I’ve Missed It!!!!

trains.PNG-pwrt3

Have you ever missed something really important?  The appointment, the important phone call, the birthday that you promised not to forget, the post with that important letter, the closing date for a job application or something you have been waiting for for a long time?  My heart went out to the train spotter who was waiting to see the Flying Scotsman on the main line, only to miss it courtesy of another main line train!

So, what about God?  I think we all miss God from time to time.  We get so wrapped up in all that we have to do, the pressure of life and responsibilities that we have that we can so easily miss what God is wanting to say to us.  In Psalm 46 vs. 10 (The Message) we read;

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”

 I find it hard to step out of the traffic, and it’s something I am trying to learn.  But, what I have found is the more I do it, the less I miss the really important things that God wants to say.

As for the train spotter, Virgin Trains have made a wonderful offer to him and I hope he doesn’t miss the experience.  As for me, I will keep learning to step out of the traffic!

 

Dear Lord,

Forgive me when I become so consumed in what I have to do that I forget you.

Help me to slow down enough to step out of the traffic and take a long look at you.

Open my eyes so that I do not miss what you want to show me

Open my ears so that I can hear what you want to say.

And, when the rush of life crowds in again, help me not to forget you

AMEN

Still in a hole…

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The saga of the Clacton hole continues…..

This morning, I shared this story in our service (one I found on the internet)

A traveller fell into a deep pit and couldn’t get out.  Several people came along and saw him struggling in the pit.

The sensitive person said, “I feel for you down there.”

The reflective person said, “It’s logical that someone would fall into the pit.”

The interior designer said, “I can give you ideas on how to decorate your pit.”

The judgmental person said, “Only bad people fall into pits.”

The curious person said, “Tell me how you fell into the pit.”

The legalist said, “I believe you deserve your pit.”

The government said, “Are you paying taxes on this pit?”

The self-pitying person said, “You should have seen my pit.”

Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the miserable pit.
The point of the story is—it doesn’t do any good to talk about love and compassion without demonstrating it and God demonstrates His love for us in Jesus.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

(John 3 vs. 16 – 17)

 

 

 

 

God demonstrates His love.

When you are in a hole…

Picture 005
Not the actual hole but, one from the Internet!

The big news in Sunny Clacton yesterday is a hole opened in the ground.

Early reports suggested a sinkhole and later reports suggested a collapsed sewer.  Either way, it’s causing a lot of inconvenience.  A major road is closed and traffic diversions are causing hold ups.

I wonder if you have ever used that phrase “I wish the ground would open up and swallow me” ?  I have, usually when I do something silly or embarrassing (a fairly regular occurrence).  But, did you know, it comes from the Bible?  In the book of Numbers chapter 16 Korah leads a rebellion against God and Moses and the earthed opened up and swallowed him – bit gruesome.

But, there is another kind of hole.  Sometimes we feel as though we are stuck in a hole when we face situations when we just do not know what to do. We try and do the right thing and the situation gets worse or and, no matter how hard we try we cannot lift ourselves out of it.

No matter what hole you are in, it’s not a good place to be and you can end up feeling as though you are abandoned.  One of the Psalms that really helps me, when I am in a hole, is Psalm 139 and The Message version puts it like this;

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight?

If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there!

If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon,

You’d find me in a minute– you’re already there waiting!

(Psalm 139 vs. 7 – 10)

 If, today, you feel as though you are in a hole remember you are not abandoned.  God is there to help and will never leave you

 

Dear Lord,

I am stuck and i just don’t know what to do

I feel as though no matter which way I turn I am going to get it wrong.

It looks as though I will hurt some, and mess it up for others.

I feel so alone today, Lord, and I can find no peace within.

 

Dear God, assure me of your presence.

When the hole is at it’s darkest, remind me that I am still in your light

When I am afraid remind me that I am not alone but, I am in your safe keeping

AMEN

I give up!

give-up-cat2

Go on, admit it, you like the cute kitten don’t you?  But what came to mind when you read the phrase “I give up”.  It is associated with defeat, loss and failure.  Maybe you have said it when you have reached the end of your natural resource and resilience and cannot go on anymore.  However, I want to suggest “I give up” can have a totally different meaning.

We are in the season of Lent and lots of people are “giving up” chocolate, coffee, sugar or social media (noooooo!!!!).  But what does this really mean?

Lent is one of the oldest observations in the Christian calendar. But, like all Christian Holy Days and Seasons, it has changed over the years.  Its purpose has always been the same: self-examination and penitence, demonstrated by self-denial, in preparation for Easter. Early church father Irenaus of Lyons (c.130-c.200) wrote of such a season in the earliest days of the church, but back then it lasted only two or three days, not the 40 observed today.

In 325, the Council of Nicea discussed a 40-day Lenten season of fasting, but it’s unclear whether its original intent was just for new Christians preparing for Baptism, but it soon encompassed the whole Church.

How exactly the churches counted those 40 days varied depending on location. In the East, they fasted on weekdays. The western church’s Lent was one week shorter, but included Saturdays. But in both places, the observance was both strict and serious. Only one meal was taken a day, near the evening. There was to be no meat, fish, or animal products eaten.  Eventually, various foods (like fish) were allowed and, gradually, over the years, the rules have relaxed considerably.

I see Lent as an opportunity to give up bad habits in order to cultivate good habits so, here is my list of what I am giving up for Lent:-

I Give Up criticism and Take Up Encouragement

I Give Up grumbling and Take Up Blessing

I Give Up pointing out faults and Take Up Praying for people instead

So, what have you given up for Lent?

 

 

I’m on the clock guv!

stopwatch

This morning I was leading a devotional time with our volunteers at Enfold (the drop in centre for Homeless and vulnerably housed people) that is run at Church.  It was one of those days when, I had a lot to do and little time in which to do it.

The reflections came from John chapter 7 & 8.  In John 7 Jesus is at the Feast of the Tabernacles in Jerusalem and the Pharisees are trying to catch Him out.  In John 8 a woman is brought to Jesus who has been caught in adultery again, the Pharisees are trying to catch Him out.

The thought that came to me was from verse 53 of John 7 and verse 1 of John 8;

Then each went to his own home.

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

 If, like me, you went to Sunday School (or children’s activities) you were probably present with a view of the Pharisees as the villains of the story.  But, I don’t think that is right.  I think the Pharisees were religious men who were trying to do the right thing.  However, they had missed the point!  As I read the words “Then each went to his own home”, a picture formed in my mind of the Pharisees returning to everyday life.  There were jobs to do, rules to keep, tasks to fulfill and advice to give.  They were busy people, trying to do good things.  I could almost imagine their time being so full, that they had no real time for God.  In those circumstances prayer becomes a routine and “religion” creeps in.

In contrast John tells us that Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  I think He went there to get away and spend some time in the presence of His Heavenly Father.  For Jesus, prayer is not about ritual it is about relationship.  It’s from this relationship that His ministry flowed.  Prayer was the “energizer” and not the “rubber stamp” of His ministry.

I believe that Bishop JC Ryle is right when he said;

No time is so well spent every day

As that which we spend upon our knees

I felt challenged to look at my own prayer life today.  I realized with a full diary, appointments to keep and tasks to fulfill, my own prayer life could become so easily like that of the Pharisees, routine.  What God wants is relationship.  I wrote this prayer which, I hope, will help you as much as it helped me;

 

Dear Lord,

Today is going to be busy

Full of meetings and thinking

And often my prayer becomes routine

When, all you desire of me, is relationship

 

Forgive me Lord, for mechanical habit

Give me a heart that seeks after your will

 

Open my eyes that I may see your grace in others

Open my heart that I may know the move of your Spirit

 

Grant to me a greater love

For you

Your people

And those you have put me among

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Prudence

circle of friends

 

I am one of those people who loves language and words.  Recently, I wanted to find out about “collective nouns”.  A collective noun is a name given to a collection of things.  For example a herd of cows, a murder of crows or a murmuration of starlings. The collective noun that I wanted to discover was a group of clergy.  Now, before you start thinking of anything uncharitable, let me put you out of your misery!  The closest I could find was a “prudence of vicars”.  What I have not discovered is, if this applies to Anglican clergy only or, also to non-conformists.

I had a particular reason for wanting to find this out because today I had a “prudence of vicars” in my home.  As chair of our local Churches Together, I invited all the local clergy to my home for lunch.

When I first became a minister, Churches working together was a rare.  But over the years this has, thankfully, changed.  Instead of glaring at our differences we need to look at what we have in common.  I value my friends and colleagues from across the denominations, and I have learnt a lot from the different traditions.  As the “prudence of vicars” gathered I found myself reflecting on the words of Psalm 133;

How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!

(Psalm 133 vs. 1- The Message)

But, I believe, these words do not just apply to Churches.  I think these words apply to all of us.  Maybe, we need to look to the things we have in common with those around us rather than glare at our differences.

I hope it will not be too long before we have another “prudence of vicars” at home.  Maybe there is someone that you need to look at differently.  In the meantime, I am going to look for my copy of the “white album”….

The best days of your life?

Traditional Eraser (Copy)

I had an aunt who always used to tell me that “school days are the best days of your life”.  I disagreed. I was not a big fan of school.  I would often find my mind drifting, I would gaze out of the window longing for the day to pass.

In my day, if a teacher spotted you half a sleep they would wake you up with a piece of carefully aimed piece of chalk.  The chalk could be made to bounce right in front of you and soon got your attention!  If you were messing about in the classroom, something a little larger like the board rubber was used.  Teachers today have lost these useful tools, a “smart board” doesn’t have the same effect!

Of course, the real point of the board rubber was to clean the chalk board or, erase mistakes on the board.  A quick wipe over, and the board was clean.  If only life could be like that.

There is a book in the Bible called Psalms in which the writers express a whole range of feelings and emotions and, this morning in church, we looked at one particular Psalm 103.  In it, the writer speaks about how God erases our mistakes with His forgiveness.

As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins from us.

(Psalm 103 vs. 12)

 

That’s how complete God’s forgiveness is.

 

As one commentator says;

God is big enough to pick me up when I have fallen. God is big enough to clean me up when I have gotten dirty. God is big enough to “cleanse me of all unrighteousness.” It is God’s Forgiving Grace that keeps me going.

(anon) 
And when Jesus saw the crowds.  Saw the people that were gathering around Him He knew the burdens the rules the guilt the failure of their lives and He said these words to them

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

(Matthew 11 vs. 28 – 30)

God’s forgiving grace is better than any board rubber because, it not only erases, but it works deeply within us to change our lives.

Please do adjust your set

sunrise-beach

Yes, I did get that right, for those who think it should have read “please do not adjust your set”.  Let me explain…..

This morning I did quite well, I even had time to take the dog for a walk before I needed to get to the office.  I am very blessed to be living beside the sea.  We did one of my favorite walks – Holland Haven.

There is a little spot, just down by the sea where I like to stand and pray.  As we got to the spot this morning, there was nobody else around, so I stood and looked out to the horizon.  What I saw was interesting.  As I looked straight ahead there was beautiful sunshine, I could see the horizon and the turbines stretching out for miles.  When I moved my head slightly to the left, the sky was dark and the visibility was poor, the view was “unseeable” (not a proper word I know but, I hope you know what I mean).

So, there I was moving my head backwards and forwards like I was watching a tennis match!  Good job there was nobody else there!  Same morning, same time, same sea, same place – two different views.  But, isn’t that always the case?  I know there are some people who are pessimists and there are some who are optimists but, I think this runs deeper than that.

When I look at the life of Jesus, I realize that He saw exactly the same people as the Pharisees  and yet He saw them differently.  Same people, same time, same place – different view.

I believe that Jesus calls us to “please adjust your set” and look at the world with God’s eyes.  To see potential where others see failure, to see hope where others see despair to see acceptance where others see rejection.  Surely, this is “pie in the sky” thinking you say (go on admit it!!!!).  I think not.

“Adjust your set”, dear reader, change your vision and it’s God that helps you to do that.  In  the words of Corrie Ten Boom;

Look at the world , you’ll be distressed.  If you look within you’ll be depressed.  If you look at God, you’ll be at rest”

Is it time for you to “adjust your set”

 

Prayer and Prejudice

10712-bacon-sandwich

It was the wonderful Adrian Plass who once wrote “God’s two greatest inventions are bacon sandwiches and salvation”.  I know what he means, I love a bacon sandwich (salvation’s great too!).  But, it was the humble bacon sandwich that has challenged me recently.

Some of the men that form part of our fellowship have wanted to set up a men’s prayer breakfast and, if I am honest, I was not too keen.  Why?  A couple of reasons.  Firstly, I have never been happy with ministries that exclude a proportion of a fellowship.  I suppose I have seen the damage that christian’s have done to each other by excluding women from fulfilling their God given calling.  Secondly, I had an image in my mind of what “men’s ministry” looked like and it wasn’t something that appealed.

Prejudice simply means that we have “pre-judged” something, whether that is a person, race, gender or even a ministry.  I believe that throughout His life and ministry Jesus challenged prejudices and through His Holy Spirit, He continues to do so.

So, I gave the men’s prayer breakfast a go.  I enjoyed the bacon sandwich, I enjoyed the fellowship, I enjoyed meeting and chatting with a really great bunch of friends.  I have, since then been to a curry night and, later this year, will be going to The Gathering (organized by Christian Vision For Men).

What also thrills me is that some of the ladies in our fellowship are now exploring the possibilities of their own gathering (although I understand no bacon will be involved!).

What I have learnt is that when we confront our prejudices, we can discover something that becomes really valuable to us.  So, go ahead, why not give something new a go, who knows what you may discover as you do.

 

 

 

Best laid plans…

mouse-on-cheese

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley,

(Robert Burns To a Mouse 1786)

As Burns night is almost upon us, I thought I would begin by quoting the great Rabbie Burns!   But, strangely enough, these words seem to reflect my week.

I began my week with ideas and plans all in place and everyday, something went wrong and nothing I planned got done.  How do you manage when things don’t go as planned?  I have a tendency to get frustrated and i can find it very stressful.

I found myself reflecting that most of the most inspiring moments of Jesus ministry came from interruptions, His “best laid plans” were interrupted on many occasions and it’s from these His ministry flowed.

Perhaps, instead of getting upset at the interruptions, we need to learn to look for the opportunities in the interruption.