Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Attentiveness to God

My wife, Nicola, reminded me the other day that while we don't think of each other every moment of the day, it does not mean that we have any less affection and love for each other than when we do. Love is not a matter of obsessively thinking about the other person, it is more carrying that person with you in all that you do, not doing things that would harm that relationship but things that grow it and look after it as we go about our daily activities.

I hear too often phrases like "I can't find any time to be with God" or "I haven't any time to pray". Expressing perhaps an understanding that being with God or finding time to pray means always setting ourselves apart, going somewhere quiet and being with God. There is a place for the quiet time with God, the time of devotional reading and prayer, being with him in that one on one way. But we can end up beating ourselves up over it and feeling that we are really not very good Christians if this is the only way we think of prayer and being with God.

I recall in my busyness when in the Software industry, working long hours, traveling, dealing with time zone changes etc., that sometimes I felt disconnected from church and friends, but then a phone call, a chat on skype or MSN, a few emails, a look at the photo I carried of my wife and children and I was connected again. Little things reminded me of friends and family.

On one occasion when looking out over Singapore one evening watching the lights from the 60th floor of an hotel, I reflected on all the things of the day. The everyday things, where I might have thought I had forgotten all about God but was in fact sharing my day with him. Remembering the short prayers before meetings or for a situation that had arisen, recognising the answers and guidance, which did not come from a booming voice or writing on the wall, but from applying godly principles in those daily, routine items.

A book I have been reading recently The Day is Yours by Ian Stackhouse (well worth a read), reminded me that even the daily chores, looking after a child, a sick person, doing the hoovering, washing up (or loading and unloading the dishwasher), cooking meals, going to meetings, talking to people ... all of these can be Spiritual things, if we are attentive to God as we go about them. As Ian says of the busy mother, "... even the kitchen can become Holy ground."

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Impressions and Make Overs

I was listening to a song in the car earlier, Lifesong by Casting Crowns and it got me to wondering what my life says about my faith.

What impression do other people have when they meet you and get to know you, do you wonder, does it concern you.? We all, so we are told, have masks that we use depending upon the people we are with and the impression that we want to give. I am sure psychiatrists and psychoanalysts have a "proper"term for this. For example when I am with my granddaughter (5 months old), I sing to her, cuddle her, talk in baby language and just enjoy having her with me. When I meet people while walking the dog, I am friendly but slightly distant, I don't want to be too pushy. Then again when I am with church people I am careful not to be ambiguous in what I say so that I don't confuse people or give a wrong impression.

I was talking earlier with some friends at college about how we thought we are meant to live as Christians given that many people complain that they see little if any difference in those in the church to those outside. Is it all about having our needs met, feeling protected and looked after? If it is how then does my lifestyle (house, cars, money to live on, safe environment, food on the table - and in the fridge, hospital when I need it ...) speak to someone who is struggling to survive, no food or money, working for a slaves wage so that I can wear nice, cheap clothes or buy nice cheap food?

I think there is a disconnect and I need to reevaluate what Christ asks when he tells me to daily take up my cross and follow him. Perhaps paying more for things and using Fair Trade or organisations like Freeset (check it out). How do I treat others, am I biased based on what they wear, where they live or how they speak? Jesus had time for all, spoke to just about anyone even those who wanted him dead. He told those who follow him that we need to see others as if they were him - "'Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'" (The Message)

What does my life look like to others, what impression does it give, not as good as it might I fear, I need a make over in what my life shows about what I believe, how about you?

Maybe the lines from Lifesong "May my lifesong sing to you .." need to be more real in all of our lives so that Christ can be seen more clearly in the way we live and the things we do.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Memories that last

When I have a few moments to myself I sometimes reflect back on the experiences that have made a real impact on me during my life and travels. You know those things which are not always in your mind but at the time made a big hit with you. One that comes to mind was the first time I visited a restaurant in Singapore, called The East Coast Seafood Centre, with a work colleague, David, who knew about good places to go. It looked out over the sea and the food was excellent, Chilli Crab, Pepper Crab (my favourite) and fried squid, a feast indeed of flavours, tastes and fiery pepper and chilli. It is a place where you have to get fully involved with your food to appreciate it. I have been back each time I visited Singapore on business. It is a great memory among the boredom of airports, flying and the busyness of meetings to sort things and plan things, that were my way of life.

The one memory which tops my list and which really does it for me, was the morning I woke up to be told by my wife, Nicola, that she had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Saviour! Pure joy showed on her face and she asked me where her Bible was because she wanted to start reading it. Our walk with God can have such moments, should have such moments and not just the thrill of the big event with thousands of people, but the times when we can truly say - "that was God" and which survive the passage of time as reminders of just how much God has been, is and will be involved in the lives of those who love him. They help us in those times when we feel that God is not speaking or listening, and remind us that actually he always is, but perhaps we are not so good at spending time with him and hearing him.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Uncharted Territory

How often do we hear phrases like “follow me” or “trust me” or “I know what I am doing”? Familiar ways that are used to encourage us to overcome our concerns or issues and put our faith in someone or something, perhaps leaving our comfort zone and stepping out.

How good are we anyway at moving out of our comfort zones, the places where we feel safe and secure, inside our own little bubbles where we are in control and things work the way we want them too?

For many of us any change is difficult but to move to a place where we are well outside of our comfort and well into the red danger zone is pretty well impossible. But so often the real progress in life, the really big answers to the tough problems, the huge breakthroughs happen in just such times, when we are in those uncomfortable, challenging places. It is to these challenging places that Christians are called, the untidy, unpredictable world where things are not as we want them but in which we can, if we choose, make a huge difference. We are called to follow him as the Iona Hymn reminds us:

Will you come and follow me
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown
in you and you in me

Salt and light Jesus says of those that follow him, something that we already are so that we can light up, point the way, be noticed for being his people in a scary, unpredictable, untidy and yet God created world that he loves dearly. So dearly that the first Easter happened for us and each year is a reminder that God loves humanity and calls his people to love and engage with all, changing them not by being the biggest voice or project or whatever, but by being people who make a difference where they can.

Too often we Christians remain in our safe huddles, spending our energy seeking new forms of worship, preaching, songs and the latest ways of presenting our arguments. Yet we fear moving out of this into the uncharted territory of our communities where the salt needs to be tasted and the light needs to be seen. We can make Easter a present reality by following Christ into those uncharted lands.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Watching and Waiting ...

How well do you wait for something to happen or arrive? Impatience with the "not knowing" or "not knowing when" is hard to handle. I seem to be waiting a lot recently and am having to learn to be more patient in the waiting and unknowing. For example we are waiting for people who may contact us or not to signpost the next stage of our faith journey, I am waiting for others to talk some things through and possibly help with a local situation.

The thing about waiting is that you sometimes have time to think. What other things does patience mean to me, perhaps the patience of my dog, Fitz as he waits daily for that walk in the morning and the evening, always eager, always expecting, always ready - incredibly patient and faithful.

How eagerly we wait for news of a new job or wait for that planned holiday or that live event (a wedding, a baby, a visit from a friend), when that happens everything will be great, won't it?

There is something I recall about the Jewish people waiting between the last of the biblical prophets and the arrival of God's anointed, the one who would save them and restore their fortunes. But this reminds me that unless we keep looking then the signs of what we are waiting for, they become blurred, indistinct and even invisible, so that we miss what we are waiting for when it arrives.

Fitz is perhaps fortunate in that he looks for limited signs, certain shoes or boots coming out, a particular coat, the dog lead or poop bags being put into a pocket. He may of course mistake a sign but he is always ready when its the right one.

How about us, are we looking for God's signs and do we see them when he shows them? Easter is heralded by the small but delicious chocolate creme eggs, the bigger chocolate eggs, by the things like chicks and spring flowers, lambs in the fields, new life is all around us. But have we missed the real signs of Easter? The signs of what God has and is doing because he loves each of us, new life through Christ's death and being alive again, new life for us with him forever. When we open our eyes and hearts to God's signs, we will find them and him and begin to know the patience that comes from God (But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness).