Friday, 27 November 2009

few thoughts

How strange some days are, how moments stand out as markers in the day, maybe reminding me to pay attention to the day that passes. Yesterday I sat whilst an elderly lady told us about when she was younger and coming home from guides and noting all the bunting on the streets. She asked what it was for and was told the war was over. She ran home to ask her mum if it was true, her mum said "oh yes and there will be dancing in the street tonight" and there was. Just a moment of her life shared whilst we sat and drank tea. I am glad she shared that moment of her life.
Today I saw a lady in a Lexus 4x4 putting some things in the charity clothes box at Tesco, I thought if I had a camera I would take a picture of how surreal that picture would be. I didn't know the woman but a world of assumptions invaded my head.

The rest of the two days have blurred with the usual activity, breakfast with Phil and Frasier, time at the Hope Centre setting up for afternoon tea with the older generation, daytime tv with Rachel too sick for school and an attempt to pack for a trip to Albania tomorrow.

I wonder how many of our days are made up of greys with splashes of colour and if we should note more closely those splashes, maybe they are the moments that develop our character and maybe the greys are the substance.....

Hope you have some colour splashes in your day.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Love Heartbeat

The heartbeat is the most basic test for life. The first thing that a doctor or nurse would check for at an accident site would be a pulse. The sign that at least the engine of the body is working and there’s a chance for everything else. Without that there’s little point it checking anything else, it’s fundamental.

The first sound we hear in our lives is a heartbeat; our mother’s heartbeat. Although we wouldn’t know it our very life depends upon that all encompassing rhythm. The steady double beat of life; each “bvrmm-bvrmm” delivering vital oxygen and nutrients and carrying away harmful waste. Babies are so soothed and comforted by the steady beat of the heart that after birth babies that have trouble settling are often played a recording of the mother’s heartbeat. It’s a reminder that all is well and that they are safe and protected and where they ought to be.

One of the most intimate and vulnerable acts is to allow someone to rest their head on your chest listening to your heartbeat. Children will cuddle up in this position when they need comforting, adults may do it when just wanting wordless intimacy with a husband or wife. My wife often falls asleep in front of the TV with her head on my chest, whether that’s because she feels safe and secure there or because the TV is boring her to sleep is open to debate.

Even though we know that the brain is where our consciousness resides we still refer to the heart as being the source of emotions and the passions in our life.

‘His heart wasn’t in it’, ‘Cry your heart out’, ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’, ‘Affair of the heart’ or ‘Break your heart’; these are phrases that just wouldn’t make sense with brain or mind substituted for word heart. The heart is where we live from. Our brain doesn’t rule our hearts – it’s much more the other way round. We don’t decide to fall in love with someone as an intellectual decision, our heart just goes ahead and does it and leaves our mind to work out the details later.

When we’re doing something we’re passionate about, a sport perhaps or playing in a band or riding a motorbike fast down a twisty back road or greeting a loved one we’ve been apart from for some time our heart rate goes up. The pulse quickens, a bit of fear perhaps of the unknown but excitement and a rush of adrenaline. We feel properly alive.

So I guess it’s no coincidence that the heart is also synonymous with love. When we fall in love we ‘loose our heart’ to someone else. We write ‘I ♥ you’ on things or in some cases carve it on trees. Love is the greatest. To be in love and to be loved in return is the most wonderful feeling.

True love isn’t a passing fancy or infatuation. It never gives up. It’s a rock you can stand on when surrounded by quick-sand.
True love isn’t selfish or given only so that it’ll receive something back. It cares for the one loved more than for itself.
True love isn’t dissatisfied with what it has. It sees the best in the one it loves.
True love isn’t proud or arrogant; it doesn’t fly off the handle or keep a score of perceived wrongs. It is considerate, calm under pressure and forgives readily and then forgets.
True love puts up with anything, never looks back and WILL keep on going until the very end no matter what. No matter how many times it’s rejected, no matter how badly it’s treated, no matter how little it’s valued no matter how much it’s been criticized or even ignored.
True love is always there with its arms open wide ready to pour itself out.

Finding true love changes the course of your life, it’s changed mine. It takes you on an adventure that just keeps getting better and better. It colours how you look at everything around you; it gives you a reason to get out of bed during the times when everything else in your life makes you want to hide under the blankets. It gives us the reassurance that; not only are we loved but that we’re also significant. This kind of love is what fires our heart with passion. This kind of love doesn’t want to be contained or hidden away. This kind of love is pretty much impossible for us to give.

This love is the love Jesus showed all of us when he came to earth as a human being on a rescue mission. Jesus, God to the rescue. That utterly unconditional always-ready love is what is offered to each one of us all the time by God because he loves us. The Bible is a 66 book love story. It’s all about love. To talk about love without talking about Him would be missing the point. To be in love and to be loved in return is not just a most wonderful feeling. True love is the point of being alive.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Intimacy 1:1

Onto the mountainside you call me
You wait for me, you whisper “come away with me”
I follow.
You create for me
A space, a hidden place
Alone with you
Hand in hand, my Jesus and me
The distant rumbling demanding me back
Your grip tightens, “stay with me”
I stay.
I am his, he is mine
The beloved, the presence of the One
My heart beats for, made for, exists for
Further in, deep calling to deep, lost in
Two becoming one, complete unity, completeness
“Live in me”
I live in Him and I am.

Friday, 20 November 2009

The wind

In my late teens I was terrified by the wind, even the sound of it moving trees would create feelings of dread in me. I had a fear of freak accidents and the sound of the wind blowing things around seemed to speak of an unknown and powerful enemy. There would be no reason behind my death and it would be reported as a tragic freak accident, it would be “such a shame”. I am not sure where the fear came from, maybe being a young mum gave me a sense of my own desperation to stay alive, maybe coming from a deeper fear of dying before I had made my mark on the world.
In the last twenty years the sound of the wind has changed to where now when I hear the wind I want to be outside, I want to feel the wind move my hair, touch my skin. I want to watch as it moves the trees, enthralled by its power and freedom. I think about what it looks like when there is nothing there to be moved, no sound to make, no one to notice.
Yesterday we visited new friends across the border in Wales. The wind was making its presence felt, throwing the branches around, leaves blowing all over the place, it was wild weather. We were meeting to talk about the journey and where it may lead in the future. So today I wonder whether my love for the wind is linked to my love for the wild, for the emerging life of a wild wanderer, to be free from restraint, to follow where the wind blows without concern for personal ambition or achievement, without the fear of freak accidents and without the need to make a mark on the world. To just be free to follow the wild wind of Spirit, to go where he leads and to be who he says I am.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Transition – the shifting sands

Where does ‘transition’ begin? With the person, a locality, a nation, a planet??? Can they all be in transition at once, I believe so, and if so how does that bring us any stability? The global market shifts and changes, grows and declines and that in turn affects nations, localities and individuals but then at the core of global shifts individuals make decisions. One person makes a decision which can have a global effect. One change affecting another like a ripple becoming a wave which then crashes and at the end of the process maybe only the murmur of a ripple is enough to start another decision making wave.

We as individuals have a global impact whether it is intentional or not and maybe being directional in our decisions, believing that the decisions that we make on a micro level can have a macro impact, would make us live more purposefully. Although if we took that too seriously we may become immobilised and not make any decisions out of fear of not making the right ones. But then, the right decision, what is that? We can lock ourselves down never just leaping into the dark for fear that the wrong decision will somehow ruin lives, causes distress or have a detrimental global impact. Whereas the reality is there can only be the decision itself the value of it being worked out over time. Decisions have to be made, they will have an impact, one relationship affecting another, one yes becoming another’s no, but the decision is made and the transition from one place to another continues. Changes occur, some decisions creating minute changes, some with more rapid results than we can keep up with, maybe the ground under our feet does feel like shifting sand. Which leads to the question - where is the stability?

I can look to the past or to the future for stability but I live in the present so I must be able to find stability here, in the midst of the day or night. For me, knowing the one who is bigger than myself, who knows how to stay the same for an eternity, who made the sand that shifts and rocks beneath my feet gives me the stability that I need during times of more obvious transition. The times of not knowing where I am going and even if when I get there will it be as good as the place I left. The truth that the one who made the universe, cares for me, has a plan for me, wants me to succeed and most of all loves me with an everlasting, constant love makes the walking all the more purposeful and safe. For others, maybe the stability comes from an assurance that at the centre of transition is the potential for growth and therefore any sense of instability is only temporary, there is a confidence in their own ability to make right decisions and to achieve their goals, for others maybe there is no stability only a hope that the transition will end soon.

So there will always be transition and the question is how do we find our stability in the midst of it? Internally depending on our own abilities or lack of, or looking externally to the one who created us and holds the universe together.....

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Let there be light?

Mags and I were discussing the account of creation given in the book of Genesis the other night, as I’m sure many busy married couples do of a Monday evening. If, like me, you have a scientific and/or technical inclination then the account in Genesis may present you with some knotty problems in trying to get your mind around the apparent contradictions between current scientific understanding of the origins of the world and the Biblical account. In such situations I generally enter ‘bloke’ mode and ignore the problem and hope it goes away, which in this case appears unlikely unless Prof. Richard Dawkins and his ilk suddenly discover huge flaws in almost every branch of science or someone discovers that Moses had actually written another less well known book explaining all the annoying little details such as dinosaurs, celestial mechanics, talking snakes and who exactly Cain was afraid of, after killing Abel, as there was only him and his Mum and Dad on the planet. One explanation I’ve heard is that ‘the Bible is not a scientific document’, Moses couldn’t possibly understand the ‘big-bang’, solar systems, chaos theory, natural selection etc so God explained it all in a story-book way he was capable of grasping. The details may not be literally true, the proponents of this idea say, but the principles of a creator God and a rebellious mankind breaking relationship with Him are the spiritual truths we should focus on.

Now I used to quite like this idea. But not anymore. If there was no literal Adam then how can there be a place for a second Adam, Jesus, to utterly undo and reverse the damage he did? Some of the fundamental truths of the Christian faith (see Romans 5) get seriously watered down. There is no’ pre-fall’ state for us to be restored too! Nor am I convinced that a belief in the literal mechanics of the creation in Genesis 1 & 2 is the way forward either, God gave us our brains for a reason. So now having painted myself into a corner where do I go? I’m not sure, to be honest. I don’t really want to read loads of books that are hell-bent on defending the so-called ‘Creationist’ doctrine nor those proposing the opposite; I think all that could just be a big red-herring designed to get us ‘straining out gnats’ (Matt 23:24) and missing the point of the Gospel. I think I’ll take a dose of what my Catholic friends call ‘mystery’ and decide that the Bible isn’t aimed at my mind, it’s aimed at my spirit, so perhaps getting my mind round these problems is a moot point (1 Cor 2:14) and leave it at that for now.

However one little thought to leave you with. The nit-pickers often point out that God starts the whole amazing shebang with “Let there be light” but doesn’t get around to creating the Sun until three days later and how stupid and inconsistent is that? Well while thinking about this I had a little ‘revi’. God is spirit, not flesh. He’s about to create the universe, not just the planet earth in an extant physical universe, but actually the whole space/time continuum is about to be birthed. The laws of physics as yet don’t exist; they need to be created too. So what’s the first thing God makes? A method of revealing himself to his new physical creation – light! The light God works by for the three days before he gets around to making the star we call ‘the sun’ is his own Glory and that of his son Jesus! Revelation 21:23-25 -- “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.”

May the ‘light of your face shine upon us, O Lord’, we want to see your glory Jesus and become what we behold. Let there be light and lots of it!

Friday, 13 November 2009



I have been asked to keep a secret a few times, a real secret, something people really didn’t want others to know about. The secrets have either been good news that wasn’t yet ripe for sharing or something more personal that would never be open knowledge. Some of the secrets were shared purposefully, being brought out in to the open as one of the reasons for the conversation but some more out of necessity for openness in our relationship. Being the holder of a secret is quite a responsibility, it brings a level of nervousness, that it may be shared carelessly or accidently. The secret needs to be stored away in the memory banks and forgotten so as to ensure its safety from early release but easily remembered when necessary. Secrets come with a level of trust, nobody shares real secrets with someone they believe will disclose the information at the earliest possibility. There is a duty to care for the secret, to hold it tightly, to keep it safe, to hide it.

There are hidden things however that do need disclosure, I am not talking about those secrets that require disclosure for safety reasons, more hidden things in our lives that stay hidden despite their fighting for air at times. We hide how we feel, what we are going through, we hide what we really think and hide from situations and people. We hide our pain, our difficulties and we even hide our successes and joy’s. There appears to be a lack of honest in our relationships, sometimes out of wisdom, nobody really wants to know if their bum looks big or if the present from your mother was really just what you’d always wanted. Sometimes our lack of honesty comes from fear of upsetting others, we don’t want them to know they’ve hurt our feelings, we don’t want others to feel sad about us, disappointed in us, we don’t want to incite jealousy or look like we’re boasting. The common greeting of ‘I’m fine how are you?’ is just pleasantry not reality. It is not often our lives are just ‘fine’.

It would appear that we are also not too honest in church, we have learnt very well how to behave in church, how to relate to each other. As my friend says, we have the bountiful book of Christian platitudes for every situation, ‘offer it up’ ‘leave it at the cross’ ‘faith is only faith when it’s all you’re hanging on to’, followed rapidly by some awkward smiling or pained expression. These are good words and true but not necessarily what we need - perhaps someone just to listen to us with acceptance and love. We do not want people feeling that if they were only a ‘better Christian’ they would be able to deal with their feelings or their circumstances better. We do not want people to play the game a bit better - we want honest and real relationships in which we can grow and flourish. Perhaps one reason why we do not show our true self so much is we have created a culture in church that if you show any perceived weakness your strengths are in question, you will not be allowed to minister, to exercise your authority, to disciple others?? Not really how Jesus treated his disciples, he didn’t wait until they were perfect before he sent them out! It appears he believed you learn about yourself through being sent out not being kept in. But it is not just the difficulties, our failures, our disasters, it is also our joys and our good times where we will not always be fully honest. If we are experiencing heaven’s heights we tend to tone that down for fear of being thought flaky or boastful. We live in a culture that does not accept success well, always looking for the flaws and suggesting that happiness and joy cannot last, throwing in scriptures like hand grenades. I am not suggesting that we become brutally honest with everyone we meet but I am suggesting that there needs to be an increase in honesty in our relationships.

And then there are the secret and hidden things of God, Jesus taught us about the hidden treasure and Paul wrote about the secret things of God. There are things worth the time and the cost to discover in each other and in God. I will come back to those thoughts another day.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Why fire?

Last night at Pioneer People's ‘School Of The Spirit’ we were talking about ‘Encountering the consuming fire’. Sue Sinclair from ‘Community Watchmen Ministries’ gave us an excellent talk, and no she’s not affiliated to the Watchmen comic books! During our discussion time someone in the small group with me asked the question “Why does God use fire so often to represent his presence?” or words to that effect. We came up with a few glib off-the-cuff answers but it started me pondering further. I may return to this subject another day but I thought I’d share some thoughts so far.

We often think of the fire of God representing the consumption of the ‘flesh’ and that is certainly one thing we should embrace, scary as it may seem. We are called to die to ourselves and live fully in the spirit. The Old Testament animal sacrifices were burnt utterly to destroy the carcass of the animal, sometimes with natural human fire at other times with a supernatural intervention such as Elijah’s water-logged offering during his contest with the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel or when Solomon dedicated the temple. This use of fire symbolises the extent to which our natural ‘fleshy’ desires, ambitions, thought-patterns and will need to be submitted to the loving will of our heavenly Father and while I’m certainly not there fully I am working on it!

However it’s not this fire I’ve been thinking about. We have our cultural goggles on so tightly we often struggle to see the world through the eyes of the people who actually lived these Bible stories and one thing we easily forget is that in those pre-industrial times fire was the only game in town! We have electric lights in every room using filament bulbs or energy efficient ones, fancy miniature halogen 12v lighting, side lights, up-lighters, chandeliers, fluorescent tube lights you name it we’ve got them. We have gas-fires, electric fires, central heating, under-floor heating, cavity wall and loft insulation, electric blankets and thermal underwear. We have microwaves, gas cookers, electric cookers and AGAs. From Adam and Eve to the children of Israel leaving Egypt, from King Solomon in his splendour to Jesus camping out with his disciples under the stars if you wanted light indoors or after sun-down you needed fire. If you wanted to stay warm, not just for comfort but to stay alive in wintertime, you needed fire. If you wanted to eat something other than fruit and berries then you needed fire. If you needed to scare away wild beasts while you slept then you needed to sleep near the fire. Fire was life. Maybe that’s why God uses fire to represent his presence; because without His spirit, without that fire, we’re unable to see where we’re going, we grow cold, we go hungry (as the Bible is just an old book without the Spirit breathing life into it for us), we’re vulnerable to attack and we won’t live very long.

Praise God that the consuming fire of the Holy Spirit is available to all believers, so take some time to draw near to the fire. It’ll save your life.