Climbing the greasy pole

 

 

I was thinking this morning about what I most want out of life.

If you had asked me that question when I was a teenager, the answer would have been simple; “money, loadsa” money!  With money, I could buy all sorts of stuff.  To my way of thinking, he who has the most toys was a happy man.

If you had asked me that question in my early 20’s, I would have probably said; “Career”.  My career would have enabled me to do all that life could offer.  The higher the ladder, the better for me, I didn’t care about anyone else.

As I have grown up a bit, my goals have changed with me.  I realised that money is never enough (a great tool but, a rotten master).  In my career, I discovered that no matter how good I thought I was, there was always somebody more talented, able, more ruthless than me.

This morning, I read a Bible verse that really spoke to me about what I truly want in my life;

 

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.

(2 John 1 vs. 3)

I know that I need God’s grace, mercy and His peace in my life more than anything else.  My life isn’t always plain sailing.  I do get angry, frustrated and worked up about things.  Sometimes, my mouth is a lot quicker than my brain!  Sometimes, I react in ways I wish I didn’t.

The wonder of this verse, for me, is found in the words will be with usNo matter how far I may have wandered from God, He will never wander from me.  All I need to do is look for Him and He will be there.

What could be better?

So, I prayed these words for myself this morning.  Whatever I am involved in today, whatever may go right or, less than right, I may experience God’s grace, mercy and peace.

I then felt God nudging me.  “You have prayed it for you” He said, “who else would you like to experience my grace, mercy and peace today?”

God was right (He usually (okay – always) is).  Unlike the greasy pole, I don’t win whilst others lose.  God loves everyone.  His grace, mercy and peace are for everybody.

I spent some time with God then.  I asked Him to bless others with His grace, mercy and peace.  I found that, as I did, I experienced more grace, mercy and peace myself.

Who will you pray for God’s grace, mercy and peace today?

 

 

 

 

What an idiot!

 

I did something incredibly stupid this morning!

I woke at about 6am.  As I opened my eyes it dawned on me that I was not in my bed at home but, I was at The Hayes, Swanwick, Derbyshire.  I was on the Retreat Association Conference.  Then my first real conscious thought of the day – Tea!  I know it was my first real thought because, it is the same thought every day for as long as I can remember.

I climbed out of bed.  Stretched.  Put on the light and found the kettle.  Whilst the water came to the boil, I went into the bathroom and washed my face with cold water to make sure I was fully awake.  I looked out of the window to check my car was still where I left it.  I then spotted the conference pack.  It was brimming with information.  I began to look at the programme selecting what I was going to do, what main speakers did I want to hear?  What about the workshops?  Had that e-mail I was expecting come in yet?  What was happening at home?  Was it too early to ring the family and make sure all was well?  Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I heard the kettle come to the boil and the tell-tale click told me the water was ready.

It was then it happened.

I grabbed the packet that contained the tea bag.  Ripped off the top and promptly threw the unused bag into the bin.  I poured water into the mug.  I couldn’t believe what I had just done, “you idiot!” I said, with some force whilst trying not to wake up the other delegates.

Why did I do such a thing?

No doubt, the less charitable of my readers, will dismiss it as an age thing!  The more charitable will say I was distracted, too much going on in my mind, not concentrating.  I am on a retreat, surely, nothing should be going on in my mind!  It happened because I was distracted, I was so busy making my plans for the future, I was not living in the present moment.  Jesus once said some interesting words;

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

(Matthew 6 vs. 34)

 

I have known Christians who have taken this view to the extreme.  They see those occasions when we worry about the natural worries of life, as being a sin.  Almost as if somebody says “I am worried about what the doctor will say”, they respond “you must not worry or you will be sinning”.  I am not sure, that is what Jesus actually meant.

I believe that Jesus knew how many things can fill the human mind, distract us,and I also believe He empathizes with our natural worries and concerns.  But, what I think concerned Him was, how worry can stop us living in the present moment.  In the previous verse Jesus told us to seek the Kingdom of God and that is written in the present tense.

To try and put this in a different way, I read again that familiar story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10 vs, 38 – 42).  Jesus and His disciples are at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  Mary sits at Jesus feet.  Martha does all the work and so she approaches Jesus to complain.  Jesus says;

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things”

(Luke 10 vs. 41 – NRSV)

Jesus then commends Mary.  It wasn’t that Mary was doing nothing, she was simply living in the present moment and that is what I needed to do.

I found a fresh tea bag (I did not get the one out of the bin).  Brewed my refreshing cup.  Spent some time with God and then I was ready for what lay ahead.

 

 

 

A Tale Of The Unexpected

 

This afternoon, I got the opportunity to do something that not many people get the chance to do.

I smelt wild otter poo!

Yes, you read that correctly!!!!  When you think about it, what else would a Baptist Minister do when he is at the Retreat Association Conference?

Looking back, the moment was quite surreal.  Our workshop leader said that we didn’t have to smell it if we didn’t want to but, if we would like to give it a go, we were welcome to have a sniff.

I was quite glad that the pot of otter waste began it’s journey on the other side of the room to me because, I could gauge how revolting this experience was going to be by the expressions on the faces of the other participants.  Most looked quizzical as they passed the pot from person to person.  As it headed in my direction I found it impossible to gauge what I would smell once it arrived in my hands (still in the pot!!).

After a short while, the pot of excrement arrived in my hand.  I looked in.  I won’t describe the detail of it in case you are of a nervous disposition.  Should I sniff or, shouldn’t I sniff?  That was the question.  In my own mind I imagined what it would smell like based on what I could see.

I lifted the pot toward my nose and took a gentle sniff.  I then became a bit braver, I took a larger sniff.  I will not describe the odour of otter to you but, I will say, it was not what I was expecting.

I have been thinking about some verses from the Bible when Jesus says;

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.”

(Luke 6 vs. 37 – 38 The Message)

 

These words really challenged me.  It’s easy to look at people and make judgements based on what we think we know.  We look at an individual and make assumptions based on what we see and what we interpret.  In truth, however, we don’t know.

Sometimes, we have to suspend our own judgement and have the courage to step beyond our boundaries.  Who knows, we may be in for a little surprise!

 

 

 

GDPR

 

The initals GDPR are ones that are becoming increasingly familiar to many people at the moment. The General Data Protection Regulation came into force in the UK on 25th May. I caught an article in the newspaper the other day that suggested that many people do not know what GDPR is about, it amazed me because I feel as though I have been bombarded by organisations inviting me to “opt in” and warning me that if I don’t give my consent, I will lose contact with them.

At first sight, it looked as though it could be a bit of a nuisance but as GDPR moved closer I began to appreciate it. In fact, I have welcomed the opportunity to opt in or out of mailing lists. I was shocked at how many lists I have found my way onto over the years. For me, GDPR was an opportunity for a bit of a mailing list ‘spring clean’.

This has made me think.

This morning I was reading a story that Jesus told about a great banquet (Luke 14 vs. 15-24). The man throwing the feast sends out the invitations to the great and the good of the land. Once the feast was ready, the servants went out let those with invites know that the feast was prepared. One by one, each of the guests opt out with all manner of excuses.

A great feast was ready and yet nobody who had been invited wanted to partake.

The man called his servants together and sends them out again. This time, rather than the great and good the servants are to invite those on the margins. Unlike the great and good, those on the margins opt in. They are welcomed at the feast.

As the banquet hall fills, the servants comment that there is still room. The master decides to send them out again. This time, the servants are sent to those beyond the margins. Those who would have been considered as outcasts receive the invite and opt in.

Whenever I have thought about this parable in the past, I have regarded it as an image of the kingdom of God and seen it as a picture of the welcome Gods kingdom gives to all.

This morning, as I read the passage, I felt that God was saying something a little different to me.

Every day God invites us all to to join His mission of reaching out to the world and its up to us whether we accept His invite and “opt in” or, ignore it and opt out.

Which will you choose today?