know what the church will look like in 20 years, but it needs to look different than it does now, for now we don’t see full churches, for now conversations about faith are rare. That needs to change. Perhaps today allow yourself to remove the walls around your heart and your church and allow the light to enter in, that we might have new vision and a new awareness of where God is leading us.

A Good Life For who? Prime Minister

During the election campaign we were told that the Conservative party would provide us the good life. Part of me is seduced by the election promise of wealth and materialistic ideals. Indeed our prime minister declared on election day that he will provide for us  “the good life“, of personal wealth, jobs, a funded NHS and so much more.

I have a nagging doubt however that the good life promised for most might come to actually look like the 1970s TV show of the same name, The Good Life! For those that don’t remember, the show centres around two families, Tom has become disenfranchised and disillusioned with his job as a draughtsman and decides to live self-sufficiently so that he can make ends meet. His wife Barbara is fully supportive of this. Their neighbours and good friends Margo and Jerry are a little horrified by what their neighbours and friends I doing! Tom and his wife turn their garden into a small holding, with pigs and chickens and enough methane to generate electricity!

The Good Life is of course a comedy, the good life offered in a recent general election is not comical that serious. More than likely David Cameron will bring the good life for some, for others of us we might need to learn to be more self-sufficient growing our own food so we don’t go hungry, making our own clothes, growing and slaughtering our own chickens, pigs and so on. contrastively for others like Jerry and Margo in the sitcom, the good life will be about financial independence, and live unaware of the cost of the so-called good life has on the many not just financially but psychology.

There is hope however, in the one that can calm the storm, who doesn’t make grandiose statements about a good life for all, but instead willingly goes to across, and steps out of the tomb, that the good life might be redefined, rather than based on economics, materialism and self-sufficiency. Instead built on the foundation of the kingdom of God that is timeless, where lost sheep are found, the sick healed, the bruised traveller is rescued, the widow finds her lost coin,  the farmer his treasure, were all people are valued because all people are made in the image of God.  

Jesus redefines our image of a good life, so the rather than being disappointed and perpetually disillusioned. There is a realism about the current state of things, and optimism that with Gods help and in his strength things can change. Because our focus rather than being on a good life for me we focus on a good life for others, that builds up, affirms, where all can reach there potential in God. 

Finally Mr Cameron’s Conservatives may only succeed setting up a tiered good life for all. Remember that wherever you are in life Jesus turns up regardless, whatever, wherever and however we are. Jesus offers us a different life one based on truth, integrity and love and thats a good life I can take hold of regardless of my financial, and materialistic position, after all is our spirituality that matters in the life after, not our wardrobe or bank balance.

Losing My Faith In Stone

If your faith is wrapped and rooted in the reassuring warmth of your denomination, then perhaps you should click away, I wouldn’t want you to get cold or be offended! Although you could just risk it and take a look just a few lines, after all where’s the harm in that! Alternatively if you are a little like me, not always finding the church an easy place to be! Then I warmly invite you to read on.

Dear reader For a moment would you imagine with me what it might be to lose your faith in the church. To shake off the shackles, to break out of the box that has become more like a cage. To live a life free and and unencumbered by a pastors theological and political bias, or a sense of loyalty to a bygone age. Instead my friends let us remember who it is all meant to be for.

Instead, believe beyond what church tells you, or what society considers our God might say on an array of subjects. Too often it is thought that the church just wants money, and on a recent carol singing trip people in the community found it difficult to comprehend, that we were not collecting for anything or anyone!

Churches tell us how to live, the type and style of our worship is predetermined for us. But it isn’t our worship it is Gods. All we do, all we sing, regardless of what song book, whether it’s projected on screen, whether our worship is informal or traditional. It is about connecting to the living God. My question is, does it?

In a recent conversation with a minister friend of mine, he asked whether I was a blue sky thinker! And I said yes and that can be a bit scary for some people! He smiled and nodded his agreement.

We are at a point in the life of the Church National and international if you’re in the northern hemisphere on earth, where churches on the whole are not growing or engaging in the making of disciples.

I would like us to discover for ourselves what it means to believe in God, just you and God, unhindered by religious expectation, unsanitised by liturgical poetry, unstructured by denominational pageantry!

Let us discover for ourselves once again why we follow Jesus, and may that self-discovery, that visceral encounter with the living God, redefine our church. Reshape our communities and renew our spirits.

An elderly man in one of my congregations, turned and told me in broad Scottish tones this week, how he had left the church, because he became aware that the people in power, were Methodists first and Christians second. He grinned at me and I grinned back because we understood each other. Our denomination is just where we hangout, or where God has put us. It shouldn’t be what we have faith in. For as certain as  Jesus is coming back, it is him that owns my soul not my denomination!

Finally there is hope within the walls of our structures, within the people that dwell there. People who want to take what is the best of what we have and reshape it, between the religious institution and the rest of society. Thusly building a bridge not where they walk over to us, but a place where we can both meet, and admire the view.

Its life Jim but not as we know it…

Christian mission has had negative connotations, I am sure you can think of a few, where the church has used inappropriate methods and terminology to “save the lost”!

But in recent years this has been changing, and no less this week with the Together Mission Project in the North East of England, which brought together many Methodist congregations, to not condemn people, or fit them into some pre-existing model, or manipulate some kind of fake christian response. Instead thorough their  action, the word mission has come to be synonymous with the servant heartedness of Jesus himself. Who served people, loved people, even took a towel wrapping it around his waist and washed the disciples feet days before his death.

The message of the gospel has not been dulled down or diluted but reshaped by a question and which demands a response. What is God doing in our community? Once we prayerfully figure that out, our response should be to get involved.

This week I have not seen mass conversions, or revival. But something even more exciting, the birth of faith, embryonic, fragile, so easily forgotten. The lyrics “its life Jim but not as we know it…” (star trekking song) perhaps is a good quote to end with, as it says something of what has begun here. Faith has been born in others not in our neat religious boxes but something new, but no less christ centred. And its alive, but not life in our current traditional model. Therefore God is calling is to respond in a new way.

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