Message in a mug

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This week is rapidly turning into “one of those” weeks. 

If I am brutally honest about it, I am beginning to feel a bit stressed at the moment.  So much to do and so little time in which to do it.  My normal, default mode, for times like this is to work longer and harder in order to fit it all in (and usually more besides as well).  But, there is a problem and the problem is ME.

I find, at times like this, the more tired I become, the more grumpy I become.  The more grumpy I become, the less I achieve.  The less I achieve the harder I work to achieve less and so the cycle continues.  Psychologists have a name for this it’s called “The Fountain Cycle of Stupidity” (okay I made that bit up – apologies to all psychologists out there!).

This morning, I came into the office extra early in order to get some work done and God spoke to me in an unusual way.

My daily habit, when I arrive at work, is to make a cup of tea and spend some time with the Bible and prayer.  This morning, in such a rush, I grabbed my mug of tea and started work straight away.  Oh, I didn’t mean to neglect the Bible or prayer – I just decided I will do that later. 

The problem is, and I am sure I am not the only one, later never comes!

In my rush this morning I grabbed my mug, prepared my tea, slumped at the computer and stared at the blank screen.  Nothing. 

The screen was blank

I was blank

I could not think what to write.

I began to panic – I have two sermons to do!!!  Why isn’t God giving me what I need when I need it?

I then noticed there was a message in the mug I had chosen it read (yes, that is my mug in the picture – disgusting isn’t it?)

Keep calm and drink more tea vicar

 There was my answer.  Stop….  Breathe….  Drink tea….  Bible…… Prayer

You see, if we want to hear what God is saying we have to make the space for Him to speak and I wasn’t doing that!

Jesus once said :-

Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (Matthew 6 vs. 33)

 Now, if you will excuse me, I have an idea for a sermon that needs to be written

 

 

A welcome wind?

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This weekend I did something I have never done before.  I went to a music festival called, The Big Church Day Out (you can check them out here www.bigchurchdayout.com).  I had a wonderful time, heard some great music and enjoyed good company. 

Having never been before, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.  Thankfully, I was with some friends who are experienced at this event, and they showed me the ropes.

In order to get comfortable and keep dry (it was a British bank holiday after all) my friends brought a marquee with them.  This is a picture of the attempted marquee build…

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There was one problem with building the marquee – wind!

No, I am not being rude or unpleasant.  We did have a wind problem.  Every time part of the marquee went up, along came a gust and blew out the bit that had just been done!  That sometimes happens to us doesn’t it?  We try and do something to make our lives comfortable and then along comes a gust of wind and blows it down.

I had the most important job to do during the marquee build, I had to stand and supervise (it was a tough job but, somebody had too) but, it gave me a chance to reflect on what I was seeing and I felt God was speaking to me, as my friends built.

Sometimes, we welcome a cooling breeze of fresh air on a hot and stuffy day.  Sometimes, however, the wind can stir things up and blow things down.  I was reminded that, in the Bible, one of the images used for the Holy Spirit is the wind (see Acts 2 vs. 2. Ezekiel 37 vs. 9 – 14, John 3 vs. 8 & John 20 vs. 2). 

I wondered, as I watched the marquee coming apart again, if I always welcome the wind of the Holy Spirit blowing through my life?

Pulling down the barriers that I have so carefully built. 

Stirring things up a bit, that I have so neatly put in place. 

Shaking what I have set up for my comfort.

Jesus said;

You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. (John 3 vs. 8 – The Message)

That can be a little scary but, I am also confident that, whatever God does in my life and in yours it is because He wants us to grow and flourish as we seek to follow Jesus.

Sleepwalking

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I spotted something this morning that really made me think.

I was just getting into my car (to go and do the shopping) when a car passed me with it’s boot wide open.  I followed him down the road and could see no large or unusual load, just the boot had been left open.

As I parked, I could see the driver of the other vehicle had already parked and was walking to the shop when somebody stopped him and pointed to the open boot.  The driver scurried back and closed it.

I could almost imagine him driving down the road thinking “crumbs the roads are a bit noisy today” or, maybe,he turned the radio up in order to drown out the background noise.  Or, more likely, he did not notice anything at all

I am not picking on the driver because, let’s face it, we have all done something a bit daft on occasion.  I have the capacity to do something daft when I am more tired than usual or, my mind is elsewhere.  

It reminded me of one of the saddest verses in the Bible.  It concerns a character called Samson.  Samson has grown up with faith, grown up with the knowledge that he is set apart for a special task (he was one of that fascinating group known as “Judges” in the time before the people of Israel had a king).  Yet, for all his qualities, Samson was a man with “issues” (nicest way I could think of putting it!).  Samson seeks to satisfy his needs in any way he can find and, the Bible says;

But he did not know that the Lord had left him.       (Judges 16 vs. 20)

Now, I don’t think that God had given up on Samson (later in the story Samson cries out to God and God responds).  I think these words mean that Samson had “sleepwalked” (sleptwalked?) away from where he should have been.

I know, in my own journey, there have been times when I have been doing a bit of ‘sleepwalking’.  Like the driver this morning, I have needed somebody to point out to me where I have gone wrong and point me back in the right direction.  The words of Jeremiah;

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.     (Jeremiah 6 vs. 16)

I know I am not the only one.  We all have the capacity to do a bit of ‘sleepwalking’ and, maybe, you are doing some at the moment.  Would you allow these words to point you back today?  I do so, not out of a sense of superiority, but as a fellow sleepwalker.

Inappropriate Conversation

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Have you ever overheard an inappropriate conversation and thought, “shall I challenge it or not?”

It happened to me the other day.

I was walking through the Church and heard a discussion which included the words “death row”.

I was horrified. 

Shocked that such a thing could be mentioned especially as the words were said in our toddlers club.  I decided to tackle the group leader about their inappropriate use of language in front of the children. 

I approached the door, and was about to enter the room when I heard the song “dingle dangle scarecrow”.

What I thought as “death row” was actually “scarecrow”.

It was with, some relief, that I didn’t challenge the leader – I felt stupid enough as it  was!  But, it reminded me how easy it is to mis-hear or, misunderstand what is being said.

Jesus struggled with that a lot.

As He taught and demonstrated what the Kingdom of God means, many either didn’t get it or, didn’t want to get what He was talking about. 

But, I can be guilty of that too. 

There are times when I “don’t hear” Jesus telling me to love my enemies.  There are times when I “don’t hear” Jesus telling me to forgive.  There are times I “don’t hear” Jesus telling me to ….. Well, you can fill in the blanks for yourself.

Sometimes, I need to stop and listen and listen very carefully. It’s too easy to miss what is really being said.

A Thought about Thoughts – I think!?

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“I have an idea”, or (more likely) “I have no idea!”  Phrases we use and phrases I have been thinking about. 

I have been thinking about thinking (sounds a bit Winnie the Poohish).  But, stick with me for a moment, because our thought life, minds and brains are incredible.

I typed “human brain” into that well known search engine the name of which rhymes with “frugal”.  In 0.55 seconds I got 28,900,000 possible sites.  Now, just in case you are thinking “he obviously hasn’t got anything better to do”, let me point out I only looked at one or two sites and I wasn’t able to find anything that helped me understand human thought processes or how we think what we think.  Once we start getting into psychology and understanding why we behave in certain ways I am afraid my mind starts wondering elsewhere.  However, for now, let’s say the Psalmist is right when he says;

I am fearfully and wonderfully made         (Psalm 139 vs. 14)

Our thought life is made up of our hopes, dreams, desires, wants, needs, fears anxieties and probably much more complex things besides.  I also know that my thought life is sometimes good and, sometimes, not so good.  I am capable of wonderful imagination and incredibly destructive thoughts too.

My problem comes when the incredibly destructive thoughts begin to control my actions and my reactions.  I can end up responding to people and situations in ways that I will regret.  I snap at people. I respond aggressively to the, well meaning, person who ‘steps on my toes’.  I can say things that I regret and can end up damaging others all because of my destructive thoughts.

This morning, in my quiet time, I read a piece in the Bible that really helped my thinking about thinking;

The mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace       (Romans 8 vs. 6)

As I thought about this, I reflected that it all depends on who governs my thinking.  Is it me, self, my, I?  Or, do I allow God to govern my mind?

So, when those stray destructive thoughts come to mind, I need as The Apostle Paul says, to take it captive (2 Corinthians 10 vs. 5) and make it obedient to God.  In other words, I have to learn to ask “is this what God really says?”

Why not have a go today, and think about what you are thinking?

 

A Painful Traumatic Experience

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Dear friends,  I am living through what I can only describe (in the most flippant manner possible) a painful and traumatic experience at the moment.  I am clearing out my bookcase, I am having a major purge!

Now, just in case you don’t know me well and think that is far too flippant, let me explain why this is painful and traumatic.  I am a bit of a bibliophile, a bookworm.  I enjoy books, I love reading (I always have).  For me, it is almost impossible to walk past a second hand bookshop without popping in (just in case) and it always impossible to leave without having bought one “little treasure”.  I believe Heaven smells like a second hand bookshop, perhaps not quite but, you hopefully get the picture.

Why the thinning down of my book stock?  In September, I am due to start a new course of study and so I need to create room for new textbooks (there had to be a catch!).  But, in the meantime the old needs to go!

Why do I find it painful?  Okay, perhaps not painful, sad is the word.

Some books have been with me a long time.  I used them in my early days as a lay preacher around some of the village churches in Leicestershire.  They represent some happy memories.

Some books have been bought at a time of desperation.  I needed fresh insight, fresh ideas and I bought a book believing it would have the answers I needed.

Some books were bought “just in case”.  Just in case this comes in handy.  There must be something useful in here.

I have had to go through my shelf several times and ask honest questions of each book – do I really need, am I REALLY going to look at this again?

At the moment, they are piled up on the sofa in my office.  I am fighting the temptation to return them to the shelves!  Fear not, they are going to be put to good use – one of our regional ministers is going to have them and sell to raise funds for Baptist Home Mission. I hope they bring joy to their new owners.

This all got me thinking about an image Jesus once used.  He compared Himself to a vine and we are the branches.  He then goes on to say;

And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. (John 15 vs. 2 – The Message)

For new growth to come, sometimes the old has to be cleared away.  Just like my books.  I cannot put the new in, until the old has gone.

Sometimes, for new growth to come in our lives God needs to clear away some of the old. That can be really painful and may even be traumatic.  But, for the new growth to happen, it is necessary.

If this is where you are at the moment, I pray that God will strengthen you through His Grace and Mercy.  I also pray that you will hold before you the Hope of the new growth to come.

May God bless you

 

 

Being Labelled

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If there is one thing I dislike about attending conferences, training events, meetings and so forth it’s the wearing of name badges!  

At some conferences the badges are printed and produced at others, you have to write your own.  I am sure I am not the only one who has been tempted to change my name for something a bit more interesting.

I remember one course my wife and I attended a few years ago when we swapped names every day.  It really annoyed the course leaders!

So, why don’t I like wearing name badges?  I suppose it comes down to the fact I don’t like being labelled.

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In life, we all wear a variety of labels.  Mine include name, age, occupation, husband, father, grandfather (I know I don’t look old enough),  But also, in my time, I have worn some less nice labels.  Failure, reject, useless.

Sometimes I have been labelled by others.  Sometimes I have placed the label on myself. This morning, I shared in Church, a verse from the Psalms that speaks into the labels that I put onto myself;

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.          (Psalm 51 vs. 3)

You see, sometimes I allow my mistakes to define who I am.  What the Bible teaches is that my mistakes and mess don’t have to.  

Simon Peter (the disciple) had really messed up and even denied knowing Jesus.  Early one morning as Peter was out fishing he saw Jesus standing on the shore.  Jesus cooked breakfast and then talked with Peter and brought forgiveness and new opportunities for him.  As they walked down the beach together that early morning Peter experiences the truth of grace.

So, what does this “grace” mean for us.  It means you cannot sink so low that you are in place where you cannot find the grace of God.  You cannot be in a place of failure so deep that God gives up on you.  You cannot be in a place where God labels you as not worth bothering with

A few years ago I visited that beach.  It’s a place called Mensa Christi (the table of Christ). I took a walk down that same beach and tried to picture in my mind what it must have been like.  As I walked along my eyes were drawn down to the stones set in the ground,  fairly big stones.  

They were heart shaped.  A reminder to me of God’s love and grace available to a fisherman who ran away.  A minister who makes mess ups and fails more than he succeeds.  

And to you to

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God’s grace big enough for all of us