Bliss

Well not quite bliss….but I love this time of year. Last week I heard for the first time, the tweeting and chirrupping of birds (don’t ask me which- after over 6 years of living in the country I remain a townie and distubingly ignorant of animals, plants and birds). On that day my spirits lift: spring is coming. There may still be frosts and the threat of snow, but spring has put a marker down and daylight lasts just a bit longer.

I have a confession to make: at this time of year I like putting washing on the line. I love how it breaks up working at my desk and helps stops me getting too earnest, too serious or feeling ‘too busy’. I love the feeling of space and looking at and listening to spring. If I was beginning to get a little over serious, I guess I could say that this is a spritual practice; I guess that it is….oh pompousity- flee from me!

Sometimes when I look around at the bile on the blogosphere or posts which are just a little bit too serious, I think more people should take a break and hang washing on a line….it’s slower than drying it in a dryer and more time consuming but it is lovely not to feel that my schedules and my comfort are all that matter.

I’ll stop there; the washer has finished.

(yes I have posted something like this before. What can I say, I’m just boring and repeatative at heart

Your hymn for today

I like this so much. I did not get this on first hearing and watching, but on the second hearing I did. It is worship: raw, unpolished (and with mistakes) and very moving.

[youtube]Bf14XBbcVZg[/youtube]

I like how this is not Bono the star, but Paul Hewson (with Glen Hansard) singing for a friend (note the absence of shades).

This is going to carry me through today…

(HT: http://www.emergentkiwi.org.nz/)

 

Give me the child until he is 7….

…and I will give you the man.

My little son is 7 today. I am bowled over. Already this week he sent his first ever e-mail message (he got into a friends fb account and sent ‘Hi dad it’s Ben’….with the apostrophe) and identified the Chelsea manager by voice only on the radio. He has almost all he needs to be a man: internet savvy and a worrying interest in sport.

I’ll stop there: I can never read posts which gush about one’s children…..happy birthday Benjamin Tomos Evan!

More shameless plagarism

 

I often drop in on ‘Eternal Echoes’ (http://sallysjourney.typepad.com/) who is another Methodist Minister about 2 hours away, although we have never met.

She has been writing a series of poems about ‘exile’ (normally the words ‘poem’ and ‘writing a series’ would have me running for the hills) that have moved me. I like the idea of ‘exile’- I believe the church in the west is in exile: that is painful and many react to that with anger. The way I read my Bible, however, I see exile as our normal state and the place we have our ‘power’.

I’m taking the liberty of copying a whole poem- I like this- it is honest and real. I especially like the last line as I too have found that the first note is often difficult to find….

Hidden,

we are a shadow

of our former selves,

tucked away.

round a corner,

we have found a space

to practice our songs

in hiddeness…

+

Once we occupied a more

glorious location,

we were in the

thick of things,

respected and loved

we held a central place,

and our song was heard.

+

But now we are hidden,

and though

some still find us,

others think we

have gone…

+

Here, in our

diminished state,

we find comfort

in songs

from days gone by,

in repeating patterns

from our former lives,

and we try to tell

ourselves that

nothing has changed…

+

But a new, yet timeless song

is demanding our attention,

we know the words, and

the tune is printed on our souls…

+

We are called forth

called out,

called beyond our hiddeness,

to enter the song afresh,

to sing out a new refrain,

to weave past cadences

with today’s harmonies,

to create

a symphony

in song.

+

Why is the first note

so difficult to find?

http://sallysjourney.typepad.com/sallys_journey/2011/01/a-new-song-finding-the-first-note-songs-from-the-edge-of-exile-8.html

A pithy one-liner

Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series)

I scribbled something about my local panto and discipleship on 19th January (you can look back: it is allowed), shamelessly ripped something off a couple of days back (25th January) and then I was looking up a book a friend recommended and found this quote from it:-

“We need to lower the bar on how church is done and raise the bar on what it means to be a disciple.”

Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens (2005): Neil Cole

I like that. Another book on my ‘to buy’ list….

 

Something else ripped off from someone else.

TobiasJones2009.png

I was going to use this a couple of weeks ago, but I ran out of time. It is also, I feel, so true that it is a viscious indictment of my generation in middle England….and by extension me…

It comes from a column in the Observer magazine that I read every Sunday. It is from someone who decided that the Sermon on the Mount was not good moral advice for an hour on Sunday but a guideline for a way of life. I find what this person writes to be very human (see my Monday cartoon: followers of Jesus have not always been good at admitting humanity) and extremely challenging.

‘While I believe passionately in the importance of family, I think the two-generational nuclear family – “two up, two down” – is an abnormal sociological departure of the 20th century. It is one of the primary causes of rampant consumption because every little unit of human beings has to buy all the appliances and expensive gadgets and toys, many of which are only used once in a blue moon. The nuclear family has created an epidemic of depression and stress because there’s simply not enough time for two adults to do all the work to earn the money to pay for the nanny to do shopping to feed the children and so on. The modern, narrow definition of the word has turned the family – once a castle of inclusivity – into an excuse for exclusivity. Nowadays the phrase “I’ve got to think about my family” invariably means “screw you”.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/nov/17/tobias-jones-woodland-commune

Ouch!

Just work harder; push a little harder

How long have you heard that mantra or repeated that mantra yourself?

I have, or it has been an unacknowledged voice at the back of my brain (I know I often post on this, but the ordained are bad at this…..I get exhausted just listening to some state how busy they are, how many services they lead and ‘oh…..I haven’t managed a day off for a while (usually with a smirk)….. then I wonder what we communicate subtly and how lifeless our spoken words are as everything has been prepared in a hurry with a value set that shouts ‘try harder’).

I read this post a few days back. I like it.

We have expended an humongous amount of energy in the last ten years trying to help our churches become more ‘missional’ and much of it has been from good theology and with the best intents. But it has been hard work.

Not just that, it seems that many who have started on this journey have found it incredibly difficult. It’s not simply that those in the community aren’t interested. Its true that we are one of the most secular countries in the world and the Christian faith does have something of an image problem, but I think the issue runs deeper than that.

Increasingly I am coming to the conclusion that the reason we find it so hard to engage in mission is because our own spiritual formation is lacking and has been lacking for a long time. We have not done discipleship well, so we have people who ‘know the rules’ and can keep the club functional but lack the passion to do much more.

When love for God is fading its hard to find enthusiasm for introducing others to him.

Its epidemic to be so busy with work (often because we have bought the consumer myth) that we lack time to build relationships with people let alone God. Simply challenging people to ‘get on with the job’ of mission is like telling a fat person to run a marathon. It just isn’t going to happen. Or if it does it will be from all the wrong motives and will then get done in bizarre and unhelpful ways.

There is so much that needs attention in the life of ‘church’, but as I have reflected recently on what I consider the most critical place to start if we are to be effective, I am coming back to the need for some more substantial and rigorous spiritual formation. I don’t mean more Bible studies, although you won’t go far wrong if you’re really engaging with the Bible.

But I do mean helping people to recalibrate their own spirituality so that they find themselves deeply connected to God and living life out of that connection.

When mission and evangelism are engaged in dutifully and as tasks they are rarely effective, but when a person who is encountering God regularly and genuinely connects with another person then its impossible for that experience of God to stay hidden. So when we ‘send people out’ who are running on ‘spiritual empty’ it ought not be a surprise if they come home disappointed, burnt out or simply disinterested and uninspired.

So the focus of my own life this year will be in kindling a deeper and stronger connection with God. Not so I can do mission more effectively, but because I need that. I have no doubt that the result will be a more credible witness, but I think the horse needs to get in line with the cart.

http://www.backyardmissionary.com/2011/01/running-on-empty.html

Wahey, it’s Monday!!!

(http://www.nakedpastor.com/2011/01/19/cartoon-happy-happy-people/– a great site. Always controversial, always thoughtful and now he is self-employed with an easy ‘donate’ button if you want to use his stuff)

That is tongue in cheek by the way.

A few weeks back I posted something on facebook with the gist that I was never very good coming back to work on the first day after having time off. Someone did not seem to take kindly to it (it’s always hard to pick up nuance by e-mail, so I could be mistaken). Another friend posted ‘So the secret is out! Pastors are “normal” like the rest of us.’

I have often descibed myself to friends as a ‘born-again’ bloke. What I mean is that I evolved a way of Christian being that was not honest as to who I was….. I also had pressure (subtle and not so subtle) when I started out in the full-time God bothering business to be the same way.

I think I am being delivered and ‘born again’ from that…but slowly….I would say by God’s Grace. I discovered for me that God does not make clones but people, beautiful individuals.

That’s why I like this cartoon….. I am not great seeing people and bouncing around on Monday mornings and I’m usually far from bright and happy: give me ground coffee, a Bible, space to pray, write and plan for the week and I start to smile.

But for now: give me coffee and lots of it….

Sabbath

Two thoughts from an article that a friend sent me that have made me go ‘Hmmm’ and come over all thinky (if that is not a proper word, I’m claiming it).

‘….The principle of Sabbath is a theological and a political statement. It is a statement that we are not finally defined by our work. We are not defined finally by our output or our productivity or our utility. Every being, has a value independent of their use. The universe is not finally defined by its functionality or development or productivity. It has inherent value and a right to be in and of itself. This is the truth of Sabbath — we are created for joy and love. Others are created for joy and love. The earth is created for joy and love….’

———————————

‘…T.S. Eliot writes, “I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you … Which shall be the darkness of God.” Sabbath is a time not just for rest, but for wrestling; a time of deep discernment, for re-centering oneself in God and in our truest self. It is where we confess we’ve lost our way, where we let go of the props that sustain the fantasies and compulsions of the false. It is how we bring ourselves back home….’

(‘There is no rest’ Andrew Barnhill- source unknown)

A restful Sabbath to you….

Panto postscript 5

(ok, I’m still wearing crocs, behind a paper tree: deal with it)

Last one- honest.

So would I do it again? I always said I would have one go at doing the village panto …

Of course, I would have to go in for careful prayer, seeking wise counsel, searching the scriptures and a long period of reflection.

So that would be a ‘yes’ then….. providing I pass an audition and I can get my wife to have amnesia so she forgets saying ‘Out? again…. f%&, *&^%$’ on several occasions….although watching myself on video was profoundlt embarrassing: do I really look, sound and move like that?

Ah…the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd is calling me…