Monday, March 25, 2013

Marathon time!

No, not running it, but volunteering again! I've long given up any pretensions of ever running a marathon, but like last year, I've volunteered to do post-event massage for those who are brave enough to take on the 26 mile challenge.

Turns out I'll be working for the same charity as last year Phab kids, and in the same place, so at least I should know where I'm going! I wonder how strange it will feel going as a qualified therapist rather than a student only 6 weeks into their course.

Anyway, if you see me dragging my massage couch up the stairs at Embankment station or trundling it along Horse Guards Parade, you'll know what I'm up to on that warm April Sunday that will hopefully materialise.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Older Brother?

“See both of the sons are trying to avoid coming to the Father; they’re both runners. The first son is running away from the Father, the other son is running for the Father. Some of you are running for the Father right now. You’re just tirelessly running, seeking His approval, desiring that He say ‘well done good and faithful servant. And you’ve forgotten that after Jesus came out the baptismal waters He already said it to His Son and if you’re life is hidden in Christ He said it to you. I don’t know if you believe it, but God doesn’t really care that much about what you do for Him. The doing comes out of knowing that you’re loved…That’s why we don’t love people. Because we don’t know the depth of love of which we’ve been loved.”
So reads the quote from Jeff Vanderstelt taken from a short video available here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Four interesting principles for missional communities

From the blog of David Fitch comes an interesting piece about one particular missional community and the principles behind it. Here are the principles, (edited slightly):

  • He got a job. Wayne Gordon came to Lawndale humbly, expecting nothing and got a job in the community. He said, “because I didn’t need money it gave us freedom to do things. We didn’t have to focus on getting people into church seats and tithing.” He was able to be “with” people on their terms not on terms dictated by needing to get a church going that was self-sustaining.
  • He inhabited humbly incarnationally. He came to be “with” the community resisting any colonialist impulses. He came to listen to the community, hear the issues, and ask God how he could cooperate with His salvation in this neighbourhood.
  • He gave it time: He said “the number one reason things don’t happen is we don’t give it enough time.” He said “if you would have come here when we were fifteen years into it, you would have said nothing is happening here.
  • Money comes from God: Wayne talked about money as being a provision from God. For Wayne Gordon, faith does not mean we take crazy risks. Faith means we trust God that if we’re meant to do this we will wait long enough and God will provide the money. He said average time a project takes to go from initiation stage to completion is seven years. It takes perseverance.

When people ask us what we are doing or what we've done about planting a church in our community, we have very little to show them or to say at the moment. It can sound like we've done nothing. What we would say is that we believe that God wants us here, we believe that he is at work in our community, the thing is we just haven't worked out what he's doing at the moment. We've consistently said this is a long-term project, and we're not expecting an overnight success (no matter how nice it would be to be able to point to a flourishing community!) Time is really important in this process.

The other point that struck a chord with me comes in the first principle above. Succinctly it describes two of the big issues with legacy models of church planting. One is getting people into a building and the second is on who's terms do we do mission. So much of our historic mission has been done on the basis of inviting people into our controlled environment where we set the agenda. As the communities we try to reach continue to move further away from our the locus of our building-based activities we are faced with the stark choice of staying in our buildings and becoming increasingly irrelevant, or leaving the building and connecting with our communities.

You can read the whole post here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lessons from Luke 12

I've been mulling over Luke 12 for weeks now, ambling my way backwards and forwards through the text. I've long since set aside the practice of reading a few verses, learning a quick lesson and then moving on to tomorrows text. On the other hand, I'm guessing I've become somewhat undisciplined at the same time.

Anyway, this is my pattern for now, and it may very well change again.

What I've noticed in Luke 12, or rather what I've be mulling over, is the connection between the stories. What do they tell me individually and together as a narrative? What lessons can I learn, what might God be saying to me through this collection of stories as a whole?

There's a sort of work pattern, kingdom thing, priority theme going in it seems. The rich fool fails to take any counsel from anyone other than himself. Even if he ultimately rejects it, he never looks at the bigger picture or his wider opportunity to act less selfishly. Selfish too seems to be a concern of the second story where we are challenged to prioritise the kingdom over self-interest.

The third challenge comes in the call to be ready. Ready for what? Well in this case it's the return of the master, but it struck me that there was also the possibility of simply being prepared, being abut the daily business of the kingdom as preparation.

I don't want to push these things too far, after all these are my thoughts form my devotional reflections not a commentary on the text or an exegesis of the text for that matter. In fact, as I went to the text, my main question at that moment was about what we were doing and what we should do. I'd been for a walk, and as i looked at all the new build and recent build I wondered about the process of connecting with the people that would be living in those properties. wondering if any of them would share our vision for a missional community and how we would find them or they find us.

It was then that I read Jesus' words: “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks.

Rather than a challenge, these words came as a comfort. It was almost as if there were to simple questions to answer:

1. Are you being selfish?

2. Are you putting the kingdom first?

If the answer was yes to both, then you are "dressed and ready for service" for when the master arrives. There is no need to panic about what is not happening.

Time to remember that it's not about what I can do for the kingdom, but about Jesus is already doing and how I can become more involved in that. I've always had great plans about how useful I could be to God if only I was in the right setting with the right people, sharing the right vision. But my plans are not the point.

My dreams are not the issue here, for they the hammer holds

Friday, March 08, 2013

What have I done!

Oh no, in a moment of madness I've not only gone an entered a tennis tournament!

Last year I played in the club's Winter League and men's over 55's competitions, but this is the first competition beyond that. And it's indoors, something I'm not at all used to. Better get some practice somewhere!

So far I'm only the second entrant, so I'm either in the final or it will be cancelled. We shall have to wait and see.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Shameless self-promotion!

So, here we are. This is my new venture!

I have to say a big thank you to Ally, my daughter, who helped me create the logo. I still haven't got to grips with Illustrator, so her help was invaluable. She also came up with a few alternatives, which might appear later on the website once I get to grips with that!

Of course the most important thing is to get treating people, and that's a challenge. I'm planning to approach a number of sports clubs and I'm going to look for local events where I might be able to offer pre/post event treatment. Better, in my opinion, to build slowly with a good reputation than try to build too quickly without a clear plan. It's quite a scary thought, putting my new skills out to tender so-to-speak. Will anyone actually pay me to do this? I have dreams of a nice clinic somewhere, but that will have to in the future.

It has been quite a journey this far, as I've blogged already. We were with the church over the weekend, celebrating the vision and hearing stories about what God is up to through his people. For me it was a positive sense of God's affirmation that we're on the right journey even though we have very little to show for it at this time except a mortgage and three new certificates for me. But even as I write that, it seems to me that it is only part of the story. I've discovered that there is more to me than I ever imagined, that I'm not too old to learn something new and I am capable of being a good soft tissue specialist.

Apart from CPD courses, I do hope that I've finally sat my last exam. I'm not sure my blood pressure or emotions could face any more. But I've learnt not to say never again.

And yes, part of me wishes I'd done something like this a long time ago. I don't think Sports Therapy was an option in the 70's. If it was, I might have tried it.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Is it just a means to an end?

So, I'm now a qualified Sports and Remedial Massage Therapist. Still not quite sure I believe it, but it's true. Over the course of the last year I've been asked quite a lot about how I came to be doing sports massage and what I did before and what Im doing now. Trying to explain all of that while you have someone's leg over your shoulder stretching their hamstrings can be quite entertaining let alone a challenge to do in the 10 second cycle of stretch, relax and rest! I try to share a bit of the journey and the context of exploring how to do church without all the buildings, people or resources that normally go along with church and how being a therapist allows me to be self supporting and yet still with enough free time to find ways to be part of the community. I'm not sure I fully understand what \i mean all the time.

Anyway, now I'm qualified, I really need to work out how to build my practice and integrate that with becoming more intentional about missional community in our setting. I read Luke's account of Jesus talking about prioritising the kingdom this morning and glanced across the page at the story of the rich fool too. Two sobering narratives! I began to reflect upon the temptation that being self-employed as a therapist can bring. The "going rate" for therapy seems to be around £40 an hour. Do the maths and see what that means annually for a typical working week. Yes, that's what I thought. It's very easy to get dragged into to thinking about a villa in Portugal and a nice new car on the drive.

But I've always said that this is a bivocational thing. It's not about a change of career, it's about seeking the kingdom of God, serving him and being self-supporting so that others can share the leadership and without there being a professional paid leader above the unpaid, otherwise employed others who can abdicate responsibility for ministry to the paid pastor because it's their job.

On the other hand, being a therapist is not just a means to an end. It's not just about earning enough money to be able to pay bills, or to make a contribution to the household income, or even to secure a state pension whenever that becomes payable. I want to be the best therapist I can be just to be the best therapist I can be. It is an end in itself in that sense.

I've read too many articles that view bivocational ministry as a way of securing ministry for a congregation that can't afford a full-time stipend. The secular job, as it often is, is simply a way to put food on the table while the real work is the work of ministry. That is so wrong. What was it that Paul said to the Colossians? "Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly, as if serving the Lord," or something like that.

The truth is, I wouldn't be a very good therapist if it was only about the £40 the client hands over at the end of a session. And I wouldn't be a very good bivocational leader if half my life was just a way to support the other half. Somehow it has to be integrated. I'm not half therapist, half church leader.

Perhaps, if we took such an approach to ministry, we could release more people into ministry, better deploy their gifts and widen leadership. More importantly, I think we could move away from what seems like an inexorable drive towards an increasingly professionalised ministry.