I’m thinking about Grace part 38

It is those two words again: someone said ‘thank you’ to me on Sunday for something I had done.

Saying ‘thank you’ is no big deal; just two words. But it was a different kind of ‘thank you’; sometimes ‘thank you’s’ to the ordained seem almost disembodied and ‘unthinking’ (it may be that here I am getting too thoughtful for my own good….); ‘thanks for the sermon’, ‘thanks for the visit/wedding/etc’ or my all time unfavourite ‘Thanks; that was nice’.

I do unthinking/disembodied thank you’s; ‘thanks’ when I get my coffee in a cafe or ‘thanks’ when I get my change in a shop. Very polite and good manners, but not really paying full attention to the other person or really taking in what they have done.

This ‘thank you’ was heartfelt and it didn’t airbrush my faults (in this instance, there were things I had clearly forgotten to do) but it was gracious and it got through my British self-depreciation and reserve.

I’m not talking about this for applause; there have been occasions when I have done stuff that was ill-conceived and then flat batted any criticism by talking up the ‘thank you’s’ that I had received. I’m mentioning it as I am thinking about Grace and I’d like to have a go at saying ‘thank you’s’ like the one I received on Sunday. Maybe the other person might then feel like I did; a bit bigger.

I’m thinking about Grace part 37

Thank you!

Thank you!

Thank you!

thank-you

…to the person who clicked on this site to make my 1000th visitor. I’m still not sure how this figure was arrived at: wordpress counts things differently than blogger (ie- you can’t boost your tally by repeated self clicks), but thank you.

I’m pretty anally retentive: numbers are important to me (I have a frightening, almost scary memory for cricket statistics that I won’t go into here) and a round 1000 is good news. True- some sites I respect have hits into 7 figures. However, 4 figures is good for me: I am not some weird saddo in an unnoticed corner of the blogosphere…… I am just a weird saddo linking with other weird saddos!

Makes me think- just how much do I depend on others for validation? Validation is good when it comes, but maybe the heart of Grace is that you are validated my Christ.Period. (I know that is an Americanism…. I am working 24 7 not to use them…..ooops I just did)…. and you live, as Primal Scream noted:-

‘I believe in you. Got no bounds’

ie openly and expansively, radiating Grace.

So I will do from now on.

PS: Thank you!

I’m thinking about Grace part 36

I’m using the reading this week from John 12 about grains and the slow process of growing. Plus Wendell Berry is a farmer. Picture: http://www.michaelfuchsphotography.com/images/field_of_grain.jpg

Ok- I’m cheating- I’m using Naked Pastor again. Here he quotes from Wendell Berry- I’ve heard a lot about him, but never read him:-

‘It just means making a commitment and hanging on, and never giving up. As long as you’ve got the life and willpower to continue, you continue. All that’s based on a faith that my experience, to some extent, proves out- if you hang on, you’ll see your way through whatever it is that’s difficult- that there’s going to be a reward. I believe that; it’s my profoundest operating belief. Something will come. Out of the impasse, something will come that you’ll be glad to know. I don’t have enough faith in myself to believe the next choice I would make would be better than the one’s I’ve already made… I think that I’ve been blessed in all the choices I’ve made, but I don’t think that I would have found out that I was blessed if I hadn’t kept to those choices’.

 

In a fast paced West, where there is so much noise and pressure to keep getting faster, bigger and louder (and don’t we take this as one of the covert and sometimes overt measures of what comprises ‘success’ in the Western Church), I find words like this to be very liberating and healing.

Behind those words I hear God, in the words of U2 (and one of my friends said recently ‘You think Bono is the 4th person of the Trinity don’t you?’) saying to us, fixated on anxiousness, buying, being excessively busy, shining our cars etc etc…or any of the other myriad things we do to avoid stopping:-

‘You don’t know how beautiful you are,

You don’t know, and you don’t get it do you?

You don’t know how beautiful you are.’

Today I wish you (and me) the courage to ‘keep on keeping on’ and not to panic. Maybe in that way I (& you) might sense some Grace about the place…

I’m thinking about Grace part 35

I don’t know if I have used this before- life is a bit of a blur at the moment and I don’t have much recall. I used this last Sunday night. I was going to do something on the evening of Mother’s Day about thankfulness/being thankful and then I discovered this cartoon and I couldn’t.

thanks

http://www.nakedpastor.com/archives/2949

Of course, being finite, we only see things as we are. However, God save me if my apprehension of Grace has strayed into the above territory.

I give thanks for people like ‘naked pastor’ who give me suprising takes on Grace. Someone commented on one of his recent postings (26/3):-

‘Thank you for the reminder of Grace. Sometimes that is all one can have to keep sane’.

I’m thinking about Grace part 34

Here are two quotations that I recently found that have hit me:-

“In order to become myself I must cease to be what I always thought I wanted to be.”

Thomas Merton—looks happy doesn’t he?

“I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self.”

Henri Nouwen- now he looks happier doesn’t he?

(HT: http://tallmonasticguy.typepad.com)

Wow! Each time I have  read them, I have taken them in more or they have arrested me more.

I guess you can’t live them properly unless you have a deep sense of Grace: God is for me….I receive my value and worth from God….. and not what I do, what position I have reached. As a bloke, working in a job with no agreed measures of what is ‘good’ or ‘achievement’ I find it really hard to take these in- there is always the pressure to mark onesself off from ‘the herd’ and to define (sometimes in those words) your ‘succesful ministry’. I don’t know if that is alpha male behaviour (although I’ve always considered myself more beta….), but there it is.

Living these quotes is kind of living against the stream. Tough call, but I guess that is what Lent is supposed to be.

I’m thinking about Grace part 33

Music. Music. Music. If it is the food of love, then I have excess of it (did you spot the nifty Shakespeare allusion there? I did….)

I would be lost without it. In a world of poverty I know I have too much music (but is such a thing really possible?), I know- it is a weakness. I love discovering new bands, new music, new sounds. Often I find music that speaks of the search for something ‘other’ much much more readily in the ‘secular’ realm (actually I increasingly don’t buy the seperation of the terms ‘scared’ and ‘secular’…hmmm this blog is becoming a bit of a cracked record….) than in the ‘Christian’ realm.

Spotify

I’m currently getting lost in music on ‘spotify’- it is like having a massive massive cd collection on call all the time. On several nights this week I have sat down late at night , intending to work and ending up losing myself in spotify and playing music- new stuff, old stuff ( a night composed of Leonard Cohen, The Clash, The Specials, Elbow, Lily Allen/Mick Jones and the inevitable U2 is pretty special) and just getting lost, lost, gloriously lost in sound…. appreciating more the artistry and the beauty……..

Is it Grace? Or just a commercial enterprise (I use the free service anyway)? Or can it be a mix of both? I don’t know- I love it- it is a real gift to me………music, music, music all of the time.

…ah…take me now Lord- life can’t get any better………….

I’m thinking about Grace part 32

When you start looking for Grace you tend to see it more and more. Even on bad days. At least that has been my experience so far.

In the words of U2 (who else? Admittedly this is one of the rare leaden footed lyrical passages on the album):

‘This shitty world sometimes produces a rose’

I need to be reminded of lyrics like that sometimes if I get too ‘blissed out’.  Yet, at the moment to me this world seems to be alive with the glory of God…

There is much I could say about yesterday, but my self imposed discipline for Lent is one post, one instance of Grace. 

I bumped into someone in a coffee shop (I like good coffee- I prefer to have meetings in such places (a) because of the coffee (b) I do not like the idea of doing church stuff in cloistered spaces. To me it kind of reinforces the duality of ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ spaces). This person had gone, is going through a lot, but saw a young child and said:-

‘Lovely sunshines in bright smiley faces help’

smile

…and I thought…. ‘you’ve got it better than I have… you are in pain…but you can see pain and grace at the same time’.

Amen

I’m thinking about Grace part 31

I’m unfortunate in some ways to belong to a Christian tradition that was founded by someone (dear old John Wesley…hmm.. ..haven’t heard about him for a while. I wonder what became of him?) who seemed to regard time as something to be subdued. We have a hymn that begins:-

‘I would the precious time redeem and longer live for thee alone’

Unfortunately, when mixed with the prevailing protestant work ethic, that can be a toxic combination. One way that I try to break this and sense Grace is the deeply spiritual practice of….

washing-line

the weather is never like that round here. It is Britain…. more to the point Northern Britain…

….hanging the washing out. Ok- it is still ‘work’- but it is so much quicker to bung it all in the dryer. I find it deeply relaxing to be out in the sun (Sun! In North Yorkshire! In March!) and the wind, slowly hanging the washing out. Sad that I am, I gain even deeper satisfaction from getting two loads done in the same day….

But I get a sense of joy…a deliberate practice of slowing down in the day and not using technology just because it is there (I get the same feeling choosing to walk around the village, instead of working to the last minute and then dashing to the car and then dashing to a meeting). I can be so easily satisfied…

 

I did not blog about my deep sense of satisfaction in filling and then emptying a dishwasher. Now that would be just too banal to blog about and also verging on the pathological…

I’m thinking about Grace part 30

You know I still have lots of questions. Always have, always will. There have been a few in the last couple of days…

So I don’t want you to think I have suddenly become ‘all shiny and happy’. I have never understood how practical Christianity got confused with ‘being complete’, ‘being a success’ or ‘claiming your destiny’. Always remember those codicils when I am trying to blog ‘Grace’.

I’m ploughing on with

aj-jacobs

that I blogged about a few days ago (Day 6 I think) . ‘Ploughing on’- is not true- I really like it. Here are some things I have noted in the last few days:-

‘Day 263. I feel myself becoming an extremist- at least in some areas. Like my obsession with gratefulness. I can’t stop……

…It’s an odd way to live. But also kind of great and powerful. I’ve never before been so aware of the thousands of little good things, the thousands of things that go right every day.’ (p451-2)

 

‘There is nothing wrong with making a million dollars. There is something wrong with keeping it.’(p456- quoting Tony Campolo).

 

‘There’s a beauty to forgiveness, especially forgiveness that goes beyong rationality. Unconditional love is an illogical notion, but such a great and powerful one.’ (p463).

 

All this from a guy who is writing , at least initially, from a perspective of no faith. He catches glimpses of faith by putting what he sees as biblical commands into practice and living by them, despite difficulty and ridicule. Sometimes when I read or hear people saying ‘I have lost my faith’ it seems to be spoken of like faith was an intellectual proposition- a lucky rabbit’s foot waved at reality- and not a lifestyle.

Reading this book makes me think- gives me insights into Grace. Wish I who believe could follow as diligently and wholeheartedly as he does….and make some of the lifestyle choices he does……

Grace often seems to appear outside our known and self-determined boundaries…

I’m thinking about Grace part 29

vicar

I don’t look much like this…

When I was offering for the ministry (I’ll be honest- it was the not having to wear a tie, the prospect of no mortgage, only working one day a week and the immense salary that attracted me…….hmmm (at least) one of those things may not be true), I asked one minister what was the best thing about what he did. He said something like this:-

‘People let you into their lives at key moments where they would let no one else in.’

My Grace moment for this day…well for this week is that having happened a few times this week. It has been unutterably precious. Those moments make me think that what I am being called to do is the best thing ever.

Thank you.

vicar-2

Well… when I was in my 20s, people did used to say that I both looked and acted like Mr Bean…