Tag Archives: life

Fact: You’re Inspirational.

Upon hearing the words you can be inspirational, I find my inner monologue quickly replies “Don’t be so stupid, how can you be inspirational?” 

My inner monologue tends to be quite direct!! It would continue to remind me, that if I lived in the world of superheroes, or a galaxy far far away, or how if i had a great skill, intellect or strength, than that would increase my chances of being inspiring.

Therein is the mistake, how we define inspiration can be too often fantasy, the stuff of fables and legends and unachievable. 

So we could simply acknowledge that inspirational events are only in the movies or on TV which is fine. Until it’s not! Inspiring others is deeply hard wired into us, we may not even notice it. For what inspiration looks like is as different as the grains of sand on a beach or our finger print. 

It maybe someone has told you, how you have inspired them, it is more likely that they don’t. To be inspired by someone or an event is an act of vulnerability, which leads to inner growth. 

I just wanted to acknowledge that for me inspiration, is the story of the person who has overcome adversity, or reframes difficulty positively, are the people in my life who run marathons, love unconditionally, and give me hope when I have none. Those who keep aiming me towards God rather than my inner monologue, which is changing, all be it slowly!

Today you may inspire someone and never know, you may lift someone, by a simple words, acts of kindness or interactions on social media. 

I think when we get to Heaven we might be surprised to see, in the playback of our lives, of how we have inspired others, and this side of glory we couldn’t even ever have realised we had. 

Thank you…

A Church of Rainbows

Who we are as a church is full of contrasting ideas traditional, experimental, colourful and bland. The church can both engage with society and be isolationist.

It may be your opinion that it would be so much better if the global  church or denomination looked more like the one you attend. But we are not consistent, there is not one image of church or one way of being.

Even in our own denominations, whilst there is a level of conformity; there is still a difference. To me at least this should be celebrated, not belittled.

Globally the church appeals to people from all walks of life, all languages, all temperaments. Yet in our own denominational back yard, in our corner of the world, do we keep in mind that broad ecclesiological  reality. Or slip instead into the churchmanship that believes ours is the right way and yours is not?

Historically we find the church can be intolerant of difference, instead we are all to quick to press the conformity button. In some places that it is
changing now, praise the Lord.

 

Together with all our misshapen ideas of how the church should be and the correct way that faith should be lived out. Sometimes we forget that the bible doesn’t teach us that Jesus conformed to society, instead he always conformed to the will of his father.

Looking at church today I wonder if sometimes the yeast of the Pharisee is still as prevalent today as it was in Jesus time (not a good thing). We may know stories of that person who didn’t quite fit and what happened to him or her.

Anne didn’t fit in church because she had to have a special chair and rather than a welcome at the door, she received glances of disdain.unknown

Andy was asked to leave a small group because he was a church lay leader and it wasn’t appropriate for him to be there.

Martin watched his fellow students with academic credentials sail through college whilst his creativity and out of the box thinking was looked on with suspicion. 

Recently I have been reading the prodigal God, which is based on the story of the prodigal son. It argues that both sons felt they were entitled. But that the point was that they were loved regardless of their actions or attitudes.

No matter how they publicly disgraced their family name and their father. He still showed generosity, letting one son find himself and the other he begged to join in the party.

Do we love like that as a church or as disciples?  A love that is eternal, pure and harder than nails, that challenges us to change, and to rub off our ecclesiastical and personal rough edges.

That we might become the full vibrant, lively and broad church we think we want to become. Where all genuinely find a home, where all come before Christ as a disciple and find renewal of life, renewed purpose, and personal healing.

Final prayer

I don’t want to be part of a church that is the same, but instead one that helps all people find a home in God. I want to be part of the solution that brings a change that opens our doors not closes them. I want to put down my own baggage of how things should be, and pick up my cross with Jesus, that through all I do in his name I might die that others may have life in Him.

Amen

Get Your Faith Lift Here!

Has your faith become sanitised, tame, lukewarm? Is church ‘run of the mill’, no more challenging than what you might pick for breakfast in the morning? The video below that reminds us otherwise; the sheer challenge of the gospel, the agony of the early mission leaders to choose Jesus every single time.

Today in ISIS held land Christians are facing the kind of hate these early missionaries experienced. And just see what God does with that. The story is based a long time ago, but it could be a story and narrative that happens today. Not in our comfortable, westernised lives perhaps, but where people live in fear from those who would have them killed for their faith, this story is real and relevant.

Be warned, the story in this video is not for the faith hearted!

Finally, what does your faith mean to you?  How far would you go?  What would you give up for the sake of the gospel?  As you listen to the words, the story alongside blows you away.

Are You Getting The Whole Picture?

When was it, that we started taking notice of the news shouting headlines at us of how bad life is? How come we take more notice of fear than hope? How is it that the statistic of negativity is more appealing somehow than one that offers something positive?

The tea was hot just under scalding point, exactly how I like it and the conversation engaging. It was a comment during the conversation that provoked the thought and new awareness in me. As I race through life, littered with snippets of  cautionary tales, all making me consider what might go wrong if I do X, Y or Z or indeed a whole alphabet of worries concerns and trying to avoid calamity at any given moment.

My friend made me consider by her well chosen words, that in fact perhaps I wasn’t a total screw up, that the worst isn’t just round the corner, and evil is not everywhere! This of course may be a rather radical idea and you may just need to take it in for a moment, life is not always trying to trip you up!

As I walked the dog that afternoon and allowed my inquisitive spaniel to go exploring off the lead, I pondered what my friend had pointed out in me. Thinking on this I began to say to myself, I haven’t… each time completing the sentence with an affirming phrase that regardless of life ups and downs and difficulties the bad stuff has come and gone. Moreover the life I share with my family isn’t totally  messed up as the fear mungers and doomsayers would like me to think.

So I haven’t got extra bad luck for breaking a mirror or walking under a ladder.  Even though I have lived in some challenging places I have survived, being burgled twice wasn’t the end of my world hard to get over though it was.  Life can be tough but also amazing, life doesn’t need to be defined by fear but love, a love that drives out fear, darkness and all those crappy comments that pull us down, break our spirits and somehow say we are less, rubbish, and un-redeemable. Comments from professionals, magazine articles, newspapers and friends that say we are statistically likely to be robbed, stabbed, burgled, abused, get particular diseases, doesn’t mean we will, there is as good statistical chance we will know good health, safety, community, and love.

For some reason we are predisposed to drink into our lives the negativity of fear rather than the liberation of hope. Its almost as though hope has to work twice as hard as fear to remind us that there is an alternative. 

For you who are suffering for whom the darkness is very present, it won’t last, there is light small though it might be. There is hope, perhaps you don’t believe me and that’s ok, perhaps I wouldn’t believe me either compared to what you are dealing with. But thats what faith is, we are governed physically, emotionally and spiritually and sometimes we forget that in the spiritual their can be found treasure that doesn’t rust.  A treasure of acceptance, tears and healing, a reconfiguring of life where priorities are changed character is honed.

The other part of my walk with my dog on that afternoon was spent thanking God for people like my friend.  She unlocked a stumbling block in me for spiritual and emotional wellness. Let’s not see our inner life as two dimensional but 3d, and you might be amazed at what you discover.

Finally if I can offer a peace of advice, be careful what you read and who you listen too, surround your life with good counsel, a narrative that builds rather than obliterates. Perhaps we need to say together, I have not made a total mess of things. Moreover thank God who knows us, and through it all offers forgiveness where it is needed, heals sometimes in unexpected ways, and in whose image you and I are made.

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Discover Your Place In Heaven

As we know the ministry of Jesus reflects the kingdom of God, through that ministry and life we discover numerous metaphors for describing His kingdom, for example mustard seed, treasure in a field, a sheep being found, to name three.

You and I realise, unless we have been living under a rock with nothing else to read apart from scripture. That the world we live in doesn’t reflect such values, the lost coin is rarely found, the treasure in the field, once Un-earthed, isn’t sold to help the poor, but instead lines someones pockets, or stands behind bullet proof glass in some museum somewhere in the world. Moreover, sadly we do not often celebrate the achievements of others no matter how small they’re perceived to be. Which unfortunately stands in contrast to the women’s celebration at finding her lost coin.

This got me thinking, as we know, kingdom values are in contrast to earths, then what might the kingdom be like when we get in? Where would I be placed? What would the place Jesus prepares for me look like? We might be in for a surprise!

 As we cross the threshold of Heaven, and Jesus thanks us for all the amazing things we have done in his name. We might discover that our earthly greatness, wealth and status might count for nothing, perhaps we will be the servants of those who have served us. Moreover perhaps we will be the ones living in the eternal equivalent of a rundown house, a cardboard box, a draughty door way. Whilst they who suffered in one lifetime, are offered an eternity of wonder.

Jesus’ challenge to the rich man was to give all he has to the poor and follow him. because all he had, got in the way of following. We might find that those with least in this world might have most in eternal dimensions, because they lived life light interms of materiality and were rich beyond measure in the things that sustained them, nourish them and help them across the threshold into Gods kingdom and beyond.

Let us live light with what we have, holding what we have in the perspective of Gods kingdom, where the last will be first, and the least get most, the last man that turns up for work gets paid the same as the first, where the thief on the cross gets a pass into eternity. Because it is possible to start over, it is possible for a leopard to change his spots it is possible to be and truly know you are forgiven.

Finally, I Believe that Heaven will be so much more than we can comprehend, when things about hierarchy, And who gets what won’t matter any more. Today let us share more the kingdom values, and honour the least with all have, lift up the brokenhearted with all of the love we have received, find the lost with all of the resources at our fingertips. And celebrate the little wins as much as the big ones.

Heavens Life Lesson

Sometimes success is found by looking back, by looking at the footprints in the sand of life we might just glimpse the Lord at work in the detail, in the narrative of our existence. However this is not how society is wired as we travel in life.

As a child generally we desire to succeed at school, as a grown-up that same desire develops. Each of us finds, that there is always something more, something that is just out of reach, to earn, wether that’s in a relationship, work, or in general life. Sometimes we attain it, sometimes we don’t. For me when I miss my target, I get up and go again, or sometimes my walk with God takes me in a new direction.

The quest for more of everything, has blossomed many industries, such has the self help industry, you only have to walk into a book shop to see how popular that genre is. Furthermore on YouTube the most watched videos are online self help gaming tutorials. Earning the creators of these videos many thousands of pounds, and celebrity status in certain circles. In particular Google has become a worldwide database of self-help solutions. The only problem is there are so many solutions it’s hard to filter out, the good advice from the bad.

In all this striving to get ahead, to know more, to be better, we sometimes forget to look back, sometimes wisdom and personal growth is not found in a book, or youtube clip, but by reflecting on our own story. Sometimes its only when we look back as the poem footprints in the sand suggests, that we can see God at work.

Its these moments that are the subject of today’s post, in recent years I have attended the bedside of a few  people who have been close to crossing over into eternity, people of faith and not.

Of those whom could speak, they spoke of having lived a life of service for others, they didn’t want to tell me how much they had in their bank balance, how big their house was, or the name of their cat or dog. They wanted to tell me, the focus of their life had been outward not inward.

Moreover for those who could not speak, it was evidenced by the number and quality of friends and family they had around them, that they had invested in the important things of their lives, not a financial portfolio, but invested in the lives of others in the love and care they had shown them. 

If we looked back today rather than ahead, if today was our final day, what would we say to the minister who visited? How have we lived our lives? These moments with the dying, a poignant, difficult, and an incredible privilege.  

These brilliant people in their dying breaths, cause us to reflect on our own journeys through life, not that it will always be perfect, or that we will always make the right decisions.

However when all is said and done, I hope I  can say to the Minister at my bedside, that I lead the majority of my days outward looking, caring for others, investing in kindness, Love and forgiving quickly. Then as I cross over from this life into the eternity that Jesus prepares, I’ll count myself as having lived life well, as God intended.

Ultimately death causes us to look ahead, at how we are living our lives outward in the service of others, defined by how much God loves all people both those who have passed through the veil and those who exist around us.

God Bless And have a good week

Last weeks post: The Know It All

Similar Themes: Looking Back And Seeing Jesus

 

The Suffering Optimist

God has created us unique, flawed yes by life circumstances, and the corruptibility of our souls, but unique and loved. I have discovered for myself, just how corruptible my soul is. How openness can somehow poison the soul.
Throughout life I have being an optimist, optimism is nurtured in an environment of hope. But when that hope is on the wane, negativity increases. For the optimist that negativity  is like poison for the optimists soul.
In every group there is always the person that’s a bit too negative, sometimes you call them the cynic or the pessimist. In the book Winnie the Pooh, we call him  Eeyore, who would say of the weather “It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily. “So it is.” “And freezing.” “Is it?” “Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”
The chalk and cheese of most social groups and in our churches is the optimist and the cynic or pessimist, they see the world very differently, their attributes are fed by different things. The optimist finds the cynic exhausting, whereas the cynic finds the optimist, not rooted in any sense of reality as they see it.
However the cynic offers the optimist a measure of levelheadedness that they sometimes need, he or she helps the optimist to see the inherent risks in activities. And the optimist helps to sooth those fears and anxieties that underpin the cynic and the outcome can be a better plan.
We need in our churches both cynics and optimists, we need our church to be balanced by the gifts cynicism and optimism can bring rather than one sided. Sometimes we see one as better and the other as worse. The cynic probably sees the optimist, as airy fairy! Not rooted in reality.  Whereas the optimist can see the cynic as attritional, divisive and difficult.
Worse than that for the optimist, cynicism is there Achilles Heel, it is the poison, that can crush the spirit of the optimist. Cynicism however feeds off negativity, and if you look around there is plenty of that dressed up as modern-day wisdom, fear mongering we read in the newspapers, sometimes it even masquerades as comedy.
Alternatively optimism feeds off hope, but if that hope is lacking in a particular group or church, it becomes very difficult for an optimists voice to be heard. She herself begins to doubt in the possibility of hope.
As I have mentioned for the church to move forward we need both the yin and yang of optimism and cynicism, a faithful circle founded in God’s creation. As an optimist I need the cynic to help me see the big picture sometimes, the perceived negativity can be a good thing, checking the reasoning and honing the plan. Conversely a people dominated by negativity can lose hope in the future and even in themselves.
The Lord has created us cynic and optimist to greater or lesser degrees, so regardless of our character traits let us put Jesus first asking for his strength, wisdom and guidance. And viewing people less as a character trait which we like or not, but instead looking and affirming the gifts they bring, within the body of Christ the church, so that the church of Christ might attain a hope and purpose rooted in reality and a spirituality that authentically connects  people with Jesus.

Airplane Mode In 3.2.1…

Recently I took a trip back to the 1990’s! Where internet was slow and scarce and mobile data was infuriatingly slow. Yes you might have guessed it, I moved house and am having to wait weeks for the pure juiciness of the internet to be connected to the house.

During these weeks, I can be found intensely searching for the elusive golden number and letter of basic internet accessibility, that being 3G. My wife also joined this quest for internet, and found a spot in a corner of a wall in our house, next to the front door, on her knees. Here and here alone she can just get a whiff of 3G. As for myself, I found success in the cafés of Starbucks, Costa and Nero, but am unsure if I can or should charge the accompanying lattes and cookies consumed there to work or not!!

In this period of near internet isolation, certain apps have become more important to me, such as, signal strength permitting wordpress, and Facebook, but also Daily Bread (a christian devotional guide). I can’t access my usual app hangouts of YouTube, and flipboard because of a lack of signal strength. So I read the bible and devotional guide in Daily Bread, an Ipad app I hardly use despite having a yearly subscription, something I am not proud of.

When normal service resumes, which is the end of this week, and my devices are drinking from the fountain of the data highway. Along with myself consuming gigabytes of video and social media content, I hope that my devotional app doesn’t take a backseat but remains in contention with all the noise in my life. For it is this still small voice of God, that this app points to me towards, the voice in my life that should be louder than the bleep of a message landing in my inbox or the wolf whistle of a tweet, or the stats page of this blog.

In this slight blackout the world didn’t end, life continued, I had more time to chat to others, and even felt a bit more in control of my life. As my devices were silenced from their collective demands for my attention.

The lack of internet has brought a new level of quietness to my life. I was no longer chained to my devices in the same way, and had space to listen for what the Lord is saying to me. Especially important as I take up a new church leadership position.

I hope I have learnt a valuable lesson in these few weeks. Perhaps an out working of that is that I might go unplugged sometimes. Instead plugging myself into what the Lord of creation the God that speaks to us is saying and calling me towards, something none of us need good signal strength for.

So my dear reader, let us consider how to reduce the data noise in our lives, and choose to intentionally switch on airplane mode more often. Not just that we fly with God more often and soar with him, in away that allows us to really live and see our lives differently. Moreover that by switching to airplane mode, we become more present in the now, of that person closest to us who wants and deserves our attention.

So on 1 if you are able let’s flip that switch, 3.2 (see you next week) 1…

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Your Forever Family In Faith

When we are hard pressed, when we are out of work, when we need something and when we want to share a significant life moment, we share it with a member of our family. For me a family is that unit of people who you willingly choose to be bonded to and who love you in return, no matter what.

Two sisters of faith Ann and Claire both from different churches had a conversation, Anne worshipped at the new Triumphant Hope Church, a lively young and busy congregation, whereas Claire went to St Luke’s a moderately lively small congregation trying to serve there comunity with dwindling resources.

Beneath the surface of their dialogue was Anne’s attitude that because she was part of a growing church they were more important and didn’t need to work closely with others. Claire was aware of the success of Triumphant Hope Church and wanted to understand and learn from them, but felt the burden of insecurity of being a smaller fish in the missional pond.

It wasn’t long ago at all, that Roman Catholic, Protestant and free churches were in competition and often in conflict with one another, and certainly on issues of women in leadership and the sacraments there is still work to be done.

A family is that unit of people who you willingly choose to be bonded to and who love you in return no matter what. I believe in a perhaps simplistic way, that if you call yourself a christian you are part of my faith family we are bonded together by blood, the blood of our saviour.

Numerous conversations go on in our churches today across the globe seasoned with a similar attitude of Anne’s, believing that their corner of the church family is the only one that has got it right. For centuries since Jesus there have been factions and splinter groups in our faith comunity. yet for the most part we hold to the revelation of the cross and tomb. So despite our religious disunity, or brokenness with one another we are still bound by something we can agree on, and that is the strongest bond that holds us together as family and perhaps is where we should begin with one another.

So when we try to score points remember they’re family, when we judge the decor or song choices, remember we are family. Let’s find a narrative a way of talking to one another out of respect for each other, out of love for our neighbour in faith.

When the weapons of point scoring and pulling the other down are put away, the witness to the world is immense and powerful, we demonstrate the best for what family can be. The collection of individuals though different, choosing to be together for the betterment of each other.

As I sat in a room of clergy from several local christian denominations who all wanted to share communion together, there was a genuine sadness over the catholic preist being unable to partake because of religious catholic rules. It was the methodist minister who suggested that they had a love feast instead, an ancient service dating back hundreds of years, of sharing testimony, or eating bread and water, and remembering the bond of family. Collectively they found a way to accommodate one another out of respect and love. May this image of faithful inclusivity season your thoughts and flavour your conversation with all members of our family today.

Go with God. 🙂

Can Church Be As Good As Chocolate

The dull thud as my teeth snap off a chunk of dairy milk chocolate welcomes me to the experience, the changing texture as it melts in my mouth, and the strong thick taste of the cocoa as it collects in my mouth, and not surprisingly I want to eat more and more as my taste buds respond to its sugary goodness and my brain craves for more of this confectionery masterpiece. When I get behind the wheel of my car I look forward to the power of controlling this loud petrol guzzling beast, of releasing the energy to push ahead to my destination, and conversely pulling back the horse power with the break peddle.

Life welcomes us to a smorgasbord of experiences from the moment we are developing in the womb, some good some not so much, but all demands a reaction, comment, emotional response whether that is anger, joy, tears, both happy or sad. Social media is alive with such experiences of life, and our need to share those experiences with others. Our lives are shaped and honed through our life long interactions with experiences, both in isolation and with others. Such experiences shape us, transform us, can break us for a time and give us the courage to overcome.

When we are about to embark on a course of action or interaction be that falling in love, having kids, starting a new job or indeed eating chocolate, we in the split second decide will this be good or bad. Mostly we try to if at all possible avoid the bad or not so great in favour for the good life, over as small things like picking what to eat for breakfast or bigger things like choosing a car, holiday or the person we will spend our lives with.

As much as a shop window tells us what kind of things are sold there and intern attract us or not through its doors. So our churches communicate both by decor and people within, what and who our God is. Thinking about your church community what does it tell you about God? Or put another way If God set up shop in your life and your church what should it look like and be like?

Should our comunity not remind us of a Jesus who turned water into wine, surprised his friends by walking on water and conjured up hundreds of fish in his friends nets. As well as a Jesus who was serious about releasing people from sickness and death, serious about poverty and injustice and deadly serious on the cross. I don’t believe in a Jesus who says follow me and be laid low with burdens and wows. I believe in a Jesus that says that loving  your neighbour means you can have a laugh with them as well as cry with them, I believe that Jesus does offer life in fullness but sometimes we mistake that with a life of backbreaking, hope crushing service to the church and the god it sometimes looks like.

The shop front of our faith should witness to the life in all its fullness that christ offers, where burdens are shared or lifted where there is laughter and tears.  I find Jesus in chilly eating contests and loud banter with friends around some pints of beer and a very hot curry, and their discipleship of me to try even hotter curry. I find the presence of God in the small D:church leadership community over Skype as we plan discuss and pray together.  I don’t always find Jesus in Church but I know I should. Instead sometimes I find a todo list that saps my strength, long hours that saps my energy and spiritual fervour. I long for good christian communities to not be stumbled upon by accident, like an oasis in the desert. Instead exist as a many streams of living water running out into the street and neighbourhood where it blesses, transforms and where we encounter christ in a real tangible way.

Let us be part of or develop Christian communities that is serious about God, authentic in its expression and full of life in all its rich hilarious abundance, where the broken can come and find wholeness and the searching can find a place they can call home.

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