Thursday, 18 December 2014

It Mattters

It's been an interesting few weeks, death of a good friend, death of a great friends brother so there was lots of heart ache and soul searching going on. Then this week we had the slaughter of children and adults in Pakistan by those subhuman members of the Taliban, an act so barbaric, most people i know are still speechless about it. It never ceases to amaze me how we can claim to be civilised and carry out acts of barbarism on this sort of scale.

So here we go, i have done a lot of soul searching over the last few weeks, and there are things i need to take care of with people and rectify, to sort the issues out, to actually bring some grace and humanity back into life. What the last few weeks has taught me is that life is but a vapour, we make plans for tomorrow, plans for the future and actually the future is never promised, we can be snuffed out in a heartbeat. It sounds depressing and some will view it like that, but come at it from a different angle, come at it from the idea that, you can make a difference in a positive manner, in someones life, you can show humanity, you can show grace, you can be the change. Life is far to short to hold a grudge, its far to short to hold hatred in our hearts when actually our hearts are made for love, and our souls are made to shine light.

We are in a time of Advent, we are in a time of Christmas and goodwill to all people, so lets try and live like it everyday not just a few days of the year, not just when we gain something from it, but live it as though it was our lives breath, live it like it matters. Because you and i can be the difference for somebody, you and i can and do matter to people, friends, family and to God.

Have a great Christmas people, be blessed, be happy, be loving, be awesome


Friday, 5 December 2014

Its become apparent that we have a great ideal to bitch and moan about anything and nothing. Over the last few weeks, people have been posting on social media things that make them happy. The things that are a blessing. It maybe pictures, or things that are important to them, but it is important to people and thats good. So we need to look at how blessings come to us, it maybe because of individuals, it maybe circumstance, but blessings come. So what do we do with it, I'm going to do my usual stuff and nail my colours to the mast and say, if you do not possess these things you cannot give them, and heres what i mean. Over the last few weeks i have heard Christians make various statements about what is and what is not, and I'm actually easier dealing with those people outside of the Kingdom. So lets look at what we can profess to. If we deny certain things about the kingdom we cannot actually profess them, because denial requires denial its really that simple. So lets look at some things, if we are to give HOPE we need to be a people of HOPE, we cannot be anything other than a people of hope. If we are to be a people of the resurrection, we cannot deny the resurrection, because to deny that we deny our faith. If we are to be a people of the incarnation, the birth of Christ we need to live in that understanding, we need to live in that process, you see we spend so much time deciding what is and is not reality, that we miss the point. We have the book in front of us, many will disagree with it, but funnily enough most of those who disagree are the Christians who think they know better. You see most (unbelievers) are not worried about the ins and outs, they celebrate because they do, they celebrate because actually they get it..
Christians are called to be a people of hope, they are called to be people of faith, they do not need to publicly question every jot and tittle about faith. You see we are what we are a people of faith, and this Christmas we stand by what we believe, we believe in that incarnation, we believe because thats what we are, people of the incarnation, people of faith. Im sick and tired of Christians denying the reality of our faith because, it does not fit with societies ideas, you see, I'm more than happy to say I'm a person of hope, I'm happy to give hope because i live in hope, I'm happy to live in the incarnation, because i live in that proces daily. I'm happy to live in the resurrection (though) it's the wrong time of year, because without it everything is pointless. You see without hope, without faith, without the resurrection, without that blessed incarnation, i have no faith, i actually have nothing, I'm empty, I'm just a dead cell. We need as Christians, especially at this time of year to grab the incarnation, we grab that birth, the birth of Christ and scream " IT'S REAL, WE GET IT, WE UNDERSTAND IT (even if we don't) because without that incarnation we are dead, dead in sin, dead in life and dead to renewal. Im a drunk, I'm a junkie, I'm a pain in the ass, I'm not a great idea of what a Believer should be, but guess what, it does not matter what you think, its down to that Manger, that stable, and that incarnation. We all fail, we all screw up and it does not matter to God because, that baby, his son in a stable sorted it all out, he did the work so that we could just go "YEP" i don't care, because he cared. This Christmas spend some time remembering what happened, because you know what, it changed the world, it changed my world. Im not perfect, but i know what i believe, and i know why i celebrate what i do.

Love you all people, you mean the world to me


Monday, 24 November 2014

Little minds breed big problems!!!

One day a man was walking down the road, he saw a guy in trouble whom he knew and did not like, the guys shopping bags had ripped and his shopping was all over the road. The man though about laughing and shouting out "hey stupid, what ya done" but decided against it, as the other guy was considerably larger than him. Anyways when the smaller guy got home, he went online and laid into this person, whom he actually knew little about or cared for in reality, unless it was getting his own opinion across, and he knew his opinion was correct and right. He spent 3 hours berating the guy for his stupidity, he went all out, name calling (but I'm only joking) he was just darn right mean, even questioning the guys morals and beliefs (even though he did not know them at all). As it happens in life the small guy needed help one day when his car had broken down( lack of fuel) it was raining heavily, he was in pain due to trying to push the car with a heart condition and nobody was stopping to help. He spied the big guy coming across the road towards him, feeling for his life he jumped in the car and locked it down. The guy knocked on the window, and asked what was up? he explained" the car aint running" "pop the bonnet bud and i will have a look" he knew there was little point in popping the bonnet "look i ran out of petrol and i feel like an idiot for doing so" the big guy shrugged his shoulders and said " we have all done it at some stage" and started pushing him to the garage down the road, when they got there he just left and never waited for thanks or reward. The small guy (in both mind and stature) had no idea what to do, "maybe just maybe i need to stop being so judgemental, maybe i need to stop having the last word, just maybe i need to become more human".

We all judge on a whim, we say things which hurt and don't actually mean to hurt anyone, but we do. We think we are right each and every time, and the simple truth is we are not always right, we do not hold all truth and knowledge in our brains. Sometimes we need to do one thing and one thing only and that my friends is SHUT THE HELL UP, and give someone else a chance to have their say, who knows we/you/i may actually learn something, and it might actually help us move on in life!!!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Justice comes with a price tag

There is lots of talk about God being by his very nature love, and i have no disagreement with that, but there is another side of the coin, which is sometimes God does something we may not like, and we mistakingly believe he is not acting in love towards us. There has to be another side to the nature of love, there are times tough love for a better word comes into play, if it does not i think love is unbalanced and heres why. If my son is doing something which can harm him, i need to step in and stop what is going on, now he maybe enjoying what he is doing, but if due to the situation its going to harm him, i have to do something, to not do it would be a massive dereliction of my parenting skills and a massive let down of my sons trust in me. You see when we only talk about God being a God of love we miss other aspects of his character, we miss those parenting parts which are there for our benefit, even if we don't like them. Obviously we focus on love as thats what we are as human beings, we crave love, we crave intimacy its in our nature its that simple. But we do have to look at that other side of the coin, for justice to work at times its going to cost something, pride may need to take a back seat, it may require us to be disciplined in some way, and that by its nature is not going to be great while its happening or even when its finished. If we take the view that God is father then discipline and judgement needs to happen at times, we can't escape it, it is i would posit an inevitability that it will happen. Does that mean God no longer loves us, no it means he is doing his job of caring for us. That act took its full conclusion in the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross, it cost something for justice to be given out, it cost God and it cost Jesus. You see for us to stand clean before him, we had to have a sacrifice, we had to do something and we need to act upon it. Justice has a price, it just depends on what that price is for us as individuals, Yes God is righteous, he is just, he is all forgiving, he loves and he cares, but to have a full restoration back to him, something happened justice was given out and it cost. Yes God is love, but he is also judge, he is also fair, we may not see it at times and we can cart a word of hurt around with us due to how something went on in our lives and we feel that we have not been justly dealt with. God is always going to be fair in his distribution of justice, whether we see it that way depends on the answer or result we get. If we get our own way God has done right, if for some reason God decides we don't get the answer we want, God has failed, God has let us down and he is no longer to be trusted and far too many of us think that way. Its a great cliche but a truism as well " If Jesus is Lord he is Lord of all" that means he is Lord of the good times and more importantly Lord of the bad times, we just need to relearn trust in him, thats not as easy as it sounds but it can be done. Sometimes we over analyse the little things, and miss the big picture, and its the big picture which is important, the big picture is the kingdom and its long term aim. Our corner of the picture as important as it is to us is not the be all and end all, even if we think it is.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Alienation or Conformity

There is a great deal of talk in society and the Church about INCLUSIVENESS, you know this idea that no matter who you are, what you believe, what foibles you have you are included in things, unfortunately we are a long way from that as a society and especially as a Church we don't actually mean it and heres why. If you follow the idea of inclusiveness its great on paper, a bit like communism in theory its great, practise is a different matter entirely you see we can't actually as individuals be inclusive because our ideas get in the way, our own thoughts stop us being inclusive because we have our own ideas. In the last few weeks i have been struggling like a struggling thing in a struggling sack and actually not getting anywhere. You see I'm the real square peg in a round hole, I'm so divided at present on leaving my denomination (Methodism) and finding a new way to follow my God. You see Methodists by and large talk a good show on inclusiveness, but actually if you disagree with the held view, you get ridiculed, bullied into submission, or branded in someway or another and that happens with more regularity than is needed. You see i can claim to be inclusive but that test comes when the rubber hits the road, when something makes me exclusive i stop being inclusive. In the real world face to face you would get a punch in the head for somethings that get said online. But in our safety zone of being keyboard warriors, we think we can get away with harsh words or put down. One of the great terms used by a certain Christian group is "robust debate" what that actually means is "I'm hiding behind my keyboard, I'm never likely to meet you so i can get away with name calling, bullying you, making you look stupid" and in certain respects thats true at the keyboard you can, but lets change tact a little. If i was to turn up on your doorstep would you say the same things to my face you do away from it? 9 times out of 10 the answer is no, because you would be more concerned about the big bloke stood in front of you who you do not know that well. So it comes down to this you can conform to what is expected of you, you can do all the things you are told, all the things that make you acceptable to the masses, or you can risk Alienation from the mass, risk ridicule and bullying, but actually be an individual, you can be a square peg in a round hole.

You see our society does not cope well with the individual who stands out, if its trendy you are in, if its not you are pushed to one side and told "get with the programme" if you do you are welcomed with open arms, told you are wonderful, if you don't you sit on the sidelines and watch what happens. Jesus never excluded anyone from his presence or love, it was there and no matter what you do its there. You can disagree with him, it's still there, you can try and run away, its still there, you see its all encompassing. The worst thing that can happen for God is that the church tries to emulate society, that the church actually denies the basics of our historical faith in order to be "all things to all men" in that trying to be all things to all men we fail, because actually we have no idea half the time what we believe or why, we stall and fumble while trying to be all things, that actually we tend to end up being nothing of any use to the Kingdom of God. Not because we are failures but because we are rudderless people tossed on the sea of good intentions, tossed on the sea of happy happy. Last night i made a decision I'm no longer going to conform to what is expected of me from those who know me or don't know me, I'm no longer going to worry to much about what people think of my opinions, I'm going to shout them out loud and if you don't like them I'm afraid thats just tough. If you are actually inclusive you have no real option but to allow me to do this, you see even if you don't like what i say, even if it grates against you, you have to include me because you believe in inclusiveness, over the next few months i will see which of those who speak of inclusiveness actually are and which of those pay lip service to it. Im 50 years old this month and i think this is where I'm heading, I'm heading into uncharted territory age wise, emotionally, physically and more importantly spiritually. Its going to be one hell of a ride but i have to stay true to my God and his calling, we will see what happens.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

If i actually believed God!

What would happen if i actually believed God, not believed in God but actually believed him, you know all that great stuff about love, forgiveness, restoration, not struggling to achieve because its all laid out for you and all you really do have to do is accept it, how would that actually affect my life? What would happen if i actually started putting those principles into practise not just in my life but in the lives of other people, those people i find it hard to deal with, systems i find it difficult to deal with, actually just you know letting God be God in my life. Lately i have been trying to make things simple with regards to my faith, you see sometimes we get so wrapped up in the why for's and what for's that we actually miss the picture thats in front of us. Its very easy (especially as a Methodist) to get so sidetracked by dotting the i's and crossing the t's that we miss a lot of whats going on right in front of us. Over the years i have found much to our shame Christians are the biggest barrier to God, we stop people coming to faith by our actions, we stop them falling in love with God because of us. Lets be honest and we have all done it, would you come to faith if it was down to looking at yourself in the mirror? i would struggle with it. But you see we don't have to struggle each and everyday to achieve what God wants from us, but we spend a lot of time bitching and moaning about the state of the Church that we fail to let people see God, we fail to say "hey this is Jesus, what do you reckon"? Sometimes we need to shut up and just live it out, i have never had the image of God having a big stick to hit me with, i have a relationship with him which is based on love and respect, yes you bet your bottom dollar i struggle with certain things and certain Christians, but I'm not looking to them to fulfil my faith I'm looking to God and all that good stuff he has for us/me. Maybe its time to re evaluate why? we don't believe God, and try and put him into a box of our own making. This is not about belief in God, a lot of people have some form of belief system, this is about believing God can and will do. Is it time for the Church and Christians to re evaluate, get simple, get reconnected with our first love? maybe it is, maybe its not, but I'm beginning to see simple is the way forward, people don't need all the answers sometimes simple faith is enough.

Monday, 11 August 2014

The hypocrisy of being tolerant

The hypocrisy of being tolerant!

Its with a heavy heart that i write this but if i don't I'm gonna explode with a great deal of anger, so I'm hoping this brings about a change of attitude in myself, as well as others.

Lately i have begun to realise that tolerance is a MYTH it just does not exist, because people who claim to be tolerant are amongst the most intolerant people i have had the misfortune to come across recently. There is a lot of biasesness in the media about the Gaza conflict, its a travesty that innocent people on both sides are being killed or maimed, but its not a one sided argument, Israel has a right to defend itself from rockets from Palestine. Now those who shout about tolerance will claim the response is not proportional, unfortunately war is never about proportion its about winning at all costs. So innocents will die and that is WRONG WRONG WRONG and it does not matter what side of the fence they are on. This morning i have been following a thread on a Facebook page, now this page is not an official page of Methodism, but it has some very vocal people on it, who preach tolerance then act in a thoroughly intolerant way, they name call, bitch and moan, and most of the time its because a lot of these people think tolerance is a one way street, well listen up people tolerance is a 2 way street, if you expect me to show it to you, i damn well expect you to show it to me. But this is where the rub lays, tolerance needs to be worked on not paid lip service too, but actually worked on. Now you can have an opinion, i can have an opinion, what is not right is that you or i, get nasty or bitchy because we disagree. There is a great line they use on the UK Methodist FB page and that is " we are a broad church" now what that means invariably is " we are happy to accept you if you agree with us" but as i and others have found if you disagree from the general idea you are pilloried or put down, bullied or just ignored. You see the tolerant only want them to be tolerated.
This week we have just started getting reports through about the atrocities happening to Christians in Iraq, death, rape, and all manner of sub human behaviour implemented by IS, now these are militant Islamists and by no means am i saying every Muslim is a terrorist or murderer, but the longer the silent peaceful majority of Muslims and their leaders stay silent, the extremists will rise and continue to rise in all there hateful glory. I have wept this week over what is happening to my brothers and sisters in Iraq, i have wept over the deaths in Israel and Gaza, and i have realised its not a black and white issue. So this is a plea for those with deeply held views, can we not agree that the deaths of people on all sides is WRONG, can we not agree it needs a solution, and for the LOVE OF GOD can we stop apportioning blame and try and find a solution for all concerned. Its not a blame game, its a complex situation that needs a complex answer.

Im aware some of you will be pissy with me for this post thats fine, delete me if you want to, ignore me if you want to, but do not ignore the travesties happening in the world which are claiming the lives of people i know in real terms, not just virtual friends but people i have sat and eaten with.

Peace people


Friday, 8 August 2014

The prism of our preconception prison.

The other day i got quite upset, someone on Facebook deleted me as a friend and i have done it to others as well i guess we all have. Now i have never met this person, and only knew them for about 3 weeks via Facebook, but it got to me. Now we all come with baggage and have our push buttons, but does it matter what a stranger really thinks of you? in truth no it does not. But all of us at some stage suffer with it, we dissect it, run it around the garden in our head and want answers, which by and large rarely come or matter.
You see the prisons we make for ourselves are worse than any man made Prison on the planet, we wrap ourselves in guilt, we beat ourselves up and generally blame ourselves for the actions outside of our control when it's not our fault 90% of the time. Our own private prisons to keep us bound up in guilt, fear and failure, our prisons where we let the thoughts and doubts out when we start to feel to good about ourselves and need to reign things back in.

We need to demolish these mental prisons, realise we are all unique, we are all special, we are all great in some way. Yes we may fail at times but that does not mean we need to lock ourselves up in a world of doubt and fear. A few years ago i gave some advice to a friend which I'm going to share here, it seems stupid but it does work i proved it and so did this young woman. Each day when you get up and fell like it aint going to work out for you, when it seems like nothing is going right and every turn off the roundabout is blocked. Look in the mirror and tell yourself you are LOVED LOVED LOVED, its so simple but it does wonders for our doubts and fear, it starts to banish them. Many of my friends good friends are like myself going through the ringer one way or another at present. Its time for us to rise up, to look in the mirror and scream at the top of our lungs I AM LOVED, because we are, i love each and everyone of you, i can't always do a lot, but i can always lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on, apparently my hugs are pretty good as well. So guys and gals next time you feel that Prison of preconception is getting the better of you, kick the door open and tell it where the hell to go

Peace people


Sunday, 27 July 2014

Everyday God

God in his wisdom uses everyday things to show he is an everyday God, not just a wake up call for a Sunday morning. The parables Jesus told were about everyday things, they used the common to put across the divine, Mustard seeds, sowers, fishing, the everyday was used to get across the idea of the kingdom of God, so why have we moved so far away from the simple ideas? why do we now need answers to everything, what happened to trust. Now its a fact of life that no matter what you say or how you answer it's never going to be enough for them, in fact i think in some cases Jesus himself could sit with them and it still would not be enough for them, they would even dare to argue with the real person of Jesus sat in front of them, and in some ways thats really sad. You see with some people you can't win, they need the last word, they need something and I'm not sure what it is, but it eludes them and it eludes me. You can't know everything about everything its an impossibility to retain that level of information, so why do we expect to have all the answers about God, before we trust him fully? do we not know enough about his character to say "you know what, i have enough to trust him, and to trust he has the best in store for me"? but our post modern era requires we question everything, and "if it fits my ideas then its fine and thats the truth so don't you dare question my pathway, don't require me to actually surrender to Jesus, because well if you do that and surrender to him fully, you are an evangelical who does not take the Bible seriously" I know how my car works, not fully but i know the basics of the internal combustion engine and electrical conductivity to know what makes my car tick, but i never designed my car and that pesky manual which gives me information about my car was written by someone else. So i have to trust that manual when it tells me certain things about my car, even when they make little or no sense to me, i have to trust the designer that he/she knows what they are on about, you see they have all the information, and funnily enough to drive my car efficiently and effectively i don't require all the information in the manual, i do not require all the answers. Genuinely i believe God is an everyday God, not just in the way he communicates with us, but by the way he interacts with us, by the way he uses the everyday to get his point across, i never wanted to know everything, because i like the discovery of new things about God, i like the divine spark and intervention which takes place in the everyday. Its not about knowing it all, its about trusting enough, its about letting go and sometimes just letting God, for some people that will never be enough, for me I'm more than happy to trust, you can call it blind faith, you can call it foolishness, in reality it's not likely to change me to much, not because I'm arrogant, not because I'm dumb, but because i have learnt i don't need every answer going to trust in God. 

Monday, 23 June 2014

Get ORFF my land!!!

We all suffer at some stage with Bigotry or intolerance, it may be occasionally it maybe regular, but we all do suffer from it at some point, even those of us who deny it. Personally i know i suffer with it at times, quick to put down, quick to put my own walls up, we all do it, unfortunately its part of human nature. There are certain things which contain bigotry and intolerance in a big way, Politics is one, Religion is the another, it goes with the territory. Some will now be saying no Andy your wrong i don't suffer with bigotry or intolerance, I'm not going to accept what you say, which basically proves the point, thats an act of intolerance to a view you don't like or maybe makes you think about your own actions. You see we all think we are right, we all have that element of pride, history or experience which says I'm right you are wrong.

In the last few weeks i have seen both intolerance and Bigotry, in all sorts of people, people of faith and people of no faith, and in reality they are both as stubborn, bigoted and intolerant as each other, i would even go as far as to say some people of faith are so bigoted and intolerant of others views its worse than those who have no faith. One of the cries you often hear from people of faith is that my way is right, because i have a different, better experience than you, or worse still because i have been studying longer than you, i have the higher ground both Biblically and morally (its been used with me in the last week)

So what do we do about it, how do we deal with the problem of personal bigotry and intolerance. Firstly we have to deal with our own, we have to listen, we have to learn, we have to be open to maybe changing some deeply held opinions. You cannot expect the world to be a more tolerant place until individuals start being less bigoted or intolerant. We have to start somewhere and it needs to start with you and me. Over the past week i have left a number of Christian sites, due to intolerance of others opinions or just plain bigotry, you see i know where my bigotry lays, i know where my intolerance lays, i know i can be  a real nasty, gobby, hard hat wearing fool, with an attitude which is very poor at times. Thing is i don't enjoy being treated with intolerance, so it would make sense to change my attitudes to things, not everything because as much as some of my views can be bigoted some of it is down to interpretation. Do you find yourself always needing the last word, always having to be right, if you do its a safe bet to say you suffer with intolerance and bigotry.

Its time for change but that is going to need work, its going to require a change of heart on certain things, it requires grace and understanding. Next time you post something read it back to yourself aloud, see if it still sounds ok or is it going to sound stupid when its spoken out? if it is bigoted or intolerant, it maybe an idea not to post it, none of us always need the last word, none of us is always right, but we all have that level of intolerance and bigotry no matter how small it is.

Pax people.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Mt Tribe

Labels are important, they give us information, they identify things especially in cooking or the kitchen. We wear labels to identify ourselves as such and such a person. We wear clothing labels to say a number of things from look at the money i have, to I'm sporty, our football shirt identifies us with other like minded people and gives us a sense of belonging. Labels it would seem are important, they help us, sometimes they hinder us, but we all wear a label of some description whether its a real one or a metaphorical one.

But there is a downside to labels, they can create an us and them mentality or worse still a have and have not mentality, they can especially in the young and teenagers help create bullying so its not all good, so do we need labels?

In cooking we do, you don't want to put half a jar of Paprika on your roast chicken, you don't want to use sugar if you don't like it. So labels have a point they inform us and help us. We wear them as a badge of honor and some of us wear them with pride, I'm a Leeds fan and am happy to nail my label as such to the mast. Also I'm a biker so i wear the uniform or label of that as well. My faith is my biggest label as its the biggest part of my life.

This is where it gets sticky, you see i genuinely think and believe Jesus was not and is not interested in the label we wear, he was all for equality, he was all for understanding and never sent someone away because they never wore the right label. He engaged with those outside and inside the circle of faith, treating all equally and not giving a snide remark towards those of a different class or social construct. It saddens me that many Christians will deride other Christians for not wearing the correct label, whether that is their church, their particular brand of theology or because they have differing opinions. Debate is great and needs to happen, but when it gets personal thats really not on. Over the last few weeks i have been told my theology on such and such is wrong, that my opinion is not as valid as someone else's as apparently i don't take the Bible seriously, not because of heresy, but because i think differently, my labels often get me into trouble. It has to stop, we serve a God of Love and as such need to temper everything we say with that love, we are not better than anyone else because they think differently, respect needs to be shown. Those labels are just that they are labels, they help but can hinder and cause division. Society wants to label everybody in someway, the Church should be acting differently and not labelling, one of the labels that really gets my goat is "Fundie" short for fundamentalist, its used as an insult 9 times out of 10. So what if i do have some fundamental traits does that give anyone the right to put in a slight dig and insult? One of my great friends is Tom Osbourne he is a minister (or will be soon) we are as different as chalk and cheese. He is very liturgical and likes his worship that way, I'm very add hoc in how i do things during worship. But Tom and i get on really well, he has seen my band a few times and i enjoy our chats, at no time have we hung those labels on each other or used them, we just accept each other and get on with Gods business.

Labels can be good they can be bad, i guess what I'm asking for is a bit of understanding, a bit of thought before we label people, especially without knowing all the facts, but we jump because we don't like the label someone wears. Thats maybe a big ask for some people, because their Labelism/Tribalism is very much ingrained, lets just try and be a bit more considerate about labelling people before we know all the facts and just have a quick soundbite to go on.


Monday, 9 June 2014

In the beginning

Firsts are very important milestones in our lives, they can define something for us, they can ruin something for us, they can make something magical for us, we all like firsts (and seconds). We have our first kiss, our first love, normally followed by the crushing blow of the first heartbreak. We have our first drink, our first push bike, our firsts are vitally important to how we view things in our lives, those first give us experience, some good some bad, but we learn from them or at least we should. One of my great loves in life is music and in particular Rock in its purest form, the first time i saw Whitesnake live for the first time i was hooked, the beat the lyrics, being stood with 5000 other fans screaming at the top of our voices, it was a defining moment in my musical education, a love affair that is still going strong since 1981, i often joke that the band has been the only stable thing in my life and in some respects its true.

But we have first in other parts of our life too, we have the first time we respond to God and how he responds to us, the first time a prayer is answered is phenomenal, it shows that God is interested in us as individuals. That moment when you realise for the first time is defining, it sets the pattern for what we start to understand about God, how he interacts with us and how we interact with him, because we do interact with him. First times are vital for our growth and for our ability to say "look it may look dark now, but it will get better". As we move along through life we tend to forget those first times, life compresses us, society compresses us and for some unknown reason CHURCH compresses you into a box of its own design, and we forget.
Over the last few months i have been saddened by somethings i here people say, saddened by peoples ability to forget the first, and think its always going to be bad news, its not all doom and gloom, we just sometimes need to change our glasses and look at things differently. We all go through bad times, none of us are immune, the time my father died was the first time in my life i had seen death up close and personal. It knocked the life out of me, stopped me in my tracks, you never do forget the death of a loved one, but through that pain and grief when Dennis died (my mums 2nd husband) i was able to do the funeral, it was hard, it was painful, it was a first time. But this time it was different, you see i believe in life after death, as much as i believe in life before death, and this time it was easier in some respects.
First times are vital to us, i can still remember my first kiss, my first girlfriend, my first bike (push and motor) i can still remember like it was yesterday that first encounter with God, that moment when God reached down into my messed up crappy life and said" hey son, take my hand i got you" that will never leave me. Firsts are important they are brilliant, they can be fun, they can hurt. Spend sometime soon thinking of firsts, and celebrating when things where probably a lot easier, because we all need to be child like at times.

Monday, 12 May 2014

My church is a football ground.

Football IS a funny old game and those who follow it tend to be fanatically passionate about it. The football season has finally ended in England, Man City won the premiership, Liverpool despite everything didn't and some teams performed escape miracles on par with Houdini himself. There was blood, sweat and tears on the final day and it should be no different, i want my team to play with passion, to play like life depended upon that 3 point win. There is this theory that Football is the new religion, stadiums are the new churches, managers the new ministers and the players are the new idols to be worshipped and in some respects that is perfectly true, but if you dig a bit deeper it actually goes to the core of a person, it goes as deep as and in some cases deeper than faith. 

We pick a church because it resonates with us, our folks went there, a friend, there is something that gets you to a church to start with. Then invariably that church stays with us (well at least from a denominational) point and we become………. (fill in your own blank) Its no different with football, i'm a Leeds fan have been since i was 6 years old, something about that team hit me and stuck with me, i'm now coming up the fast side to 50 this year. The team has let me down, they have lost, they have won, they have made me cry with happiness and weep tears of pain, it's all very real when it's a team you are passionate about. Church/God can do the same to us, make us happy make us weep, and affect us in various ways, you see church and teams are very close bed fellows. It requires faith in God to be a Christian it's difficult to believe without faith. To follow Leeds requires an amount of faith that is monumental, it requires me to put my trust for 90 minutes in 11 guys running around a football pitch, who at times seem to have no idea what they are doing. Church is the same at times, when its going great we are all happy, when its going bad we all bitch and moan. Offering up sage advice to those in charge, offering our "expert" opinion when actually we sometimes only have a small idea of what is going on, we see the 90 minutes of play not the effort gone into getting there on the pitch. You see you can be a passionless follower of a team or God, only interested when they are winning or doing well, or you can have a passion which is all consuming, a passion which makes you go back time and time again, and gets you believing things will get better. Faith is required to follow a team, its a foregone conclusion that you need it to follow God, yes stadiums are the new churches, people attend because they feel they belong, they feel wanted. In our churches do people feel that way? if we are truthful we have to say at times no they are not. Football and faith are not that far apart they require certain common things to make them active work. For those of you who don't follow football, you can now cat ch up and watch your normal tv for 3-4 weeks, then its going to be wall to wall football for a month as it's the World cup, Passions will run high, things will be said, advice will be given. Lets actually try and be as passionate about God as we are about something we follow, whether a team or a programme, whether it makes sense or not, lets just practise a bit of passion and faith, because thats going to win through at the end of the day

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Ramble on

I'm going to probably upset a few people with this entry and i guess sometimes you gotta do it. For all of my walk with God i have classed myself as Evangelical, I'm a proclaimer of the good news, a born again fundamentalist with reasonable leanings. So its with some sadness that yesterday i found out that Steve Chalke and Oasis trust have been removed from the evangelical alliance. Now this was heart breaking for myself on a number of levels, but thats another day. What has become apparent now to me is that whether you call yourself, fundamentalist, liberal, conservative, or just plain weird, you have to stay within the confines of the label you wear, and don't you dare move away from it. All of my christian life i have struggled with church, i have struggled with its systems, its idiocy, its stubbornness to move forward, because we are holding onto the past, and in truth it sucks big time. You see i was never comfortable with being a Christian, i was never part of the in crowd, but i became the go to guy if you needed brutal honesty. Sometimes churches accepted what was said with grace, other times i was asked to apologise for what i said (yes really) My formative years of faith where in a hardline Pentecostal church, then into Methodism where i seemed to find some sort of fit for my faith. The problem is i despair and weep at times over what the church does and what Christians do, more time spent in committees, more time arguing over that semi colon in Timothy, more time denying the God of the Bible, and questioning whether or not the Bible is literal or not, whether it was written by monkeys or a spaceman. If I'm going to be brutally honest I'm thinking of throwing in the towel, just upping sticks and saying "stuff it" you see all i ever wanted from my faith was acceptance, acceptance from God which i got in spades, and acceptance from Christians, which has never been fully functional or fully coming from certain parts. The church should be a place where everybody feels safe, where everybody feels welcome and in all honesty its not. Christians have difficulty accepting each others diverse views, so what chance have we really got with dealing with the views of other outside of the church.
Over the years i have been fortunate to have met some incredible people, they have challenged me, nurtured me, helped me and saved me from myself, some have been Christians others have been as unbelieving as you could ever imagine. What that has taught me over the years is that all views count even if i don't like them, even if we disagree at least we know our voice counts. The exclusion of Oasis from the Evangelical Alliance is a step to far for me, its a step that says "if you do not agree completely you aint coming in" which is wrong wrong wrong. We should be able to accommodate creationists alongside those who think differently. Those who hold to male headship and those who don't, just when did sexuality become the defining factor on inclusion, when did my sexuality become an issue because it flipping well should not be, when other things are never seen as definitive.

Tomorrow being May 4th i take my last service on the preaching plan, as i have after praying long and hard realised i need to take a step back and stand down. Part of this is due to ill health,part not being able to fulfil the study side of local preaching, and not wanting to get stuck in a rut. Its taken me nearly a year to reach this decision, and I'm some what sad but excited about the future. My ministry has  taken me to some different and funky places (baptising a new convert in an oil drum at the Glastonbury festival) was one of the great highlights, met weird and wonderful people and enabled me to see a whole lot of life and acceptance.

Be at peace people, be with grace, be love.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

A bumblebee don't understand it can't fly

A bumblebee has no idea that according to Physics and aviation it cannot take off, its impossible for it to fly (and being blown by the wind is not flying) You see the shape is all wrong, power to weight ratio all wrong and its not meant to happen. The humble bee is a freak of nature, a mishap of creation and on  paper as much use as a chocolate fireguard. This set me to thinking about things, life the universe etc.

When i first found faith in God it was a very simple time, God seemed to wrap me in a blanket of doing and looking back on it , it was Gods way of showing me he was around. Prayed and things happened, asked and received, it was a great time, a simpler time, things happened because we knew and i knew no better. If it said it in the Bible i believed it, did not understand it but i believed it and for that stupid faith God moved in me and for me it was great. Then i started to read, i started to listen to other people, i started to take their doubts on board, i needed an education about God i needed to be able to understand every last part of what was written, what was and is said, and that was detrimental. People would start to explain why God did not do certain things in this day and age, why prayer was pointless, why healing never happened, and asked why i was so stupid to believe like a child, funnily enough when i was a child i had a lot less grief and a lot less hassle and a lot less need to understand.

Maybe its the age we live in, but too many Christians are trying to legitimise their faith by turning it into an academic or faithyscience style of thing, we are trying to be all things to all men and failing. Genuinely i believe with all the hassle, grief, struggling, worry most of us go through on a regular basis, people are not looking for academic arguments, they are looking for something real, something that gives them hope, a hope that most of us had as a child and we seem to have lost it along the way. You see God is not in a box of his design, but he is in a box of my design, a box we have created to make God understandable a box which enables us to understand the mystery and remove it. For me i don't need all the answers, for me i just need to hear and hit and hope, I'm glad God is a mystery, I'm glad i don't get it, and I'm really glad God does not give a flying fig if i do or don't.

You see that Bumblebee has no idea but fulfils its purpose, we have lots of ideas and sometimes fail to fulfil our purpose. That Bumblebee really should know better, it really should, but if it knew the scientific facts about flight and what its meant to do it would do very little. Maybe we just need to stop trying so hard, revel in mystery, and achieve lift off even if other things tell us we can't. You gotta love that Bumblebee.

P.S. this is not against education or academic study, its about a simpler way of life.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Potholes as far as the eye can see

Riding a motorcycle in this day and age is a dangerous occupation, it used to be you had to look out for  other road users (you still do by the way) but a bigger more silent menace lurks on our roads, POTHOLES, THEY ARE EVERYWHERE AND BREEDING LIKE A BUNCH OF RABBITS AT AN ORGY. The roads have had to put up with a lot in the last 3 months especially rain washing out repaired holes and making new ones in the wake of the deluges we have had. We had a meeting just before Christmas with a lovely lady from our local highways department, she explained to s how they deal with potholes, how they are categorised and the amount of money they have to repair the entire road network in Devon. At present they have over 600 million worth of repairs to do, on a budget of 66 million, so its obvious they are on a loosing wicket to deal with it all. Potholes are a pain in the neck, this week my wife hit one on the bike and it was such a powerful hit, it shook the battery loose and cut out all power to the bike, she was fine. Ian Norton and myself had to go and rescue and get the bike working again so she could get home.

This brings us to the potholes of life, we all get them, they creep up slowly and then BANG they hit you when you least expect it and can throw you off what you are doing. It can be a situation that starts as a little bit of loose talk or thinking, then as the wear and tear starts we end up with a hole in our pathway and no real idea on what to do about it. The highways department patch a lot of holes because it's apparently cost effective, we have no option in our lives but to deal with the potholes correctly first time, we need to sort them out, if we don't they will keep derailing us time and time again. So what do we do with these potholes of life, simply put if they are holding us back or throwing us off our path we need to fill them in. It maybe something you said or someone said to you which keeps cropping up and causing resentment, fill the hole in, it maybe a habit that is out of control, fill it in, in fact the pothole can be anything that causes you grief in any form. Filling them in requires work, just like the highways department, so we need to work at sorting out the debris, cleaning out the rubbish, so a new filling can get put into place, which will hold and not rot out again. Many people i know are carrying around lots of grudges and heartache, they are holding onto the pothole because they have become used to it and feel they know how it's going to catch them out. In some cases this is true. We have a  pothole at the end of our road, it's big enough to see and i ride or drive over it everyday, avoiding it if i'm able to do so. But every now and then it catches me by surprise, normally when i'm not think ing about it. We all have them in our lives people, time to let them go, fill them in and get a relatively smooth pathway in front of us. These potholes can be hurt, they can be hard to let go of, but letting go and filling them in is the right thing to do. It amazes me that as adults we tell Children that they should forgive and forget, let it go, it's not worth it. But we are guilty of a double standard, because we hold onto things when we really should be letting go. You will know what your potholes are, but they need to be repaired so life can go on smoothly.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Forgiveness and reconciliation

Last night Sunday 5th i had the joy of leading worship at my home church and we looked at forgiveness and reconciliation. It's something which has been playing on my mind for a few months now as i have noticed i have got a real low tolerance for idiots and thats the way it goes. Now as i'm not a note user i'm going to try and get the points down from it and hopefully it will help someone out.

Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation, forgiveness is the act of pardon for wrong done. Reconciliation is the renewal of broken bridges or relationships, they differ but can be intertwined but not necessarily so, in fact you can forgive but not reconcile to the situation in hand, logically if you forgive then reconciliation should follow. But being human and holding grudges is a by product of us being hurt, when we hurt we want the offender to hurt as well, we say we don't but we do and we need to be honest about this. Forgiving someone is an act of our will, we have to mean it when we say we do, we have to live it and most importantly we need to learn to let go of the hurt and problem. For some of us that is hard, we want our case heard we want some form of justice or is it revenge we want. Also we often want our own way and this is where part of the problem comes. As Christians we are called to act like Christ, we are called to surrender to him and his will, for some of us thats harder to do than to say, but it's time to stop paying lip service to the idea of forgiving and letting go, we can really only do it with Gods help if we claim Christ as our own. We need to understand that carrying around the baggage we have causes us pain and heartache at some stage in our lives. Some Christians i know have been carrying hurt around for an age and it's affected their faith, their understanding of God, and invariably God gets blamed for an act of human interference and it just runs around in an ever decreasing circle, it's time to let it go.

Reconciliation is the process of rebuilding in Corinthians Paul says we have the ministry of reconciliation, we are called to reconcile as God reconciled us to himself by the death of Jesus on the cross and his ressurection, we are called to reconcile as we have been reconciled. It's hard and will not always be easy, but it's something we do need to get to grips with. Reconciliation is a hard path but a worthwhile one, it requires grace which we tend to lack when we are hurting or have been hurt. Ironically most of us believe the problem is the other persons and ignore our own part in why relations have broken down, we ignore our attitude, our words, our efforts, because obviously we are right how could i/we be wrong. If you are carrying baggage, if you are hurting instead of your ego taking over, instead of making it everyone else's problem, actually own it and deal with it. As we stand at the start of a new year it is time for us to wake up, leave the past behind we can't change it, but we can change our attitude to it and move forward into a better future. We have to decide in very real and logical terms, am i happy to carry this around for another period of time, which some are because the hurt goes deep and ego kicks in (personal perpendicular pronounitis) we become fairly stubborn, and just won't let it go. One thing which we will need to do is surrender to God, we will need to take a bigger picture, because as much as we don't like to admit it we put God into a box, and he will operate in that box and it has to be right because we understand it, but God does not need your understanding he needs you as you are broken, whole, hurting, joyful and ready to do business with him. The kingdom is all important, it's the kingdom we want to see come, it's the kingdom we live in. It's time to show people grace and reconciliation in action, it's time to deal with whats holding you back and move forward. What are you gonna do about it.