Saturday, December 23, 2006

Jesus is our Joy

And so we come to the end of our advent journey, the joy of christmas beckons. thanks to everyone who blogged. I hope you enjoyed the experience. Hopefully anyone who read them found they helpful. I leave you with some thoughts from david ford's little book the shape of living. I've found this a book I keep coming back to, full of some great stuff. Here he writes about joy:

The heart of the good news is Jesus is our joy. He can be rejoiced in without reservation ...

God does not coerce into joy, but there is always more on offer than we can take. There are as many ways into Christian joy as there are people, and the variety of testimonies is endless. Some begin in a burst of joy; others are far more hesitant, and only very slowly wake up to the intense joy at the core of faith. There are also different qualities of joy through life, culminating in the matured peacefulness of those who have been through great suffering, and have had their capacity for joy expanded and deepened in the process ...

We are created for joy, and salvation is inseparable from it ...

Celebration and praise of the God of joy becomes the shape of our lives, as we rejoice in other people, rejoice in truth and goodness, rejoice in creation, and in all sorts of creativity, play and work.

Friday, December 22, 2006

click on the photo to see a larger size.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Face Of Christ (Part 2)

From Marcus

... and yet, and yet,
if you kneel beside his manger
(you will be far too high above him if you stand),
if you kneel so that your face is close to his,
then you will find yourself
looking level-eyed into the face of God.

(Trevor Dennis, from 'The Three Faces of Christ', The Three Faces of Christ
(Triangle, SPCK, 1999)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Pregnant with possibilities

A fresh piece of paper
A new day
A found love
A restored friendship
A new house
A repaired instrument
A chance meeting
An unopened parcel
A young woman
Full of child.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

God give us joy

I wrote this for last nights advent explorations (four alternative worship evenings exploring advent I'm running at bunyan)

God give us joy
Joy for yesterday, today and tomorrow
Joy for the sun and the rain
Joy for the beauty of creation

God give us joy
Turn our sorrow into dancing
Turn our despair into hope-filled songs
Turn our hearts to the stranger

God give us joy
Joy for the loved ones we remember
Joy for the birth of new life
Joy for life of our church family

God give us joy
for the gift of advent
for the space to pause
for the peace of Christ

Monday, December 18, 2006

Come into the dark places

A photo of a candle after our Christingle service yesterday. A reminder that Christ comes to banish the darkness, to overcome evil, to bring the light of God's love, to reveal salvation to all the world.

John the evangelist said "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it... The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world."

You may like to spend a moment today lifting up to God a situation, a person, a conflict, a community that needs God's good news during this season.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

being Mary

It wasn't Jesus' mother I was thinking of as I dashed around the kitchen in preparation for friends this afternoon; or as I was whipping biscuits out of the oven last night just prior to a meeting. It was Mary, Jesus' friend, who just sat down and chilled out with him. Years ago someone asked me whether I was Mary or Martha and I said both. A clever answer I thought- be busy AND spend some time with God...
Truth is, the Martha bit comes more easily- I love it when people come over- I like them to be comfortable and feel easy without tripping over toys or worse... I like giving them food and drink, and somewhere in the back of my head there is a twinge of pride at my "gift of hospitality"...
But what did Jesus actually say? "Martha you are worried and upset by many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her."
Only one thing is needed.
So I want to revise my thinking. I want to be Mary- through and through. Not worried and upset by "preparations". Not resentful with God at giving me no rest from my busy work for Him. In reality this kind of work was never His, but mine. I don't think he wants us working for Him at all- just being with Him. God is single minded in His desire for us- heart, soul, mind and strength. The greatest commandment.
I share these ponderings because this is the season for practical preparations in which we find ourselves duty bound to spend hours and hours toiling at. But only one thing is needed. Mary chose the better way- so dare we compromise? Dare we give away even part of our inner being to worries and upset?
Mary made it look so simple.
Maybe it is.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Joy has Dawned on the World

We sang this song, that is new to me, last Sunday. It seemed so appropriate for Advent so I copy it here.

Joy has dawned upon the world,
Promised from creation
God's salvation now unfurled,
Hope for every nation.
Not with fanfaresfrom above,
Not with scenes of glory,
But a humble gift of love:
Jesus born of Mary.

Sounds of wonder fill the sky
With the songs of angels,
As the mighty Prince of Life
Shelters in a stable.
Hands that set each star in place,
Shaped the earth in darkness,
Cling now in a mother's breast,
Vulnerable and helpless.

Shepherds bow before the Lamb,
Gazing at the glory;
Gifts of men from distant lands
Prophesy the story.
Gold, a King is born today,
Incense, God is with us,
Myrrh, His death will make a way,
And by His blood He'll win us.

Son of Adam, Son of heaven,
Given as a ransom,
Reconciling God and man,
Christ our mighty Champion!
What a Saviour, what a Friend,
What a glorious mystery:
Once a babe in Bethlehem,
Now the Lord of history.

Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Face Of Christ (Part 1)

From Marcus Bull

What you must first understand about the face of Jesus
is that it is so small.
He has no hair yet.
His milk teeth are not showing beneath his gums ...
He, the Word of God,
cannot say 'Mamma'.
He, the Son of God,
cannot call him 'Abba' ...
He is the Love of God,
and yet he cannot smile
(though sometimes, when he gets the wind,
his face crumples up as though he can)...

(Trevor Dennis, from 'The Three Faces of Christ', The Three Faces of Christ
(Triangle, SPCK, 1999)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I was in Glasgow today for a meeting. I got rather wet walking to and from the train station - someone informed me that it's been raining here every day for the past 30 days! On the way to the station I passed by a travel adgency called Flight.

It got me thinking about how many people head away to get some winter sun at this time of year and how this contrasts with the flight which Jesus took. I'm not yet thinking about the flight to Egypt after he was born, but his leaving heaven to come to earth. It was a downward flight, from grandeur to simplicity, from power to weakness, from riches to poverty. Yet the flights we dream of are so often aspiration's rather than downward.

So I'm left hear in my damp clothes waiting.....thinking what it means to be "in Christ" in His downward movement, to taking a very different winter flight from the many.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

John The Baptist

I have to admit it, I’m a big fan of John The Baptist! He was a real man of God, I know we don’t know a great deal about him and we only get a brief window in to his life in the bible.

One of the readings set for last Sunday in the lectionary was Luke 3:1-6 I love this reading the imagery of it is so powerful, John shouting his hart out trying to get the people to see, to turn and be a repentant people is not a job for the faint hearted, I’m sure some of them would have said, “why should I, I love my life as it is, thank you very much, any way who are you?”

I invite you to read Luke 3:1-6 slowly take it in to yourself, own the text, think about your responses to John

As I’ve meditated over this passage I’ve come up with the following questions. Maybe you might like to ask yourself and the text one or more of the following?

What is God saying to me as an Individual through this text?

How can I as an Individual prepare the way for the Lord in my own heart, what do I need to let go of from my life?

How can the church prepare the way better, what pre-conceptions does it need to let go of?

How do I / the church respond to those on the margins?

Do I care about my community enough to cry for it, engage with God and seek his guidance for it?

Monday, December 11, 2006

a highway in the desert

This is a photo of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, taken during a flight from Johannesburg to Namibia back in 2004. For miles and miles there is nothing but parched desert, but from time to time straight paths could be traced. This reminded me of Isaiah 40:3 - a passage often referred to during Advent.

"A voice cries out: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'"

In Luke's gospel, this quote is used to refer to the ministry of John the Baptist. Luke adds, "the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."

Lord, straigten out the areas in our lives which hinder us from drawing close to you and which prevent others from seeing you through us. Clear obstacles out of the way and build a highway in our hearts as we prepare the way for Christ.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

I wonder...

Imagine this: It's your birthday. Friends have planned a huge party with food, speeches, live band and entertainment. The biggest ever. Unfortunately, they forget to invite you.
So you watch the camcorder playback the next day.
It has to be the most enormous gathering you have ever seen- anyone who is anyone is there- lots of people who you have never even spoken to are claiming to be close friends. The more you see, the more confused you get: this isn't at all your kind of party- you are uncomfortable to the point you are glad not to have been there. The most shocking bit is the speeches- did these "friends" even know you? You haven't felt so misunderstood, so misquoted ever. It's like they are using you to say what they want and do what they want; regardless of you.
How do you feel? Is this the kind of birthday you want ?

I wonder how the God of the poor feels when I exploit His people for the best bargain...
  I wonder how the God of the hungry feels when I eat enough to feed a whole family because it's what you do...
   I wonder how the Prince of Peace feels when I fight over who watches what, who got who what, who gets invited to what or whatever...
    I wonder how the King of Kings feels when I sacrifice to the god of consumerism...
     I wonder how the Wonderful Counsellor feels when I ignore the needs of the lonely and the marginalised cos they don't really fit in to my idea of a good Christimas

As I prepare this year, I am challenged to STOP. To actually consider the One I am preparing for, and His values. I am challenged to remember that He cares how I celebrate and the choices I am making. I want to be like the baby who grew up to be the most radical man the world has ever known. I pray that Jesus, who was not afraid to challenge the accepted way, will give me the strength to truly prepare for Him, not me this Christmas.

Micah 6 v 8: "He has showed you O man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Foreward Planning

Matthew 1:1-17

How good are you at planning ahead? I am not a last minute person. I like to be organised but I have learnedthat carefully laid plans can be altered in a minute by unforeseen circumstances or pressure of work.

This isn't true of God, however, His plans have been laid since before the beginning of the world. His plans are eternal and will come to pass. The beginning of Matthews Gospel tells of Jesus' family history. Matthews aim is to convince his Jewish readers that Jesus is the Messiah who will carry their history to its climax.The genealogy of Jesus is a bridge from Old Testament history to the coming of the Messiah. He was a man born of flesh and blood, with a Jewish heritage from Abraham and was a son of King David.

All the great eras of Jewish history find their climax in Jesus.Everything was building up to His coming. It was the turning point of history, the fulfilling of God's purposes in the world. All the preparation and anticipation of previous generations was fulfilled in the advent of Jesus, but many eyes were blind to this amazing event.

"Come Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free." (Charles Wesley)

The birth of Jesus was bringing in something new. God was breaking into history, to bring salvation, at His appointed time.

"Hail to the Lord's anointed,
Great David's greater Son,
Hail in the time appointed,
His reign on earth begun." (James Montgomery)

At this time of Advent let us recognise the wonder of the fulfillment of God's plan to express His love to a needy world. To bring His Son, our Saviour to be "Emmanuel God with us."

"Hark the glad sound the Saviour comes.
The Saviour promised long.
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every heart a song. ( Philip Dodderidge)

Barbara Francis

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Kick'em in the Baubles

'Kick'em in the Baubles' - so ran the banner headline for a full page spread in the Sun Newspaper Today. Indeed in some editions it was the front page (not here in Scotland where we had a picture of the MacDonald brothers of 'X' Factor fame!)

The Sun's complaint as they unashameably showed a picture of a decorated Christmas tree was agains the 'PC killjoys' who want to ban Christmas. This reaction was provoked by a survey that showed that 'three out of four firms have banned festive decorations for fear of offending religious minorities'. They write: 'Our bold decision to publish and be damned flies in the face of the snowballing attempt to strip Christmas of all its meaning and fun'.

In the editorial they claim that we are 'seeing centuries-old customs barred on daft safety grounds' and write:

  • Mince pies are outlawed as a health risk
  • Firms are banning Christmas decorations in case they offend other faiths
  • Christmas has been rebranded as Winterval
  • Cards carry 'Holiday Greetings' instead of 'Merry Christmas'.
  • Nativity scenes are banned in case non-Christians find them offensive.

They write: We need to act now - before Christmas becomes just another boring public holiday.

Oh dear - oh dear what to make of all of this in Advent;

Should I rejoice (as a Free Church radical) at the collapse (quicker now than the England cricket team - sorry!) of another bastion of Christendom that will release the purity of the Church into its true witness. Come on for years we have preached against Christmas being about tinsel and baubles.

Should I lament the above complaining of discrimination against Christianity and Christian festivals because well after all we have a Christian heritage if we are not necessarily a Christian country.

As I reflected I actually moved out of the Christendom/non-Christendom box of thinking into one of more general culture and indeed specifically popular culture as represented if indeed not defended by the Sun and sometimes despised and rejected by the Church.

I found myself longing for a non-Christendom, Free Church response to the 'popular spirituality' if not 'popular Christianity' represented in the glitter and baubles rather than feeling that I wanted as I have in the past to rant against it. I found myself searching about in the tinsel and baubles for Jesus maybe realising that actually in some peoples memory and experience he is there and rather than complaining about that I should be seeking to explore and expose and rejoice in that creatively with them not against them so that he can appear the more brightly as Good News.

I don't know...I'm just wondering...but in wondering as I walked past the gaudily decorated Christmas trees in the streets where I work - I sensed that he could be there...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

open our eyes

this is just a great prayer from wild goose worship group (you can find it in there advent, christmas and epiphany book Cloth for the Cradle, 1997). I used it at advent explorations last night.

Open our eyes, Lord
especially if they are half-shut
because we are tired of looking
or half-open
because we fear to see too much
or bleared with tears
because yesterday and today and tomorrow
are filled with the same pain
or contracted
because we only look at what we want to see

Open our eyes, Lord
to gently scan the life we lead
The home we have
The world we inhabit
and so to find
among the gremlins and the greyness
signs of hope we can fasten on and encourage

Give us, whose eyes are dimmed by familiarity
a bigger vision of what you can do
even with hopeless causes and lost causes
and people of limited ability

Show us the world as in your sight
riddled by debt, deceit and disbelief
yet also
shot through with possibility
for recovery, renewal, redemption

And lest we fail to distinguish vision from fantasy,
today, tomorrow, this week,
open our eyes to one person
or one place
where we – being even for a moment prophetic – might identify
and wean a potential in the waiting

And with all this,
open our eyes, in yearning, for Jesus

On the mountains
in the cities
through the corridors of power
and streets of despair
to help, to heal
to confront, to convert
O come, o come, Immanuel

Monday, December 04, 2006

click on the photo to see a larger size.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Go out into the world
Go speak truthfully
Go live peacefully
Go walk faithfully
Go give generously
Go share outrageously
Go listen carefully
Go welcome everybody
Go laugh loudly
Go shout passionately
Go pray fervently
Go eat healthily
Go read widely
Go grow deeply
Go forgive wholeheartedly
Go love openly
Go follow humbly
Go show kindness
Go seek wisdom
Go act justly
Go buy fairly

Friday, December 01, 2006

Enter Here

Enter here,
Pull ahead,
Drive slow,
Take time to think,
The Christ Child is coming,
Pull ahead,
Drive slow.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

advent sign-up (updated 5|12)

via comments let me know the day/s you would like to do.

dec 1 - brodie mcgregor
2 - andy goodliff
3 - 1st sunday
4 - ashley beck
5 - andy goodliff
6 - stuart blythe
8 - barbara francis
9 - miriam pugh
10 - 2nd sunday
11 - andy scott
12 - barnabas
13 - brodie mcgregor
14 - marcus bull
15 - barbara francis
16 - miriam pugh
17 - 3rd sunday
18 - andy scott
20 - stuart blythe
21 - marcus bull
23 - andy goodliff
24 - christmas eve
25 - christmas day

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

advent blog 06

Advent is only a few weeks away and some people have expressed an interest in producing an advent blog through the days. So I am going to attempt to organise another community advent blog - if you're interested in taking part, let me know via comments.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

PENTECOST: God's Jigsaw the Church

I like jigsaws. I hardly ever do a jigsaw, but when I do I like the challenge of trying to complete. But jigsaws are really annoying when a piece or pieces are missing. An incomplete jigsaw can make all the work of putting it together feel wasted. A jigsaw needs every piece to see the picture it is trying to show … and so it is with the church … the church needs every person to be the church.

God’s jigsaw the church needs every piece

Just as male needs female, rich needs poor, white needs black, so intellectuals need the simple ... The church is itself when it bridges all these gaps and tensions between people of different kinds (Frances Young, Face to Face)

Some of us think we not important – in a jigsaw every piece is important and no piece is more important than the other … every piece is required … the church is only itself when every piece is in the right place

These bridges are the interconnecting relationships and lives that join us and hold us together – like one jigsaw piece is linked to two or three other pieces. And it is the Holy Spirit who brings us together:

God’s jigsaw the church is a work of the Holy Spirit

the Spirit liberates us, that is to say, by bringing us into community: by enabling us to be with and for the brothers and sisters whom we ourselves do not choose (Colin Gunton, Theology Through the Theologians)

The Holy Spirit has placed you and me in this community – Bunyan Baptist Church – and this is sometimes hard because for all of us there are probably people here we would not choose and things about Bunyan we don’t like and the attraction of other jigsaws (meaning churches) becomes appealing. We want to be church shoppers, when God calls us to committed belonging (this is what church membership means in a Baptist church). The problem is that the church starts with God (at Pentecost), the church is held together by God (in Christ by the Holy Spirit) and the church continues in God to participate in his mission and witness to the world. God has called you to be part of his jigsaw here …

For some of us what we need to do is find where we fit in because not all jigsaw pieces join to each other and a jigsaw piece in the wrong place can distort the picture … some of us are trying to do or be too many things ... some of us are just doing the wrong thing ... and some of us are doing nothing ... when this happens the church struggles to be itself

God’s jigsaw the church is a jigsaw without edges

why might I want to say that? … because new members can always and are always being added and joined on … tiny Lucy Pellegrino this week has joined God’s jigsaw … and those of who have recently found a place to belong and believe are also part of our jigsaw. Pentecost reminds us that that in God’s jigsaw there are no finite number of pieces – 144,000 or the such like – but our task is bear witness to the wonder of God and his story that others may find a home and a family here.

God’s jigsaw the church is a picture of the face of Christ

we are the face of Christ to the world … in and through us people encounter and meet the risen Christ … the power and work of the Holy Spirit shapes and transforms us in the image and likeness of Christ … and as God in Christ is for us and the world, so God in his church, in us, calls us to always to be looking beyond our edges …

Monday, May 29, 2006

Gal 3.28

For it is no longer possible for you to be Jew or Greek, slave or free, 'male and female', for all are one and the same in Christ Jesus

I love this verse. It teaches that if we belong to Christ, everything is radically different. Everything has been transformed. Our identity is shaped by our belonging to Christ and anything else like race, nationality, economic status, gender, etc is nullified, its put to death through the cross. It's a verse that shapes and informs my understanding of what it means to be the church. Where we are tempted to describe who's in and who's out, who's important and who's unimportant, these words to the Galatians, say there are no boundaries in the church, apart from belonging to Christ. As Douglas Campbell says,
'... this is an undeniably radical approach. Everything that we might normally nominate as important to our identities, or even to our well-being, has been displaced in this account of the impact of Christ to the periphery: matters of ethnicity, language, land, geography, and race; of class, education, status, income, and occupation; of gender and family, male or female, and parent or child. All of these distinctions are no longer of central relevance to what we are. What matters is the new reality, sonship, which is obtained in Christ.'

I find myself returning again and again to this verse. It's written on my brain (and hopefully on my heart) as a reminder that belonging to Christ calls us out of and beyond those distinctions which (although in themselves are not negative) can so often divide and separate us from one another (and so also from God).

Friday, May 26, 2006

living out scripture

As a means to seeing this blog continue in some form, I've had an idea.

In The Shape of Living, David Ford writes
... be alert for some key passages of the bible to inhabit in a special way. Hans Urs von Balthasar has said that often a saint's whole life can be seen as living out just one verse of scripture. One rich verse or story can be essential to our vocation, as we come back to it year after year, and find further dimensions to it. The great words, verses and passages of scripture and the liturgy are like houses which, as we study, pray, suffer and love, are made habitable with our own furnishings, pictures, meals and children ...'

So I'd like to invite you to post that verse or story of scripture which is important to you, which you find yourself re-visiting time after time ... (you can make it two or three, if you can't reduce it to one!). If you put the scripture reference as the title, that would be cool.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


imagination n the ability of the mind to be creative of resourceful; the process of imagining

"the key pathology of our time, which seduces us all, is the reduction of the imagination so that we are too numbed, satiated and co-opted to do serious imaginative work" (Brueggeman, Interpretation and Obedience)

This blog seeks to do imaginative work - to reflect upon the arts - music, film, drama, painting, poetry, fiction, essays - and attempt to transcend our unimaginative culture. Or to be readers of the arts, of culture - to think deeply or speak thoughtfully.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Palm Sunday Re-visited?

I preached on the so-called 'Triumphal Entry' on Sunday. I was particularly keen to try to find something 'new' in the story that a group of mature Christians had probably heard every year for longer than I've been alive.

It occurred to me: was it really a triumphal entry? Afterall, it seems that it can be interpreted not only as a 'processional praise party' cheering Jesus on the way to Jerusalem, but also as being a story of failure - the failure of the people to recognise Jesus as a non-violent messiah and also the failure of Jewish religion to provide honest worship to God. If there was a whiff of triumph on that first Palm Sunday it certainly wasn't the sort that would impress Rome or the kind that impressed the fickle crowds in Jerusalem for very long. In fact, some commentators believe that the 'Hosanna' cry was actually part of the usual Passover wish for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy rather than a direct affirmation of Jesus' messiahship. The people sing in honour of the coming King without fully realising that he is in their midst.

I'm left to wonder whether Jesus himself actually wanted a 'triumphal entry'. Perhaps it's possible to see it more as a 'lowly' entry - particularly seeing as he goes on, in Luke 19:41-44, to ruin any kind of praise-party atmosphere with his jugdgement of Israel when its enemies will come and 'dash them to the ground'.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Judas I never knew

Our Lent blog has not gone as well as hoped. We haven't had as much response from people. Thanks to all of you have blogged, you've certainly got me thinking.

Today let me encourage you to read this blog by Kester Brewin called The Judas I never knew

Friday, April 07, 2006

Being in the kingdom is a bit like being on an escalator

I like the chandelier thing. It reminds me of something one of the YP said a few Sundays ago when we were looking at Psalm 107 (as part of the lectionary).

The Message translation repeats the phrase:

"Then you called out to God in your desperate condition;
he got you out in the nick of time."

He felt that life is like an escalator, and you're travelling along it, and as soon as you near the end of it (i.e. into danger) God snatches you out and puts you back at the beginning of the escalator - in the nick of time.

He also once said that Jesus was like a Hoover, but I'll leave that for another time.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

the kingdom of heaven is like a chandelier

We've just been doing a Lent group at our church in Bristol and it's been great to share stories and have deeper spiritual discussions than the usual post-service 'coffee and fellowship' (?!) time allows. We spent some time talking about some of Luke's stories (prodigal son, great banquet, good samaritan) and we watched a clip from Only Fools and Horses when Rodney and Delboy offer to fix a chandelier. Naturally, all goes wrong and it ends up totally shattered on the floor. I was trying to point out that the kingdom is a restoration of our alienation from God, others and ourselves. Just as the crystal, glass and frame had to be re-connected to each other and then re-fitted to the ceiling in order to function, so the work of the kingdom is to reverses the effects of our alienation and restores us to God, others and ourselves.

You made find some flaws in my theory but I hope it is of some relevance!

We were also struck by a quote from David Thomson, author of 'Lent with Luke' who said: 'One of the saddest things is that one generation's prodigal sons so easily become the next generation's elder brothers.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Hows it going?

I was struggling this morning to think what to write for the blog today and then as they do a random thought popped into my head!

We are about half way through lent now (or there abouts) and I started to reflect on how it was going for me. For lent this year I have given up alcohol. Partly because I signed up to do the Thirst for Life campaign and secondly because some of the young people I work with were attempting to give up smoking (for health/finacial reasons) and I wanted to support them and journey with them through that.

Now on first look to ask myself how is it going I can say its going very well. I haven't drunk any alcohol since Lent began. However I have a feeling this random thought of how is it going has a deeper meaning.

The purpose of Lent should really be to deepen your relationship with God.

So today spend some time asking yourself how is it going with God? Are you closer to Him now than you were at the beginning of Lent? Has going without given you more time to spend with God? Have you been having a wilderness experience of God like so many of the Bible characters?

The bottom line is this. Has this time of going without made any difference at all to your relationship with God? And be really honest with yourself.

God bless.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Did you know that the poet George Herbert wrote a poem for every day of Lent? You can look at them here:

Today's poem is:


Full of rebellion, I would die
Or fight, or travel, or deny
That you had ought to do with me.
O tame my heart;
It is your highest art
To captivate strong holds to thee.

If you shall let this venom lurk,
And in suggestions fume and work,
My soul will turn to bubbles straight,
And then by kind
Vanish into a wind,
Making your workmanship deceit.

O smooth my rugged heart, and there
Engrave your rev'rend Law and fear;
Or make a new one, since the old
Is sapless grown,
And a much fitter stone
To hide my dust, than you to hold.

Friday, March 17, 2006

One more step

I don’t know about you but I love going on walks exploring new areas, and yes sometimes getting lost, very lost! I am not sure why it gives me such a buzz, I think it is got sometime to do with going form the familiar to the unfamiliar not being sure what is around the next bend!

I’m reminded of the hymn by Sidney Carter with the verse “It’s from the old I travel to the new keep me travelling along with you” The entire bible is about people of faith on a journey with God, God taking them from the familiar to the unfamiliar asking them to trust him, take a risk and believe.

It would be so easy to say NO to God and stay in the familiar surroundings, in what is known as the comfort zone of life. Yet I know in my own life saying NO to God or just putting it off because it’s too hard is not a good idea, God will keep on at you until you give in and say OK God not my will, but your will be done!

At this point, I should warn you that saying Yes to God is risky, as your life will NEVER be the same again! Look at the disciples somewhere fisher-men another tax collector all very ordinary jobs, all very ordinary men then they meet Jesus and everything changed for them there lives would never be the same again!

Lent is a time for us to journey on with God, taking us from the familiar, the safe confines of our lives and taking us to a new place, a place where we can grow as individuals as a worshipping community. I hope and pray that you will say yes to God and that your life will never be the same again, have a nice journey!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

And they wondered the wilderness

Here, here, make way for the good ones.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Psalm 3

One of the Psalms from the Lectionary* today is Psalm 3:

Psalm 3

A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

1 O LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!

2 Many are saying of me,
"God will not deliver him."
Selah [a]

3 But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you bestow glory on me and lift [b] up my head.

4 To the LORD I cry aloud,
and he answers me from his holy hill.

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.

6 I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side.

7 Arise, O LORD!
Deliver me, O my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.

I think this can speak to us something about the meaning of lent. I think sometimes it can feel like the whole world is stacked up against us... and it is important we remember to turn to God in those times.

* Common Worship Lectionary, Advent 2005-2006, Church House Publishing, 2005
1. Psalm 3:2 A word of uncertain meaning, occurring frequently in the Psalms; possibly a musical term
2. Psalm 3:3 Or LORD , / my Glorious One, who lifts

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

To know Jesus' story is to be in the story

"The form of the Gospels as stories of a life are meant not only to display that life, but to train us to situate our lives in relation to that life" says Stanley. It is interesting that the gospels, as part of what Andy calls 'God's Big Story', not only invite us to emulate them, but more to actually participate in them. To be a Christian is to be involved with them. In a world of stories that are about escapism, really, the story of Jesus is really the opposite.

There's a literary theory called 'Carnivalesque'. Apologees to real lierary theorists, it never was my strongpoint, but many stories invite you to participate in them. It came from medieval times when once a year one of the oiks of the village would dress up as the landowner, and the vice verse, and everyone would do lots of naughty things they never would normally get away with. They became part of the drama. However, in the end it wasn't real, it was only a story, one that ended. Other parts of this theory talk about the 'lack of footlights' when there is no boundary between say, actors or audience. Somewhere like Disneyland gives you the experience of being part of a story. But again, it's not really happening, it's a fantasy. It's escapism. The story of Easter is that Jesus knew he had to play his allotted part. And the Good News story is one that we can, and must, actually be a part of the story.

(Maybe someone with more insight might like to explain better)...

Monday, March 13, 2006

To Know Jesus is to Follow Him

The form of the Gospels as stories of a life are meant not only to display that life, but to train us to situate our lives in relation to that life. For it was assumed by the churches that gave us the Gospels that we cannot know who Jesus is and what he stands for without learning to be his followers. Hence the ironic form of Mark, which begins by announcing to the reader this is the "good news about Jesus, the anointed one, the son of God," but in depicting the disciples shows how difficult it is to understand the significance of the news. You cannot know who Jesus is after the resurrection unless you have learned to follow Jesus during his life. His life and crucifixion of necessary to purge us of false notions about what kind of kingdom Jesus brings ... Only by following him to Jerusalem, where he becomes subject to the powers of this world, do we learn what the kingdom entails, as well as what kind of messiah this Jesus is.

(Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom, 1983)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Resurrection Blues

I'd just like to recommend a fabulous play I went to see last week at the Old Vic, (London) called 'Resurrection Blues'. It was the last play Arthur Miller wrote before he died: directed by Robert Altman (Gosford Park etc.) and starring the likes of James Fox and Neve Campbell.

It's about the impending televised crucifixion of a peasant who claims to be the Messiah. It's own blurb says it "brilliantly satirises misguided global politics and the predatory nature of a media-saturated culture" and that's true, but for Lent it really connects because it constantly refers back (how could it not) to the Easter story. The play is really watchable but also makes you think about all the ideas crammed in there. The most powerful scene for me was when the director of the TV show arrives, and no one has told her WHAT she is directing. Her total shock at the idea of crucifying someone really hits home.

There is so much in this play that I think I'd do it dis-service to try and explain any more. Go see.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Finding God in garages

Apologees to this lovely lady pictured - Councillor Lisa Spall (Islington). She's not the focus here. To see those beautifully painted garages, Andover Estate, Islington, 2 of each colour alternate, with no graffitti almost 2 years after they were painted like that, was, frankly, my dream come true when this picture leapt at me from the Islington Gazette this week. As part of the 'Soul in the City' project two summers ago, I helped to dust those garages, mask the locks, prime and paint them, pray over them and their owners. We hoped that they'd stay clean, untarnished. They hadn't been painted since they were put there. And their owners (when they noticed) said it was a waste of time and thought we were insane. To be honest, we all wondered what would happen. And fair enough, we didn't turn that estate into a bunch of Christians (and we didn't intend to). But to me, those garages are like finding Jesus in the wilderness.


A friend recently told the story of meeting a Black Pastor in one of the southern states of the USA. This Pastor said to him, “the problem with you white folk is that you focus on the one hour of Jesus’ die’n to the exclusion of his thirty years of living”.

I guess there’s some truth in this, especially during Lent and Easter time. There are probably many consequences for the death of Jesus becoming detached from his life but one is that we detach the humanity and divinity of Jesus. Our conception of who Jesus is becomes more rooted in our own preferences than in the narrative of the gospels, and our discipleship becomes shallow as if all we know of Jesus is that he died then there’s no journey to go on with him.

So during this period of lent, yes I want to think about why Jesus died, what his death has accomplished. But I also want to reflect upon the Word becoming flesh, his teaching and his life….his resurrection an it’s implications for our lives now.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Searching for God

This morning while I was doing my quiet time a thought came to my mind about the purpose, function and reason for going without or giving something up for lent. Now I know this isn't going to be any groundbreaking theology or radical new discovery, but I just felt that it was God prompting me and maybe you too.

As a youth worker each year we seem to ask the young people what they will be giving up for Lent and the responses are often very predictable. "Chocolate" one cries out and another pipes up "biscuits" and the next speaks of "meat". The smart one is 'giving up giving up"! Every year it's the same, giving up something that is seen as bad/harmful or that would have a positive result for their appearance. All these things (well almost all) are not bad things to cut down or give up, but how does giving up these things for Lent help you with your walk with God. And then the thought hit me. We shouldn't be giving these things up for "Lent" but for God. Its not about observing some ritual or event in the God calendar, it should be about making time for God.

The origins of lent seem to stem from individuals or nations spending time wandering around in deserts and wildernesses looking for, or being shaped by God.

Lent should be about looking for God in unexpected places and to do that we need to create space for it... so if you have given up chocolate, next time you are in the shop, look for God, talk with him and be open to His call on your life.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Wearily we await
Our fate.

We have listened
For three years-
But what comes now?

…We do not understand…

We should trust him:
Before we were weary
And before he came through…
But this…
This is different.

Is this different?

He seems sad of late

…what is this?
…what can this mean?

We should trust him…
Shouldn’t we?

Wearily we await
Our fate…

Monday, March 06, 2006

Lent and Noah

Some interesting thoughts on the paralells between the Lent story, and the story of Noah here on the Monastic Mumblings blog, which I read quite regularly. Always worth checking out.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


What will God provide, and if we're abstaining in devotion?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Just (don't) try harder

From Maggi:

It's a common misconception that Lent is about self-improvement. Somehow a half-remembered custom of giving things up has been mixed in with our society's obsession with self-help and self-improvement, so that we've blurred the true meaning of the fast into a rather individualistic concept, more like a New Year Resolution to detox or de-clutter.

Lent is not about giving up luxuries, not about losing weight or gaining other benefits, not about food per se, not about de-cluttering or Feng Shui or about ay other kind of feel-good, de-toxifying exercise. In the end, it's about denying yourself some of the essentials of everday life in order to focus on the reality that we depend upon God for life itself; about re-aligning ourselves with God and his purposes in our world; about reminding ourselves that all we have is a gift from God in any case.

And neither is Lent about achievement. We cannot earn God's love, nor save ourselves. If our Lenten Fast is understood well, it will relieve us of the need to try harder, achieve more, feel worthy. It will ground us in the firm and unshakeable knowledge that we are human - we are but dust, and to dust we shall return - but that to be human is enough, under the loving gaze of God.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

sign up for lent blog (updated 13/3)

Our lent blog will start next on march 1st.

Feel free to blog anything as long as there is some kind of link to lent.

Try not to make your posts too long ...

Looking forward to see what happens ...

Please indicate a day or days (in comments) when you would like to, or be happy to, blog / don't worry if someone's taken your day, we can have 2 blogs a day ...

Mar 1 - andy goodliff
2 - anderson
3 - maggi dawn
4 - laurence
5 Day-off
6 - ash beck
7 - ash beck
8 - jon bishop
9 - brodie mcgregor
10 - helen swinyard
11 - helen swinyard
12 Day-off
13 - andy goodliff
14 - helen swinyard
15 - ash beck
16 - laurence
19 Day-off
22 - jon bishop
26 Day-off
apr 1
2 Day-off (Mothering Sunday)
3 - andy scott
9 Day-off (Palm Sunday)
10 - andy scott
13 (Maunday Thursday)
14 (Good Friday)
16 Easter Sunday (end of blog)

Stop,Look and Listen!

When I was about six or seven I would go to the Tuffty Club to learn about Road Saftly, every week we would recite in parrot fasion what we should do before crossing the road, STOP,LOOK and LISTEN. As we journey through Lent I’m reminded that as Christians this is something I should be doing:

We should STOP being so busy, have more time to reflect. Slowing down for God is important, we can be so busy thinking we are serving God that we are truly failing to do what is important to him!

LOOK at what God has and is doing in my life. If we can’t see where we have come from it’s difficult to see where we are going

LISTEN to what God is saying to me and act on it, he may want to change a long held believe, or get me to look at something from a different angle, may be take me deeper into something and show me more of him!

May I wish you all a happy and a holy Lent, don’t forget to STOP,LOOK and LISTEN!!!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

we ask you to create space ...

How shall we spend these Lenten days? Will we make space in our lives to pray and fast, to journey with God through the wilderness as Israel and Jesus did? Lent reminds us that our God is the one who forgives and makes all things new.

A prayer from Walter Brueggemann

The pushing and shoving of the world is endless
We are pushed and shoved.
And we do our fair share of pushing and shoving
in our great anxiety.
And in the middle of that
you have set down your beloved suffering son
who was like a sheep led to slaughter
who opened not his mouth.
We seem not able,
so we ask you to create space in our life
where we may ponder his suffering
and your summons for us to suffer with him,
suspecting that suffering is the only way to come to newness.
So we pray for your church in these Lenten days,
when we are driven to denial -
not to notice suffering,
not to engage it,
not to acknowledge it.
So be that way of truth among us
that we should not deceive ourselves.
That we shall see that loss is indeed our gain.
We give you thanks for that mystery from which we live.

Friday, February 24, 2006

24 Hour Famine 17-19 Mar

Join in with this year's 24 hour famine, organised by World Vision. I'm planning to get the whole of my church involved this year.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lent Blog Coming Soon ...

2 weeks until the beginning of Lent. So end of this week/beginning of next, I'll post a sign-up sheet for those who want to get involved in blogging with Ashley and I through Lent.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Thanks - Come back for Lent

Thanks to everyone who was involved in advent blog.
It was a great few weeks of interesting and challenging posts to help us through the advent season.

Ashley and I would like to try a Lent blog - so at somepoint in early February, come back and visit if you'd like to be involved. Hopefully we can get some new bloggers as well.