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Archive for March, 2007

The time of year when I head to Skegness is upon us. Once more I am interested to see what God will do on a beach in Skegness, and deeply glad to be getting away from my room and to the land of colleagues, fun and Butlins tack. Then in a random twist of fate and irony I’m heading to New York. The big apple. The city that never sleeps and other cliched lines. Something tells me it might have been a good idea not to leave the packing for the next two weeks until tonight. My current mantra is, remember your passport, remember your passport…

So, til a couple of weeks, go read a book, have some cups of tea and take a look at Isaiah 44, you never know it might do you some good.

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The thing is, I’m not perfect. (try not to spit out your tea in shock) Now I don’t I really think I am or that anyone else thinks I am. But sometimes that’s the expectation isn’t it? We assure each other that we know we’re not perfect, we laugh about it, how ridiculous. But then we hurt each other, and the wheels come off. We know the other person isn’t perfect and yet we are hurting and we’re not too sure how to deal with all that.

The thing is, I’m a selfish sinner. I think of myself before others. I make things about me me me me me. And sometimes I say things like that to make you all think that I’m oh so honest and real about my sin. Deep down I still want it to be about me. The layers and layers of sin and muck go deep. I rebel against my creator, I hurt his creation, I am a wretch.

The thing is, so are you.

We have a problem. And it’s made worse by knowing that we were made for so much more than this. We were made to love, to put others first, to be unselfconscious about ourselves and deeply concerned about those around us. We were made to love the best in each other, not delight in the worst. We know things should be different and so we get surprised at the hurt, and the pain is deeper because we know, this should not be. We respond to the pain others inflict by withdrawal and we hide the hurt under the veneer of “I’m fine”. It’s crazy how much hurt gets hidden to fester under the surface this way. We were not made to live with the “I’m fine” veneer.

There is another way to be. A way that doesn’t deny the pain we inflict on each other, a way that doesn’t expect perfection but seeks to live in the mess, a way that is open, honest and real with each other. A way based on the open admission that you and I are wretches but that we are wretches upon whom love has been lavished, and who are called to lavish the same love on each other.

This is how we were made to live. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” We learn from the master, we learn from the greatest example and we love. We love because He teaches us how, and His love involves forgiveness, an expectation of sin and a deep welcome home when we turn back. This is a love that does not falter, a love that perseveres even in the face of hurt, pain, and wounds caused by others.

I’m not saying this is simple. It’s simply hard. But it is our call, it is the way we are to live, it smashes our pride on the floor, as we admit we have hurt others and accept grace, as we admit others have hurt us and give out grace. It’s our call as His body. It’s the only way to genuine community, it’s the only way to walk as Jesus did. The big surprise of our world right now is that I am not at the centre. Our lives are for others. Our lives are His.

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Humility.

One of the best definitions of humility I’ve heard is:

“Being able to rejoice when others are praised.”

Think about it, how well do we do that? I know I am rubbish at this. I am glad, at times, not to get all the praise/attention for something. But if someone else does, I definitely want a piece of it.

We need to rejoice in each other, big each other up and delight when others are recognised.

PS, you do realise I write this stuff for my own benefit…

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Toilets can be tricky.

This is true. Take for example the toilets on the, delightful in every other way, trains up to London from Brighton. I presume you are familar with the electronic doors, the huge wide space they expose as they slowly trundle their way open. You may have seen several people standing in confusion inside or outside the doors staring at the complicated buttons proclaiming, press to close, press to lock, press to open. It’s tricky isn’t it? All the time you can see the lack of trust in this system in the eyes of the person wanting to use the said toilet. I can understand, who would want to be sat there as the huge door slowly exposes you to the world. A situation made worse by the close door button not being in handy reach when you are sitting down on the loo.

My housemate guided me to the best place to sit on a train yesterday. By the door to the toilet. A source of endless amusement. At first I thought only men were brave enough to attempt the potentially embarrasing toilet system, after all there is less risk of exposure when the doors open, all you do is turn your head around and shrug, I know because I saw this occur. One man was exposed in such a way, one man got stuck and had to force the doors open, one man stared in confusion at the buttons for a long time. When we neared London it appeared that a new force in toilet use had come upon us, women stepped up to the challenge. Three used it in succession, all pressing the buttons in the correct order and with no embarrassing sitting on the toilet watching the rest of the carriage come into view as the oversized doors slowly rotated. I was disappointed.

The moral? Sit near these toilets next time you are bored on a train, you will not be sorry. What was wrong with the simple doors with no electronics and a lock you could trust?

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A year ago, this helped to produce this:

I’m thinking of taking commission now, does anyone else want to be advertised on this blog? You never know what can happen! Hehe. Ah well, I get a sister as well as a brother out of all this, and they are cute aren’t they…:-)

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Ecclesiastes proclaims that most things are meaningless and there is little hope in this world, our experience echoes with that, here we groan and feel the ache of this broken world. However, as Aragorn is fond of saying, “there is always hope”. And the hope we have is real and certain. The resurrection happened. Jesus rose from the dead. If it didn’t happen we should embrace the ‘eat drink for tomorrow we die’ philosophy of this world. But he did. Christ has indeed been raised. Therefore we have hope. We have hope of the brilliant future that awaits us, but also hope now. That our labour is not in vain. After banging on about the resurrection for the whole of 1 Corinthians 15 Paul encourages his readers to give themselves fully to the work of the Lord because it is not in vain. There are things that aren’t meaningless. Our labour is not in vain. It is not wasted and we can do things that have value for eternity. You may do a small dance now.

And enjoy this quote… from thoughts on Isaiah 35 (go on read it)
“For we too are exiles and we cry out for home. We cannot save ourselves, but the way has already been raised up for us, and we have already set out on it. Like the prodigal we are on our way home, but we know far better than he did the welcome that awaits us. And this part of Isaiah’s vision is like a refreshing oasis on the way, where we can pause and gather strength for what remains of the journey. Joy and gladness and God himself are up ahead, and with that certain knowledge we can rise above our weariness and set out again.” (Barry Webb)

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Too often the answer to that question is right here, right now. I want the amazing house, the perfect lifestyle, the trendy Brighton flat within walking distance from the sea front, I want the pretty views, the relationships that will last and last, someone to come home to, something more to prevent me from floating away, I want comfortable furry things, I want, I want I want… I want it all and more. I want to know that this stuff will make me more of a person, will still the lonely ache in the bottom of my heart and make me happy.

The rational part of my brain screams at me, tells me that this stuff is temporary, not guaranteed, not the be all and end all of life. But the sound is turned down and all I can hear the the enticing voice saying that this new thing will be enough to fill the hole. The truth is, it won’t. This life should have taught me by now that nothing is certain, that things and people will not fill the hole. The ache underneath will not go away, will not be sated, will be underlying in all of this life. Not because I am an eternal pessimist. But because we were made for more than this.

We were made for a different place and until we get there we will groan, meanwhile we groan, meanwhile this planet groans. I could fill my life with stuff, I could seek the comfortable, the safe, the warm. And I do. But the warmth is a deceptive warmth, a blanket that will not ever cover me. We are strangers here, aliens and without a home. This is not our home. Home awaits, and we are to build there. Not my empire here, not a legacy of people who think I am cool, or a wonderful house, job, relationship success. These things, although wonderful special things to be delighted in when they are around, will fade and pass away.

There is more to come, there is better to come, there is a lover who calls my name and asks me to walk with him out into the rain, who says that he will be enough to cover me, who says that he will take me home. There is one who calls my name and asks me to bring others to Him, to help out in the work of eternity. To walk the path marked out for me without pridefully or enviously comparing myself to those around me. But to keep my gaze on Him who has walked this way before.

This here and now is my idol. But we have a better hope. We have the fount of living water. We have the truth that brings us freedom. We have the wisdom of God and not this world. We are called to seek heaven where it belongs, not here and now, but waiting for the Bridegroom to come. And he will. As the sun rises today, He will come. Christ has been raised. We will be too. Now we live lives that herald and announce the dawn of that hope to this messed up broken world. Where are you building heaven? What can’t you take with you when you go?

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