Friday, August 31, 2012

What am I doing?

I thought I'd do a quick blog update about where I am in my massage studies etc. I realised the other day that we only have something like 7 days left of the course. After that it's final exams to sit and case studies and papers to complete before qualifying, which is not a foregone conclusion. And even once qualified there's no guarantee of a job or successful private practice ahead.

At the moment I'm still offering free treatments and I'm about to start a volunteer placement at The Daily Telegraph one morning a week. I'm also volunteering for a thing called Student Clinic that runs at the offices of the training school.

On the Personal Training front, I still haven't received my official certificate, which means I can't register with REPS and which in turn is hampering any progress in that area. That's rather sad because I was hoping to be able to make a little bit of money doing PT sooner than this. It's annoying because the insurance company was quite happy to insure me, but I's like to be able to say that I'm REPS certified too.

So that's that. Currently Im working on my next paper for the massage course which is due in a couple of weeks. I hope to make good progress on that next week and then I might turn my attention to developing some training plans and ideas. I have one plan to work with small groups through some church contacts, but that's only in a thinking stage at the moment and needs to become something more solid.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Heart for Libya?

You might be interested in this website if you have a heart for Lybia.

The basic idea is to pray for Libya on a day of your choice at either 10:02 in the morning or evening. It's 10:02 because Luke 10:2 provides the text underlying the prayer: Pray, therefore, that the Lord of the harvest will send out workers into his harvest field.

I guess you could actually choose any country or community for that matter and do a similar thing. The prayer is "into" the harvest, "for" the harvest and "from" the harvest. See the website for more details. You can sign up to pray for Libya or just make our own commitment to a country or people group to whom you feel drawn.

One life at a time

Are you like me? do you harbour dreams of changing the world, influencing significant people and seeing lots of people come to faith through your endeavours?

What if it isn't meant to work that way?

I'm all for significance, but maybe we're not all destined for great ministries, maybe that's the realm of the few. Not specially chosen, but just the few on whom god chooses to pour out a blessing that is beyond the normality of the rest of us. It isn't that we are somehow less important or less committed or less able than these others, it's just that God has chosen us for a different task.

Think about Abraham and his obvious significance in our story, but the relative smallness of his experience. He only had the one son by Sarah in fulfilment of a pretty big promise to be the father of nations. Think of the prophets and the range of their ministries from single prophecies to multilayered, long-term prophetic ministries.

I read the story of the calling of Levi this morning, and it made me think about one life at a time. Jesus called Levi. He didn't call Levi and all his friends, or all the other tax-collectors. He focussed on Levi, a single life. It was Levi who then invited his friends to meet Jesus and no doubt some of them had their lives transformed through that meting. But it began with the call of one person, a single life.

What is the ministry Jesus has for you is to connect one life to the kingdom and that's all? What if it's that one life that he will use to transform a community, to build a church or start a movement? Would you be up for that? Would you sacrifice all your dreams and ambitions for a single disciple.

I'd love to plant a vibrant, growing missional community in the place where I live. But maybe my role is simply to find the person through whom Jesus wants to do that and introduced them to him. If I spend all my time dreaming of the big movement and not focussing on the one life, then maybe I'll miss something really important and the kingdom will be missing another disciple.

I will continue to dream, but I will do so with my eyes open to the possibilities along the way. If Levi is out there, I don't want to miss him!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Think about this....

There's a blog I follow written by Kent Shaffer. Like most blogs I follow, I skim the posts and decide what's relevant and what's interesting and what can pass me by this time around. You can't read everything and you should\t even try. It will just overload your brain!

Some time ago Kent Shaffer used a term that struck a chord somewhere deep in my heart. The phrase was simply "Open Church". I'll need to look back through the archives to get a fix on the original idea, but it's interesting to read most recently about the developments of the idea. When I first read the phrase my mind immediately began thinking about Open Source projects and what defines them and how that might shift my thinking about church. I can't remember where that particular journey took me, but I'm pretty sure it's had an influence on my current thinking somewhere long the line.

But the thing that struck me most from the most recent post on the blog was his reflection on moving to a new neighbourhood to engage in a new ministry. This was the paragraph:

Stuff was holding us back in a variety of ways from being agile and ministering more biblically. And the comfortable suburban, Evangelical lifestyle was desensitizing me from living out the gospel as I knew I should yet never did. I used bad theology to make convenient excuses to justify my lifestyle. I was using complex yet comfortable systems to try to replace the simple yet uncomfortable mandates of Christ.

Lots to think about here. Are you agile and able to minister biblically, and what does being agile look like for you? How desensitised have I become to the call to live out the gospel? How is God calling me and shaping me to incarnate the gospel in my community? And what of our excuses?

It's worth taking the time to let the profound nature of this reflection sink into your heart and for God to ask the deep penetrating questions that I think sit behind it for all of us. Read it in context here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More Shoes

With my bent toes I was surprised that I got them into these Vibram Five Fingers, but in they went.

It feels very strange and I think the measuring system on the website might have underestimated by maybe a half size. but we shall see.

What a privilege

Although I felt totally out of my depth for the last three days, that doesn't take away the privilege it was to meet some amazing athletes. Here are two, but they were not the only ones.

Charles Narh Teye from Sophie Williams on Vimeo.

Alem Mumuni from Sophie Williams on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Every time I hear John Lennon's classic lyrics something bothers me. I find myself getting ever so slightly angry, not so much with the sentiment expressed, but with the mirror the lyrics hold up to the church. I was reminded of this with the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

I think my reaction can be summed up in two questions:

1. Do they understand what they are singing? A children's choir signing about imagining no religion as the route to peacefulness, no heaven or hell etc. Has anybody sat down and thought about what that all might mean? Singing without thinking is something we're all familiar with in church. We sing bind us together and tear into each other, we sing about one faith, one Lord and then proceed to divide ourselves along sectarian lines.

2. How come we've become the problem? When the expression of faith becomes the reason for the problems in the world then we need to take a deep look at the way we express our faith. Lennon wrote:

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
Okay, I know Jesus spoke about wars and rumours of wars, and I know that true peace won't come in a world as broken as it is, but to live in peace is a gospel goal and we must work at helping people see that faith is not the start of the problem but the solution to it. We don't do that by declaring war on others and justifying so doing on the basis of our insecurities.

John Lennon's song hold up a mirror, we need to see the reflection. In many ways perhaps the lyrics actually reflect a truer picture of the gospel than we might otherwise give them credit for doing. Maybe God's dream was not heaven above us and hell below, or a multiplicity of ethnic groups at odds with each other or even  to see people protecting what they think they own and leaving others to go hungry, poor and naked.

Maybe that's why I struggle with the sentiment. It's not anti-Christian it's actually more truly Christian than I can bear.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My new shoes!

Inspired by Born to Run to give something closer to barefoot running a go, I bought myself a pair of New Balance Minimus shoes. Tried them today and they feel so light and comfortable.

How good my form is I have no idea, but there were moments on my run when I think I fell into the forefoot/midfoot strike pattern rather than the heel strike pattern. Was it the shoes or my beginners attempt to focus and concentrate? Who knows, but they are nice shoes.

For some months now I've been thinking about my feet and the structure of feet in general. So many muscles and such an ingenious design of joints and soft tissue bears thought and investigation! It\s probably a massage thing, but the more I think about it the more it makes sense to try and find ways to exercise the muscles in my feet. I can't think of any gym-based training routine that targets the muscles of the foot. Yet without them, and the muscles that support the ankle, we have no stability.

So rather than cushioning and supporting my feet all the time, I want to see if I can strengthen them by simply being barefooted or as close to barefooted as is practicable. Of course it's probably not wise to go from supported shoes to barefoot overnight. And I won't stop wearing shoes! But it will be interesting to try a range of near-barefoot shoes and see what difference it makes over say a six-month period. I'll let you know. It certainly can't make my feet any worse!!

The Running Disciple!

Now be honest with me here, can you truly say that you enjoy your Christian life? Does everyday present you with joy or does it feel like a chore, a drudge, something to be endured rather than enjoyed?

I'd guess that most of us fall somewhere along a continuum from chore to joy, and that it changes through the course of a day or month or year. For some their life as a follower of Christ has become a rut in which they have become stuck and for others it is a continual adventure from start to finish.

I'm reflecting on this for two reasons. first. because I;m always aware of my own us and downs and secondly because of something I read in Born to Run. We are a fascinating creation. In fact, whether you subscribe to a creation or evolutionary theory of first origins (or even a combination of the two), we are a remarkable creature. The argument for an inherent running gene so-to-speak lies in our structure as much as anything else. For example we have a ligament in our necks that only mammals that run share. Those that walk do not have it. We have the ability to sweat away heat and breathe and run at the same time. something no other mammal can do. We may not have the fat out speed of a deer or cheetah, and we don't have the claws and teeth of a lion, but we do have endurance. We can't out-sprint a squirrel but we can run one to exhaustion!

But we don't generally run. Why? Because it's become a pastime, no longer a way of life, it has become a wearisome chore that's painful and un-enjoyable. We run to keep fit or to lose weight (unsuccessfully because we don't change our diet). And what's worse we run badly when we do run. If the book is correct, then we've been suckered by marketing into running in the only way guaranteed to hurt ourselves. As we persevere we invest in more cushioning and more strapping to make running bearable. Eventually we give up, buy a large screen TV and watch other run instead.

Now reflect those thoughts into discipleship.

We buy devotional guides to help us learn how to do what ought to come naturally. That's not to say that they are bad things. Just like running shoes, if you run properly then you can run in anything, then if you are a follower of Jesus then you can probably use any guide you like if you've got the basics of following down. And the worst thing we can do is sit and watch others do our devotional life for us. We're too busy, too injured too out of shape, so we watch others do what we ought to be able to do but can't motivate ourselves to do.

Somehow we've lost the joy of discipleship, of running with Jesus for the joy of running with him. It's become a checklist, a programme a means to an end instead of an intrinsic part of who we are. We are all made in the image of God. If we are born to run then we are also born to reflect God's image.

I went running this morning for the time in years. Proper running. not just running  part of the route I usually walk, but setting out to run all the way. I almost made it. I took a breather towards the end, but ran 90% of the 4Km I set out to do. I tried to run light and run properly. I ran for the joy of running. And now my legs ache a little! But that's okay because I ran. I worked my muscles in a different way and of course they will ache.

If you try following Jesus for the joy of following him it will be different. I don't yet have a recipe to offer you that will ensure it will work or a pattern to follow that will promise joy. Maybe that's just not possible. But I wonder how different our faith might look if somehow we could reinject a measure of simple joyfulness into what it means to be a Christ-follower.

Maybe the next step on from functional discipleship will be barefoot discipleship!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Born to Run?

Something interesting has been happening to me over the last twelve months or so. Actually let's make that 24 months. Ever since setting out to lose the weight I'd gained from becoming more sedentary, I found myself wanting to run. I'd go out for a walk as part of my exercise plan or my 10k steps challenge, and I'd find myself wanting to break into a jog. Occasionally I would, but only for a short distance. Each time I'd begin to think about running more. It was like a little voice in the back of my head saying, "Run, you know you want to!"

Now I'm not about to tell you that 2 years on I'm running every day and going further and faster because that isn't true. But a couple of weeks ago I found myself running half my usual 4Km walk and then a few days later I ran much further than I had for a long time out of necessity. We'd gone out for a short walk that turned out to be 9 miles and we were late so I ran the last 2 miles home to get the car and go back to pick Anne up. It wasn't speedy, but it wasn't walking.

Now I'm intrigued. If I could jog gently then why can't I run, is it just because I think I can't run or because I don't want it to hurt?

I heard about this best selling book about running called "Born to Run" that everyone seems to rave about a few years ago and elided with holiday coming up that I'd get it on my Kindle and read a bit while we were away. I devoured it. If you haven't read it then read it! It's a fascinating mixture of story and reflection and fun and questions. I couldn't put the thing down. And what's more, it's left me with this question, "Am I born to run?" Is it possible that this little voice in my head isn't just a throwback to being a child who ran everywhere and had to be told to slow down or the narcissistic call of some would-be self-improvenment image conscious self. Could it be that running is a lost joy that deep down is waiting to be rediscovered. Or maybe that's too philosophical and I just want to run again!

Who knows.

What is clear to me at the very least is that I need to learn to run properly. If the book is right, then I need to get on the treadmill and sort out my posture, foot strike, balance and cadence before I can really begin to explore the place of running in my fitness life.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Stop and look at Luke 4:40

Easily missed, Luke 4:40 is a verse worth pausing at and reading carefully:

As the sun went down that evening, people throughout the village brought sick family members to Jesus. No matter what their diseases were, the touch of his hand healed every one.

As the song goes, "just one touch from his hand, changes everything." Something we know intellectually but maybe not so personally, not so emotionally. I'm not about to get all dewy eyed and lamenting of the lack of dynamic spiritual intervention in people's lives these days. It's just not worth the effort. I just want to dwell for a while in the depth of this little phrase, "the touch of his hand healed every one."

What picture of Jesus does it paint for you? Compassionate, powerful, authoritative, awesome, amazing, gentle, tireless, to name a few. Forget for a moment the wrangling over the place of miracles and the supernatural in the life of the church, just sit in silent wonder at the amazing way that the Son of God touches lives and transforms them.

Beyond all the clever strategies and innovative approaches to Christian community, beyond all the training in personal evangelism and ministry, a simple touch from the hand of Jesus is what our communities need most of all. It may come in the shiny wrapping paper of the latest ministry movement or it may not. It may come in the shape of a simple smile and offer of help. Who knows.

Whatever shape it takes, if it incarnates the touch of Jesus Christ then it will change lives.