Friday, 29 February 2008

Friday photo: Sacre Coeur

Taken on our honeymoon in Paris - October 1988.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

A vision to inspire

I listened to a really good sermon today - by Nicky Gumbel of Holy Trinity Brompton. I hesitated about blogging about it, but given the title of my blog I thought it was kind of appropriate.

It's about 45 minutes long, and I found the second part to be really exciting and energising. It's the type of vision that we need for our churches today.

"I don't want you to be put off by the scale of this vision, in which you're involved."

If only ...

You can find the sermon here.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

It’s an ill wind...

It’s been a bit windy here today – severe gales actually!

Our weekly management team meeting over-ran today – making me late leaving for home, and therefore missing tonight’s quarterly church members meeting. (To be honest, I haven’t shed many tears over this.)

The drive home was tricky in places, as cars and lorries were battered by broadsides from the wind.

But the sky was fantastic. I guess that all of the high clouds had been blown away, and the sky was a wonderfully clear blue, melting into a yellow-grey sunset at the horizon. The only blemishes were a few scruffy, grey clouds being chased across the scene by the wild winds. Then I spotted a flash of pink in the sky, and I realised that it was the vapour trail from a jet. It was catching the colour of the sunset – beautiful!!

The image doesn’t do it justice, but it helped me unwind at the end of a long day.

Monday, 25 February 2008

The sacramental path

The Pathways of prayer course has moved on to the sacramental path this week - the idea being that we should consciously meet with God, but also recognise his presence all around us.

Coincidentally, I was reading 1 Cornithians 13 today and it struck me that through regular, instinctive, habitual meeting with God we should be slowly transformed. This will involve growing, learning and un-learning, because as we get to know God better, we will (in a limited way) begin to see ourselves from his perspective. Of course we need to be willing to change, to bend and to be re-shaped.

Heschel puts it better than me:

"Stirred by a yearning after the unattainable, a pious man is not content with being confined to what he is."

And my pathways of prayer doodle has moved on a bit!

Sunday, 24 February 2008

When will winter end?

This is not a plaintive cry about grey skies and chill winds.

It’s actually a question that I have asked myself round about this time every year. We grow autumn-fruiting raspberries, and they need to be pruned in late winter. But just when is that? Well, it’s before there’s any new growth – defining things by the absence of something is not entirely helpful. Anyway, pruned they must be.

There’s a logic that says, ‘These are tough plants, you won’t do any harm’. But there’s an equally logical position that says, ‘This is Scotland! You can get snow in late April, so it makes no sense to cut them now’. But if you leave it too late, you run the risk of damaging the new growth.

So why am I boring you with this (assuming anyone’s still reading at this stage)? Well, as I spent a very productive morning sorting out my raspberries, I thought that there were various metaphors and parables emerging.

Sometimes we need to prune things in an apparently harsh way for them to be fruitful – even when this seems counter-intuitive. Acting too late can do more damage than being a wee bit premature.

Pruning alone will probably lead to a decent crop of berries in the late summer/ autumn; but if you also weed thoroughly and provide a mulch of compost, you’re more likely to get a fantastic crop.

Since we garden organically, there’s a real pleasure in mulching with home produced compost, and knowing that the pruned raspberry canes will be shredded and used to mulch our other fruit bushes (blueberry, blackcurrant and bramble) is quite satisfying.

Then there’s the promise of fruitfulness in place of dry, dead canes – albeit with a healthy dose of faith needed.

Finally there’s the benefit of being out in the fresh air for a couple of hours – and feeling physically and spiritually refreshed as a result.

Here’s hoping for a bumper crop from the raspberries and the thoughts that emerged this morning.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Friday photo: consider the iris

iris reticulata 'Harmony'

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Getting a reaction

When preparing study sheets for Nurture Group, we usually include a cartoon (preferably one that is relevant to the passage). We're just starting a series looking at Daniel and The Fish Wife found this one for this week's sheet. Thanks to Reverend Fun.

Wouldn't it be great if our behaviour as Christians generated a similar response from our contemporaries!! At times it would be an improvement if they even noticed us!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

A parable in the leaden sky

Even on a morning of leaden grey skies, the sun is ever present - but sometimes we need a chink of light to break through to remind us of what we always know.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

join the dots

If you came to this page looking for a simple, fun children’s activity – you’re probably in the right place, but for the wrong reasons! Anyway …

I’ve been thinking a lot today about transformation. To start at the beginning – yesterday my ‘praying in colour’ doodle in my journal was rubbish. It was bland, uninspiring and didn’t stick with me for the day – it was so dull that it didn’t get as far as being coloured (it’s still a pencil drawing). But today was a bit different …

I was reading a passage from Acts 1 this morning where the disciples are described as being “constantly in prayer”, and I was thinking about how you get to that state. Is it repetition or discipline or giftedness or …? Whatever it is, it’s certainly about being transformed – and so my mind wandered over to Romans and “be transformed through the renewing of your mind”. This stuck with me and became the doodle of the day.

Then I read a bit of Heschel, which said:

“Mindfulness of God rises slowly, a thought at a time. Suddenly we are there. Or is He here, at the margin of our soul?”

So I’m thinking that to be transformed, we need to start to change – step by step, no matter how slowly until we reach a state where the transformation seems real (if not complete). When we realise that we are a butterfly not a caterpillar.

Then as I was driving between meetings at work and listening to a podcast from
Speaking of Faith, I heard a fantastic, amazing, humbling, uplifting account of profound transformation. I exhort you to take the time – about 55 minutes – to listen or watch this, I am convinced that you will be moved and encouraged.

I’m not going to spoil any of the story, but it reminded me of Gandhi’s saying:

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

And to paraphrase – you must be the change you want to see in yourself!

Monday, 18 February 2008

stop and think

Two quotations from the same sermon made me stop and think. The preacher was called Jim Roberts, speaking at St Michael le Belfrey in York (podcasts available through iTunes).

"We are all the best Christian somebody knows... because we are the only Christian somebody knows!"

"We get persecuted for the message of Christianity, not for being stupid! There is a world of difference, although some Christians don't realise that."

Now put them together... Hmmm!?!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

pathways of prayer

We had a brilliant church service this morning. After my recent gripes about songs - there were only 3, and about 10 prayers. It really was amazing. The speaker was taking us through something called "pathways of prayer" - which is a study course created by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. It's intended to be for Lent - we're just a bit late catching up with it.

The guy who was taking our service today has created a calendar for use through Lent, which should be useful. I know that prayer is a major deficit in our church an dhopefully this will help us to focus on it and develop some good, lasting habits in the coming weeks.

Inspired by the concept and the uplifting service, I came home and created this:

Saturday, 16 February 2008

A day of smiles

Lins has just made me smile - and I realised that there have been a lot of smiles today. We were through at my parents' - they've both had birthdays this week. My sister and her kids spent most of the day with us, which was (mainly) enjoyable, and we briefly saw an aunt and uncle.

Things have been quite tough for my parents of late. My Dad had major surgery in December, and his recovery didn't go smoothly at first. However, he's getting back to something approaching normal now, for which we're very thankful.

For me, the highlight of the day was a short trip to the shore in Irvine. It was a beautiful but chilly day, with lots to see. We couldn't stay long for my Dad's sake (although others were complaining about the cold more than he was!).

I was in my element, scrambling around the rocks and reminiscing a bit about the way the harbour used to be, taking photos and enjoying the sea air. But the abiding image of the day was the photo that I took of my parents - smiling and happy.

Definitely something to remember for a long time and to recall frequently!

Friday, 15 February 2008

Friday photo - winter glow

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

I came across this today:

"Media and technology are primary forces that cause changes in our philosophy, theology, culture, and ultimately the way we do church."
So I was thinking -

Early church - Roman roads
Reformation - printing press

Aye ... so what about 21st century Christianity? blogs, Web 2.0... can the opportunity be harnessed for good?

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

My soul's not tartan

The title of this post sounds like a lament.

The problem with letting something tumble around in my head for a while is that I then have to untangle it to make any sense of it. So here goes…

If the
soul is dyed by the colour of its thoughts, what does it look like?

Well, it can’t be a single colour. We are complex beings, with lots of influences and thoughts. If we are one-dimensional in our thinking, then we’re probably not thinking at all.

Could it be balanced and whole – like a rainbow? Not in my case!

My thinking is not very well ordered or structured –so it’s definitely not tartan.

It seems to me that it must be random and individualised. At times it may be chaotic – difficult for light to penetrate.

I also think that it changes continually. The question is does it change through growth or blend with the background of our lives? Are we soul chameleons?

Well… I did warn you that it was a bit tangled up!!

Monday, 11 February 2008

Soul dyed

A Greek philospoher called Heraclitus said:

"The soul is dyed the colour of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny — it is the light that guides your way."

The first part of that quotation has been tumbling around the space above my neck for the past few days, so I'm going to explore some of these thoughts over the next few days.

One of the first thoughts that occurred to me was about being "transformed through the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2).

The things that spend time in our heads are clearly important - so we must choose wisely what we allow in there!

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Small acts, big impact

On the way home from work yesterday, I stopped in town to do some shopping. My first port of call was a high street chain shop. They had what I was looking for, but only in a pre-packaged set that included stuff that I didn’t really want. Nobody asked if they could help or offered any form of assistance – even though the shop was fairly quiet and there were at least two members of staff hanging around, apparently doing nothing. I left… dissatisfied and without making a purchase.

Then I went to a small specialist shop (where I should have gone in the first place!). There were a few people in the shop, and only one person serving, but somehow it didn’t seem to matter. There was a nice, relaxed atmosphere and no sense of hurry – each customer got the level of attention that they required.

The customers before me – a mother and her daughter of about 11 – paid for their goods and went away, leaving me as the only customer in the shop. I asked the woman who was serving for some advice, and as she started to explain the options, the mother came rushing back in with her daughter. Full of apologies she explained that her daughter had lifted a small article, and shortly after leaving the shop had reminded her mother that they hadn’t paid for it. There was clearly no intention to steal the item, just an absent-minded moment. I was heartened that the girl herself had spotted the mistake and was honest enough to draw it to her mother’s attention. The shop assistant dealt with it calmly and efficiently, without any sense of annoyance.

Then I had her undivided attention. She explained the options, suggested that I should avoid the more expensive articles, and highlighted the most suitable bargains. She didn’t show any impatience with my daft questions. As I was paying she went off to get a leaflet for me, explaining the range of products that were available if I wanted to make any further purchases in the future.

The result – a happy customer, who will go back there as the first choice in the future.

Small acts, making a big impact. There’s a lesson for the high street shop if they can be bothered and there’s also a parable in there waiting to get out!

Friday, 8 February 2008

Friday photo - February joy

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Let there be light

I was really inspired by His Girl Friday's entry "Let your light shine..." I particularly liked the Mandela quotation.

The section where he says "And when we let your own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same", triggered a thought. So I flicked through my journal and found the stuff below partly completed. (You might think that it's still partly complete - but I'm posting it anyway!)

we need shafts of
to sustain

we need threads of
to sustain

we need a lifetime of
to be

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Meet Dolly D

I was sitting in our senior management team meeting today, doodling away (aye, that's exactly how interesting it was!), when this face started to appear. My immediate thought as I fleshed it out was "That's Dolly D!" Actually it doesn't look much like her, but she has authorised its use.

Funny things happen when you stir up the other side of your brain!

Monday, 4 February 2008

A new dawning

I thank God for the sky yesterday morning. It wasn't the most spectacular sunrise, in many ways it was barely noteworthy. But I was attracted to it - and as the day progressed I became more and more grateful! As I reflected on it, I regained a sense of equilibrium and came back from a pretty dark place in my mind.

A new dawning
with a glimmer of hope,
a chink of light,
through a blanket of darkness

When I lift my eyes
what do I see?
Bright hope for the day
or the overcast blackness
that meets my eye?
Do I see the day’s problems
lying in wait,
or the opportunities before me?

Can my hope outweigh my disillusion?

And even if the dark clouds
fill the day,
I will cling on to that promise of light
and think what tomorrow might bring,
with a new dawning.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

The nature of the kingdom

This is not the blog that I intended to post today, but my thinking was overtaken by a combination of things that I read this morning.

First and foremost was a passage from Luke’s gospel – the words of Jesus that struck me were:

“The kingdom of God does not come visibly … because the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21)

This is an extraordinary/revolutionary thought – not because it turned the religious thinking of the time on its head (which it did). But, if the kingdom of God is within us, then we contain/constrain it. We must release it in the lives we lead – our acts and attitudes.

The integrity of the kingdom depends on our integrity.

The demonstration of God’s love depends on our love… And so it goes on.

Then I turned to John V Taylor’s “The Incarnate God” (and I quote at length):

“The true meaning of the prayer ‘Your Kingdom come’ ought to be a subject of supreme importance for all Christians…

…this is why Jesus invented the parable as his particular method of preaching. A parable does not convince people by arguing; it simply offers the truth to their imagination as a gift to be taken by those who have ears to hear and ignored by those who have not…

The second innovation which Jesus brought to his preaching of the Kingdom was to call men and women to live the life of the Kingdom here and now in anticipation of its arrival… we must be like him and reflect his nature in all our relationships.”

All of which left me with a question – summed up by Heschel:

“We cannot endure the heartbreaking splendor of sunsets. Of what avail, then, are opinions, words, dogmas?”

My conclusion, so far as I have one - how we worship through our living will always outweigh the words that we use.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Praying in color

I stumbled across a review for a book the other day, which seemed to be a fantastic concept - Praying in Color. I can't talk about the book (yet), but I found the website to be inspirational, and have been dabbling in the idea in recent days (see doodles below).

So far, I have found that the process of doodling had reinforced the prayer topic. Also, the image has tended to stick with me through the day - thereby increasing my prayer activity. It's also an approach to prayer that isn't focussed too much on the words (which can often be feeble), but more on thinking through a few words. It's early days, but it seems to be working for me!

It's also brought my journal to life with colour - which I like!

Friday, 1 February 2008

Create as though no-one's watching

Monifieth sunrise #2

Thanks to Lucy for the inspiration, the title and the courage.