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Archive for June, 2006

Tonight was Book Group. A random meeting of people connected to one of my good friends, sitting around eating lush food, drinking wine and talking about a book. The best of times, no random small talk to fill the silences, just musings on a book that may or may not have changed our thinking, but there is still much to discuss. Tonight was ‘The Time travelers Wife’, a wrenching book and a fascinating concept. I think the best thing about book group is that when you discuss things with other people you discover new things, thoughts you never thought you had and new ways of looking at things. Brains interconnect and things are learnt. I love conversation of this kind. Happy sigh.

Happy sighs as well because, once more, intrepid blog readers, I am off to the Lakes. By now you may be bored of ramblings about the Lakes, but I don’t care. The Lakes are the best place. Look:

See. Ha. Beautiful. And I know the Maker. (ahem, that wasn’t meant too smugly…). More importantly he knows me and his patience never runs out. A fact that still staggers me. Wow.

So more photos of pretty mountains to follow, I’m off to have ‘How great thou art’ spinning around in my head for the next week as I gaze in awe at rocks and hills and grass and lakes and skies until I pop with excitement. Beauty that makes me cry is always the best kind. Now to bed, and to quote the Lightening Seeds, “feeling sleepy, full of wine, fall in bed just in time, a perfect day, a perfect night”. Mmmm.

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So, I was talking to the Bluefish about jPod today, we couldn’t quite figure out if it was a stupid book, a really clever book or just a really interesting concept for a thing and not really a book at all. It’s pretty much got no plot and no structure and seems to just hang on the premise that this is what might result if you published the contents of someone’s laptop. I find that random stream of consciousness stuff quite entertaining, most probably because it fits well with the constant flick reading and skimming that I do, from blog to blog, each day. I’ve always had a random interest in the strange details of others lives and rambling books and films that don’t necessarily have a point but just float through someone’s life for a bit and then leave again.

So, read it if you like a bit of randomness and ponder what your life would be like on paper if someone dumped the contents of your laptop into a book and published it. I’d be pretty freaked I think. That people would get to read the realms of self pity and rambling that doesn’t make it onto these blog pages is too horrifying to contemplate. (I’ve just read through some of my old ramblings and am thanking the gods of the internet that blogs weren’t invented before I developed enough discernment to work out what should be on a public screen and what should be left for the eyes of my Maker alone. Cue some hollow laughter as I realise that I may need to learn some more of that discernment thing)

Ultimately jPod pushes again at some of the familiar ground of the point to this life, is there one? Is it going to get better or more and more random? Really it might just be better to go and read Ecclesiastes.

2: “17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the work into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? 23 All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.”

3: “9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.”

The contradictions of this life eh. Everything beautiful in it’s time and yet we’ll never be content because eternity is in our hearts as well. Seems kind of unfair.

This is becoming a bit randomly stream of consiousness now, ah well, jPod will get us all in the end. For now sleep will ward away the randomness. Phew.

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Fathers Day

Today is Fathers Day, everytime I try and write something meaningful about Dad it comes out as trite and a bit like the insert to a cheesy over commercial Fathers Day card. I put this down to my entire internal monologue being taken over by Douglas Coupland. I guess that’s the penalty you pay for reading nothing but jPod over a weekend. Everything feels like it’s coming out in a post modern ironic tired of global capitalization and google type way. Sigh.

Anyway, I shall fight the feeling that this may sound hollow and get on with it. Things I love about my Dad.

When I was small he used to talk to me whilst I had my bath, I loved these bedtime rituals of him sitting and talking to me about my day whilst I got ready for bed. I wonder if when I got older my banishing of him from the bathroom made him sad.
He took us on walks on Saturday afternoons and made me laugh. Alot.
He introduced me to the only way to walk up hills, mountains and home. Slowly, one small step at a time. Keep going.
He put our relationship on the line to bring me back to God. I’ll never forget that night when he challenged me about how I was living.
When all I wanted to do was fight and get out the spiky feelings inside he let me fight him and held me until all my energy went.
He’s got a really really really long fuse, but when he gets angry… (run)
He doesn’t say it very much but I know that he loves me.
When he does say it I know that he means it.
He’s really good at making things, and I really loved building things with him when I was growing up.
One day he’s going to really know how loved and appreciated and valued he is for just being Him. I can’t wait to see the smile on his face when he gets to see how much God really thinks of him.
He really loves God and has lots of wisdom.
When he described me and my brother as friends recently it made me very happy.
He’s generally always right, annoyingly so.
He’s great at sharing deep moments of the soul with, silences in the Peak District, playing me songs, loving and sharing in the poetic moments of this life.
He’s really generous.
He knows me really well.
He’s not perfect and he can be really frustrating and stubborn but in his imperfect way he has shown me a glimpse of the unconditional love of my other Father.
I believe God’s love more because of Dad’s love for me.

Dad, this one’s for you.
I’m sorry I didn’t get a card in the post on time.

“May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.”

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Bits and pieces

This arrived in the post today. Can’t wait to start, and no doubt discuss with the Bluefish when he finishes it. With it came a couple of old Paul Simon albums which are likewise making me very happy. Along with his new one which has such classic lines as: “You cannot walk with the holy if you’re just a half way decent man, I don’t pretend that I’m a mastermind with a genius marketing plan, I’m trying to tap into some wisdom, even a little drop will do, I want to rid my heart of envy and cleanse my soul of rage before I’m through”, and “If the answer is infinite light, why do we sleep in the dark?” Beautiful.

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Today I had one of those conversations where all concerned really really want to change the world. We were musing in our usual Wednesday lunchtime way about the reality of God and the need to be constantly reminding each other of the truth, being honest about our sin and messy lives and wanting to speak God’s truth and grace to each other. We inevitably fell to talking about how little this happens in our church. It’s easy in conversations like this to get all fired up and frustrated and think that we’ve found the idea that can change everything. If only everyone thought as we did and were as enthusiastic as us.

However, there always comes a point though when you look at each other and realise that it’s down to us to start to change. It’s down to us to keep depending on God, keep being faithful to God even when no-one is encouraging us to. It’s down to us to get on and seek the sufficiency of God as he keeps us, inspires us and does his work stirring up our hearts. And finding that when we say it’s down to us, it’s really down to His work in our lives.

Yes we vitally need to be telling each other about God, yes we desperately need to be more honest, less plastic and more real with each other. But we can’t let the fact that we don’t experience that each week in our churches prevent us from carrying on with our Maker, it is no excuse for sitting and moaning but instead a spur to action, to gently loving and encouraging the people around us. If we aren’t starting to be honest, real and open then we shouldn’t expect or demand it of others.

As much as I hate to admit it, it does come down to faithfully getting on with loving the people around us, calling attention to reality and doing that in the everyday ordinary with all we meet. It’s less dramatic, it’s got less visionary purpose but it’s the reality Christ lived when he was down here. I want the big effects, I want a programme that will change things forever in our churches. I want to see and replicate that everywhere. But we’re just sinners in the hands of a faithful and grace filled God. Sinners reminding each other of where to find the rescue. Sinners who will keep on messing things up, but who need each other for forgiveness and reminders of what this life is really all about. Now if we all did that we really might change the world.

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Relay Reflections

So, last week I attended the last in the three Relay Conferences of the year. I’m not sure how to write all that I learnt, experienced and delighted in over the last week without sounding like a cheesy advert. Ah well. Here are just some of the highlights.

The presentations:
Watching 50 or so people stand up and for three minutes each pour out their hearts about the year they have just had, tell stories of how much they’ve understood their sin, their helplessness and God’s abundant grace and love is very very good for the soul. At times it felt a bit like an AA meeting with so much honesty and awareness of a God who works despite our rebellion, wrong attitudes and motives. I think more of our church life needs to be like this. Admittance that we get it wrong, live in a mess and don’t love as we should. And admittance that none of that is a barrier to the love, grace and work of God in us and through us.

The teaching.
I’m not one for blogging long bits of talks etc but Mo’s talks on 1 Corinthians 12-14 definitely deserve a mention. I learnt and was reminded that we are all equal parts of this body of Christ. That I have no room for feeling inferior or superior to those around me (pits of thought I fall into with alarming regularity). I was hit over the head by the truth that this life isn’t all about me getting to use my gifts and talents but about reaching out in love to those around me. I realised again how ridiculously self centered I am. I realised again how messed up my motives are and how far short I am from real Christian maturity and spirituality. From the stuff that considers others better than myself and truly loves and desires the best for those around me.

The moments.
Laughing so hard my stomach cried out in pain. Sitting around a bonfire on the last night singing cheesy old pop songs. Singing Amazing Grace with tears in my eyes at the knowledge that grace has brought us safe this far, and grace will indeed bring us home. Deep chats with friends who know God and help me know God. Talking through the amazing love God has for us and believing it all. Playing ‘would you rather’. Playing the bongos and loving the rhythm of God. Paula Love’s interpretive dance presentation. Praying with my fellowship group in the sunshine listening to bird song. Living and working in community for a week, seeing the body of Christ in action.

The moments of realisation.
I think the best moment of realisation came when talking to a friend after some of the presentations. I was thinking about the future, thinking about the next two years of work and not really wanting to do it, not wanting to carry on or not having the energy to. As I was talking through that, I had this image of God with a big stick, rather crossly telling me to just get on with it. If God is like that I really don’t want to get on with life.

Then it occurred to me that God is a God who just doesn’t work like that. He is a God who is going to give us everything we need to get on with living for him in this life, for persevering. He doesn’t expect us to conjure up loads of energy from no-where. He is a God who equips us, who is at work, who is loving, kind and oh so patient. He is the one who lovingly comes to us and enables us to keep on walking in the hard times, who lets us rest in the safety of His arms.

When I forget the reality of the character of God I lose the plot completely. But He is a Good God. A God who never lets us go, a God who finishes the work he starts, a God who expects and anticipates our failure more than we do, but a God who has endless oceans of grace for us. When I forget that it’s not surprising I want to give up. But remembering the real nature of our amazing God enables me to keep walking. Because He is with me and will not let go.

The reassurance
I’ve seen Relay handed from Nigel Pollock, to Andy Shudall, to Maurice McCracken and through those times it’s refreshing to see Relay workers come to the end of the year saying the same things, that they’ve realized that it’s not about what they do, but about God’s grace in their lives. That they’ve understood so much more of their sin but so much more of God’s total unconditional love. I love Relay because I love the God who gets to show us how incredible he is through weak, stupid, sinful rebellious creatures like us. I love that He gets the glory, that we get to receive more and more of his grace as we get to the depths of our dark vile hearts. I love that each year God does that in some more people. Advert over.

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Cynical?

Seeing as these are the thoughts of a cynical idealist, I thought I’d check out how cynical I am, the results surprised me.

You Are 44% Cynical

Yes, you are cynical, but more than anything, you’re a realist.
You see what’s screwed up in the world, but you also take time to remember what’s right.

I suppose I should do the same for whether I am an idealist and if that’s about 56% we’ll know that I’m a fair balance of the two. But really, I thought I was more cynical than that, I’m not sure whether to be delighted or slightly sad. (or skeptical of such a quiz…)

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