Friday, December 31, 2010


I was watching BBC Breakfast the other day and they were talking about New Year's resolutions. Yes it's that time of year again and yes we all know that if we make them we're more than likely to break them, so we don't really focus on making any achievable resolutions in the end.

Making and keep promises to oneself is a subject for another post. The thing that caught my ear was one person's resolution to delete themselves from Facebook. It's a topic that has raised itself over the last few months as privacy settings and security at the social networking site have come under scrutiny. There's also the issue of time spent, or time wasted depending on your perspective, on such websites. Does it have any real value? Does it help or hinder communication?

Most, if not all, of my Facebook communication arrives at the site via feeds from various other sources. I rarely interact directly with Facebook except to check the newsfeed. I also use Twitter and of course I blog away, although rather less so these days. Perhaps that's a resolution I need to make!

But here's the thing. Because of these social sites and feeds, I get to hear stuff about which I'd often be unaware. Some of it is less than helpful, some is just funny. And there are times when I've read a Twitter update or a Facebook status and stopped and prayed.

So perhaps Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, even the Saga social networking site (I'm not a member before you ask!) have a value that we sometimes forget to measure. Perhaps others would have prayed for me had I posted a simple update about the funerals I've conducted, the struggles to get my Spring plan together and the challenges of preparing and delivering Advent Celebrations.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nativity: Part Two

I just caught up with last night's episode of BBC1's adaptation of the nativity. If you haven't seen any of it, it is worth the effort as far as I'm concerned. At last, a treatment of the story that actually engages with the emotional confusion that must have been felt by all the characters.

One has to wonder why, if they can portray this central story of our faith with such insight and sympathy, that Christians generally get a poor showing. Could it be that we don't live up to the narrative?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nativity on the BBC

Did anyone catch the first episode of the Nativity on BBC1 last night? If you didn't, you might want to catch up with it via iPlayer. I rather enjoyed it. I'm sure there will be a few angry voices, and maybe it won't all be great. But it was rather a good start. I liked the exploration of the back story, the reflection on what might have been happening.

My favourite line was when Mary's mother looked at Joseph and said simply, "At least he's got teeth."

Beyond that, the thoughtful portrayal of the wise men and the non-ethereal look to the angel were all good. I've often remarked at church that this is a truly ordinary group of people in very ordinary surroundings made extraordinary by the events that unfold.

I'm looking forward to part two tonight.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Psalm 37

As I continue to make my way slowly through the Psalms, I came to Psalm 37. It's quite a long psalm, but these first ten verses are worth spending some time reflecting upon.

1 Do not fret because of those who are evil
   or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
   like green plants they will soon die away.

 3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
   dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the LORD,
   and he will give you the desires of your heart.

 5 Commit your way to the LORD;
   trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
   your vindication like the noonday sun.

 7 Be still before the LORD
   and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways,
   when they carry out their wicked schemes.

 8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
   do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For those who are evil will be destroyed,
   but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.

A lot of my time can be spent fretting about all sorts of things. Things that ultimately are either not worth the worry or can be dealt with simply by taking some action rather than worrying about them. Things like actually getting the plan done, or not leaving that admin task until tomorrow. writing down the action and trying to remember it only to forget it at a crucial moment.

But these verses aren't just about dealing with worry-sickness. It's a psalm about hope, trust and patience. It's about doing good because it's the right thing to do.

Read them a few times and pray them through.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


As I continue to read Neil Cole's book on leadership it continues to revive thoughts and themes that have been buzzing around my head for a long time. He writes about organisations being "value-led rather than personality-driven". Something that surely ought to be paramount in the church.

But this is not just a simple matter of establishing our values. I've been down that road and discovered that establishing values is only the first step. If those values are not inculcated into the ethos of the church, they will have little or no impact on the life of the church.

That aside, what are or should our values be? What things rise to the surface and what characteristics of current church life give away the true values with which we work? I'm reminded of John Ortberg's "shadow mission" talk from a few years ago.

One value that I believe demands our attention if the church is going to flourish is a very baptist core value, namely the priesthood of all believes. There are times when this seems to be a value we hold dear but upon which we often fail to act. Having said everybody can and should be involved in ministry we then go about the business of setting apart the few in order that the many don't have to.

If we are committed to making disciples then surely part of that process is doing what Jesus did not just knowing what Jesus did. We cannot minister vicariously through others, we must involve ourselves.

I raise this more of a question than an answer, but somehow we have to work out how to get people engaged in the full range of ministry that forms the life of a faith community. We cannot go on assuming that it's someone else's responsibility to do these things.

There are other values too that need work-the role of leaders; the place of Sundays, to name just two that come to mind. Perhaps they are not values, but reflecting values.

I just wonder, if we boiled everything down to the core, what would be the values that we would find there and how would we go about reshaping the church in order to express those values through our shared life together?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, December 10, 2010

The upside down kingdom

In God's kingdom, the basement is the penthouse. The first become last, and the last are first (Matt.19:30). The humble are exalted, and the exalted are humbled (1Pet.5:5-6). The weak are strong, and the strong are weak (2Cor.13:9). The rich are impoverished, and the poor are wealthy (8:9). The wise are foolish, and the foolish confound the wise (1Cor.1:27). Death comes from life, and holding onto life brings death (Matt.10:39).

Organic Leadership, Neil Cole

Apart from the last sentence, which I'm either not reading clearly or should say "Life come from death". The point that Jesus was making was that letting go of your life, with all its ambitions and demands actually leads to life, whereas holding onto life leads to death.

That apart, I think this is a great reminder of the nature of the kingdom of God. All too often we get sucked into an interpretation of the kingdom that draws more on our business models than on the values Jesus spoke about.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Something I need to process

I've spent the last part of this afternoon with an uneasy feeling. Difficult to describe but it all relates to two incidents I've witnessed in the last couple of days. Let's start with yesterday.

I was walking home just as the schools finished and watched as one young man repeatedly thumped a fellow pupil. Not sure what the reason was, but he quickly got bored and as he dropped back two others came alongside the victim and told him what they intended to do the following day. I assume their target was the angry young man who was throwing punches a moment earlier.

I wondered about the future he faced, not in terms of the next day but his adult life. Would he end up choosing violence as the solution to his problems or was it just the kind of spat that happens. Who knows.

Then this afternoon I was in the coffee shop having a drink and a chat with another member of the church when in walked a customer who turned out to be trouble. He complained, swore at the staff and tried to cheat and steal in front of everyone. It's laughable really. He actually stole food and sat at a table to eat it. He claimed not have been given his change and when asked to leave it became apparent that he'd been drinking. Tempers were frayed and it wasn't going to be a neat resolution.

As he left another customer had a go at him for his lack of manners, not the wisest course of actions. He shouted, threatened, lashed out, spat and became abusive to understate the situation. The other customer shouted, scratched and didn't really help.

So how is a Christian supposed to respond in these situation? It's left me perplexed and disturbed. When such minor violence comes so close, it leaves me confused and dismayed about life and where we are headed. Wouldn't it be great to be able to stand up and say just the right thing that the drunk and the angry schoolboy would fall to their knees in repentance. But it hasn't happened yet. No one experienced grace, no one apologised for their outbursts. Life simply went on with everyone looking and wondering the same things, grateful they were not the object of his attack.

O that you would tear open heaven and come down and sort this mess out Lord. But then again, you did, and look what we did in response. That wasn't a pretty sight either was it. Broken, damaged people still need a Saviour. Broken, damaged people still fail to see. But that didn't stop Christ coming. It won't stop him now.

I did what I could. I tried to stand in the gap. I tired to be the man of peace although inside I longed to be more like Steven Segal. And even now I find myself wanting to pray for everyone caught up in it all. It's a salutary reminder that even in suburban Upminster sin abounds. In case, may grace abound even more.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Coming to terms with not being thin

It's a strange business losing weight. Without appearing to trivialise or lessen the impact of severe eating disorders, I think I've learnt something over the last few months that helps me understand what some people go through. I never quite understood how a painfully thin person could look at themselves in the mirror and see a fat person staring back. I do now. Okay, so nowhere near as severe a distortion, but the truth is that even though I've lost a lot of weight I still see more or less the same person in the mirror. I know I'm thinner. I've gone from a 48in jacket to a 42 and a 40in waist pair of jeans to a 34in waist. When I look down I can see a fairly flat profile.

All very encouraging. I know these things, but what I see in the mirror remains distorted. The disturbing thing is that I actually don't feel any lighter or thinner. Occasionally I catch sight of myself and realise how much I've changed, but most of the time I'm unaware.  Body image is such a subtle thing.

So I have to learn to see myself honestly. Perhaps that's part of the reason we put on weight in the first place, we don't pay attention to our increasing weight and we don't pay attention to our changing size and shape. I know someone who maintained for years that the clothes makers were making them smaller as they slowly added more weight.

Lessons too for our spiritual journeys. The keys to succeeding in losing the weight and maintaining a healthy weight will remain discipline, monitoring and honesty (accountability) about what I eat. The same is true for my spiritual development. I have to commit to a disciplined pattern, be accountable and honest with myself and before God. My journal helps me do these things, and as the new year approaches I ought to make a commitment to use my journal more thoughtfully than ever.

Here's to 2011 as a year of celebrating a successful weight loss programme, getting fitter, playing more tennis, and becoming a better follower of Jesus Christ than I've managed this year.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

November walking stats

This may be the last month I record these details, although I've extended my spreadsheet to December!

So, for the record:

Total steps: 397,709

Approx. distance: 199 miles.

So that makes November my highest month yet as far as steps go. I completed my 100-day challenge on the 22nd having walked 630 miles and taken 1,260,290 steps.

In the end I did 105 consecutive days.

Since August 1st I've covered approximately 750 miles and taken 1,498,863 steps. Today, December 1st I took my 1.5 millionth step since beginning the challenge of walking everyday.

I'm hoping for a new pair of trainers for Christmas!