Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Things I've learned while using the bus

I'm no stranger to public transport in the sense that I often take the train to London, but riding on the buses is a different experience. Yesterday I had a funeral visit to make, and because the car is being fixed, I took the bus. On Sunday I used the bus to get to the tennis tournament and home again afterwards. It's quite liberating in one sense, but I can imagine how frustrating it can be if it's your only choice. I'm not about to wax lyrical about the joys of public transport!

Anyway, I've learned a few lessons form my bus days. Here are a few:

  • Trains run to a timetable, and that's important. Buses run to a timetable, but who cares what it is. The buses don't appear to worry!
  • Double-decker buses can corner a lot faster than you imagine. Don't try and get up just before a sharp bend or roundabout. You may find yourself closer to someone you don't know than you want to be.
  • Teenagers on buses appear to have a generally good grasp of Anglo-saxon but little knowledge of the rules governing the construction of a simple sentence in English. Can one really, "Go Lakeside"?
  • Bus stops are built next to large puddles, probably by law.
  • Not all driver know where the bus stop is, so be prepared for sudden braking and the possibility of loose old people being thrown around the inside of the vehicle.
  • Hearing yourself think is not possible if you catch a bus during the school run.
  • Every so often everything works and the bus comes just after you arrive at the bus stop. This is a anomaly on the space time continuum that will be corrected the next time you're a little late leaving the house.
  • Knowing there's another bus in 15 minutes doesn't make having just missed one easier (see rule 1 above!)
  • When the sun is shining and you have an ice-cream and you're not in a hurry to get somewhere, waiting for the bus is not an issue. 
  • Riding on the top deck raises lots of questions. For example, "Who put a racecourse behind that hedge?" Or, "Why hasn't someone developed a ventilation system that stops the windows steaming up on anything bu the driest day?"

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Making notes while browsing the web

There are lots of ways to make notes, capture information and collate stuff while you are browsing the internet. I've used iClip, when it existed, Circus Ponies Notebook, Textedit, Pages and Scrivener to name a few. It's never usually a problem having two applications open at the same time, I've often got more than that, and tabbing between them or having them side-by-side doesn't pose any real problems.

But what if you could do it all in your web browser? Well apparently you can! There's a simply command line that you can type into the address bar of your browser which will allow to you type notes directly into a blank web page.

You can save or print or email the contents of the page.

I discovered this through the Lifehack Blog, but if you don't want to go there to get the command, then this is what you need to type:


I guess you could even save it as a bookmark, or set your browser to open a notes page every time you start it up. Just in case you find html hard to memorise!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The priority of discipleship

Interesting clip from Verge Network of Alan Hirsch talking about the centrality of discipleship in transformative movements.

I guess one of the questions is that if we don't invest in both discipleship and disciplemaking, then what is the future of any new movement? And trying to build church without discipleship is a pretty pointless exercise. Mike Breen, I seem to recall, said that if you make disciples then you will get church, but if you make church, you won't necessarily get disciples, or something along those lines.

Here's a big question then: What's the point of being missional over legacy church if discipleship is the key? The point is that it's one of the keys, and not the only key. It's just really important. Missional is a way of life not just a model of church, and we ought not to forget that.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Currently Reading

I decided I'd like to read Michael Mosley's book about intermittent fasting. We were away during the Olympics, so we missed the BBC Horizon programme about it, although I did see his "The truth about exercise programme", which I found very interesting. 

Anyway I bought myself a copy of The Fast Diet: The secret of intermittent fasting - lose weight, stay healthy, live longer, which he co-wrote with Mimi Spencer, and set about reading it. I'm about a quarter of the way through the book, but reading it on Kindle means I have no idea if I'm near the end of the theory/practice bit before we hit the recipe section, or if there's more scientific revelation to come!

I guess that with our societal issues with obesity and preoccupation with diets as the solution, putting "diet" in the title was a no-brainer from a marketing point of view. But this is not really a diet book, although there are plans (recipes) and patterns to help you get started. 

If you already know about things like GI and GL, you'll probably skip over those bits, and to be honest, you can skim through much of the early pages as long as you don't miss some of the really interesting things that are being explored and discovered through current research. The thing is, this is not just about weight control, it goes to the heart of a healthy life. If the book is right, then our bodies need the routine of fasting (more accurately low-calorie days, around 600 for men, 500 for women) to get down to the business of repair. Giving our liver and pancreas a couple of days off might just reduce our risk of a number of diseases like diabetes and dementia.

Ever one to experiment, I think I'll explore the ideas. Being able to combine an age-old spiritual discipline with a 21st century exploration of healthy living sounds like a good plan! After all, I suspect one of the major reasons any of us puts on weight is a lack of discipline in the first place.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Reload Ethel, I feel another fundamental issue approaching!

Do we do it intentionally, or are we just innately insensitive or arrogantly self-assured that shooting ourselves in the foot is an essential part of evangelical theology?

I've just read an article, albeit a newspaper article, that reports the statement of one church leader who says, "People can be cured from being gay. Not everyone is but everyone can be.” Pass me another bullet while reload and look for another distal appendage at which to take aim.

While the rest of argument may be coherent, and biblical, this kind of language does not help the discussion. Being homosexually orientated is not a disease. And the parallel with a murderer, that's not helpful either. No wonder the gay community have issues with the church.

There must be a better way to explain our position, such as it is, to those with whom we differ. We may not be able to endorse so-called gay marriage, but do we have to sound quite so condemnatory in the process? Perhaps we've forgotten that God's love for us is not predicated upon our sexual orientation. John's Gospel does not report: "For God so loved the straight that he gave his one and only Son...."

An extract from Sunday's notes

Here's an extract from my notes from Sunday. There are some qualifications needed, but I simply present it here to try and spark some thinking for you. 
The world is not the enemy, and it’s not the fault of the world that it finds itself as it is. Let me explain. 
Darkness is by its very nature dark. The problem is not the darkness, but the lack of light. When light shines, darkness disappears. Darkness does not overcome light, but where there is no light, darkness will rule.
Field of dreams: We all seem to buy into the principle of Kevin Costner’s character in the film. The famous line from the film: "If you build it they will come”, has become the subconscious mantra of the evangelical movement.
But the truth is they won’t come. At least not in the numbers we think. Church works for church people. Bigger and better won’t change that. 
Our structures also bear little relevance to the world beyond the bricks and mortar. I have a Masters degree in theology. If I wanted to teach in a theological college I've been told I would need a doctorate or at the very least a published book! But neither of these qualifies me for anything in the wider world. Outside of the church these degrees and diplomas mean nothing. They means very little to very few people.
What does matter is that I'm there when a member of the family passes away. What might matter is that I'm there to cheer them on when everyone else has given up on them. What could matter is someone being available when they need friendship. And you don't have to be a well-trained, over qualified minister or pastor to do that!
Perhaps the gospel looks like the community we say it is but often fail to live out in any real sense. Like everyone else we've become too busy in our individual world to be connected to anything beyond ourselves. 
When we look in the mirror we see and army of ordinary people totally committed to Christ and the cause of Christ, declaring the gospel of God with a passion, against a backdrop of hostility and apathy from a world spiralling away from God. What the world sees is a group of out of touch, bible bashing, hymn singing, moralising hypocrites that are more concerned about who uses the car park than how to love their neighbour. 
Something has to change. 

Monday, May 06, 2013

Reflecting on preaching

Preaching on Sunday reminded me of a few things that I'd probably allowed to drift out of my line of sight in recent months. When I preach these days, and it's not very often at all, this was only the second time this year, I tend simply to share my heart rather than do a good old fashioned expository sermon. That's not because I don't think such an approach has no value, but at the moment because I guess it's just about trying to share what has been the concern of my heart for the last few years. Plus the fact that I wasn't given a topic or theme or text, so it seemed an appropriate approach. Little did I know that it would be so pertinent to where the church finds itself at this moment in time. Reminder number one: God knows what he is doing!

The second reminder was more personal. It was the reminder that this is what I do, this is part of the shape God has given to my life and that ought not to be ignored or rejected just because I'm no longer leading a church. I don't have to preach, but I ought not to avoid it just because it's no longer a regular part of my life. That means taking the responsibility seriously when I get asked. If I get asked!

The third reminder was about the things for which I have a passion. I may have no idea how to start whatever it is we're starting or supposed to start in South Ockendon, but I do have something in my head and heart that is not just a frustrated outworking of my concerns about the legacy model of church.

The truth is that our society is accelerating away from us and we are failing to keep pace with it. We are more out of touch than we were a year ago and getting further out of touch as I write.

There many other reminders yesterday. Things like preaching is not always, if ever, about how good you are, but about how God uses you; that the bigger the church, the harder change will probably be simply because getting everyone to reimagine things isn't easy; it's okay to do what we do "in" church, but if that doesn't translate into something we do beyond the building amongst the people of our communities, then what value does it have?

And to the people who took the time to speak to me afterwards and encourage me, a big thank you. I know that the folk that didn't like what I said, or didn't approve of the way I said it, won't usually come to speak to me afterwards, so I know that the positive response was not the whole church's response, but that's okay.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Am I that fig tree?

Have you noticed how easy it is to fall into the trap of self-judgement? Okay, so there is a place for accepting responsibility and owning our mistakes and failures, but we so easily take on the mantle of the worst of sinners that I think it gets in the way of a more realistic understanding of who and what we are in Christ.

Yesterday my reading in Luke was the story of the fig tree that hadn't borne any fruit for some time. The solution was either cut it down now or give it another year and then cut it down if things haven't changed. Hands up who feels like the fig tree. But is asking, "Am I the fig tree?" the right question? I'm not so sure. Perhaps some days it is, but most of the time it's not the most helpful question to ask. It only leads you to judge yourself unworthy and of no value to the mission of God in the world he created and for which he sent his Son as the Father, and for the Son died as a Saviour. If God thought we were worth that kind of effort, who are we to argue?

So, here's an alternative question to ask having read about the fig tree.

How am I living intentionally for the kingdom of God in ways that have the potential to bear fruit for that kingdom?

Or, as I seem to recall Rick Warren putting it: Are you living on purpose and with purpose? Or words to that effect. It's the spiritual equivalent of David Allen's, "What is the next physical thing I have to do to get this thing done?" It's a motivator not a demotivator. Too often our spiritual questions are laden with guilt. But the goal of our lives is not to wallow in guilt and the almost inevitable self-pity that follows, but to pursue God and in pursuing him to be found by him. Can I really do that if most of the time I'm worrying that he will cast me aside like the fig tree in the story?