Why not try Life Journalling?

Scott Longyear writes:

 

‘Life Journalling is pretty simple. It is a system of daily Bible reading followed by writing some thoughts. I Journal each morning. Sometimes it is dry and tough to pull some application out, sometimes the heavens seem to open and I get some incredible insights for the things I am struggling with. By Life Journalling I am allowing the Spirit of God to speak through the scriptures and bend my life to be in tune with what God is speaking. For a worship leader, daily time with God is a non-negotiable.’books1

 

Worth a try!

Advertisements

How to keep life simple

Just recently I was recalling to someone my childhood family doctors. They were Drs Kerr Brown and McNeish. They practiced from their houses in Deniston in Glasgow. Once, when I had earache, I was taken down to see them. I already had almond oil put in the offending orifice, then before venturing into the winter evening a piece of new flannel embalmed my head. Next went my woolly balaclava. And finally my pride and joy – my red school cap – surmounted the whole ensemble!

 

No wonder when I arrived at the surgery, Mrs McNeish who acted as the doctors’ receptionist – Oh Graham what a lot of hats you’ve got on.

 

Somehow, back then, infant ailments were treated more simply. Somehow life seemed in general less complex.  Somehow knowing what do was easier.

 

Well to some degree the information explosion and the knowledge economy has increased life’s intricacy. Since these have brought in a greater understanding of the physical world around us, the society in which we live and even of our own personalities and biology. Also, the constant stream of news and views bring a multitude of opinions to our attention. Moreover, powerful pressure groups such as politicians, businesses and charities vey hourly for our ears, eyes and available neurons

 

And whilst it is laudable to be well informed, if we are not careful we run the risk of falling into the trap of Naaman ’s syndrome.

And what is that?

Well, in the end of the day, we have to admit that Naaman the General in Old Testament was a powerful, rich and probably imposing man. He wasn’t in the habit of going third class. So when he heard that his not just life threatening but socially excluding disease could be cured practically for nothing he was outraged. Such cures are for the peasants, he surely deserved something better, something more sophisticated or at least more expensive. It was as if he was blinded to the pure and simple truth. He could not see the obvious before his very eyes.

 

 

Here then is the Naaman syndrome! And it is to believe that good things must be expensive or complex. You get what you pay for we hear said often. Alternatively, if it is straight forward it must be biased, if it is cheap it is invariably nasty; if it’s free it must be rubbish.

 

So how do we live in a world where we are bombarded complexity and yet still see the pure unvarnished truth of its cure?

 

When Matt Taylor comes on the box with his BBC forecast, have you ever thought that weather forecasters have the coolest toys? They have satellite “eyes in the sky.” They can track off-shore flows and coastal disturbances, high pressure systems and low pressure cells, the rise and fall of the jet stream and even see rain on radars.

 

Added to that, television weather people have the most interesting screens to work with, with all kinds of magic features to make this or that bigger and smaller. Forecasting then the weather is complicated and growing more so with the years. Yet the truth is living with the weather is not.

 

Since in the last few month parts of this country have been under water, parts of this country have had a drought and parts of this country have been swept away by gales. All the meteorological explanations and predictions in the world don’t change the simple truth. For the uncomplicated truth of how to deal with the weather is:

 

If you are in a flood zone—get to higher ground.

If you need water – ship it in.

If there is a gale coming, lash things down.

If it’s too warm – stay still and enjoy it!

 

No matter how complex the weather system then, your best response is simple and straightforward. Indeed, the most complicated part is doing the simple.

 

Something similar was the thinking of Jesus when he sent out his disciples. They went out with the simple truth that the Kingdom of God is near. Despite the theological complexities then, all that people need do was see it. They went out to proclaim that God’s will being done is the way to a better world. Despite all the religious regulations then, it was simply a matter of lives following that will. They went out to exclaim that the reign of God is here. Despite all the political controversies then, the only unsullied way is the doorway of Christ Jesus.

There then is a masterly rejection of the Neman syndrome!

There is a perfect lesson in the engineering principle of Kiss – keep it simple, stupid.

 

There is a perfect illustration of the unpretentious action of a man with an unsightly rock in his garden.

Because, there is a story about a man who had a huge boulder in his front yard. He grew weary of this big, unattractive stone in the centre of his lawn, so he decided to take advantage of it and turn it into an object of art. He went to work on it with hammer and chisel, and chipped away at the huge boulder until it became a beautiful stone elephant. When he finished, it was gorgeous, breath-taking.

 

A neighbour asked, “How did you ever carve such a marvellous likeness of an elephant?”

 

The man answered, “I just chipped away everything that didn’t look like an elephant!”

 

 

And so when we try to come to terms with boulder-like complexities of 21st Century Britain – let us chip away with the chisel of the gospel. When we are beset by global conflicting arguments, reasons and explanations, let us see the simple actions decided by God’s will. When are tried to the limit by inner conflicts, let us do the obviously pure.

 

For then we cure ourselves, shape ourselves and bless ourselves into the most beautiful of shapes – the shape of Jesus himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elijah v Baal Score 1-0!

flames Be honest! How true do you think the story of Elijah beating the Prophets of Baal in getting the BBQ going is? Did Elijah really set a load of wet wood on fire without match? Was it some form of spontaneous combustion or a lightening strike? Could it have indeed been the divine spark? Or with all this dancing around by the prophets of Baal, was it a comic story, there to mock the pagans. Is it a sort of Monty Python ‘dead parrot’ sketch to show that minor deities were never alive?

 

Well, all these explanations are possible yet not that important. What is important was why it was recorded in the first place and what effect it had. Since it seems that Elijah and his bonfire is set out to warn against not so much about worshipping other gods exclusively but to stop the worship of a panoply of gods. God then is portrayed as the ultimate being without either equal or lesser divine supporters.

 

Now this idea of a singular ultimate being was hugely novel to the primitive peoples in history who saw the divine world populated by a plethora of gods. God as God alone initially arose in the theological understanding of tribes of Israel. So much so, it defined their religion and conferred on them the status of a chosen people. Or put another way, if the Israelites had fallen into syncretistic habits of holding a pantheon of deities as holy then they would no longer be – Israelites. Doubtless then they would have faded from history. Therefore it was the result of their choice that day – that choice to again proclaim that The Lord is God – that allowed their survival as the people of faith.

 

Well, it would appear on a first look that multi-god worship is not a problem in hype- sophisticated Britain today. After all, Broughty isn’t littered with temples to Apollo, Jupiter or even Baal. Yet it has its other temples. Places where things are revered rather than God. Dare, in the same breath, I mention shopping malls, car showrooms, sports sites, work locations and even new housing estates; loci where hearts and minds are captured by desire and ambition. Objects that are points of destination rather than mere tools for a better way of living. In essence, jealously guarded achievements that weave their stories into ours and demand choices of us for their possession.

 

So what is our Elijah-like story that can compete? What is the tale we tell as Christians? How do we make those worshippers of lesser gods proclaim with us the Lord – he is God. Well that enlightening story is less told from our protestations than from our actions.  For while the prophets of Baal danced around their pyre with increasing frenzy, all Elijah did was feed the widow humbly and revive the son caringly.

 

And something like this came to my mind during a lunch break at the General Assembly. Maybe it was both the warmth of the day and the length of the week. But either way I gradually realised that my fellow commissioners seemed no more companionable, no more hospitable nor better mannered that the people walking by on the Royal Mile; indeed in some cases considerably less so. Therefore this community of committed Christians – despite much wordy protestations of fellowship in the hall – were no better or even worse than those without the gospel in their hearts. And that realisation left me dispirited.

 

 

May we then in our smaller and possibly less august body – here in St Luke’s – choose to do better. Let us commit ourselves to act always – one to another – with humility, valuing and concern. Let us like Elijah enflame our neighbours’ damped sense of community by our humble lives. Let our compassionate spark reflect the divine fire that will draw attention away from the god of self. Or as I saw on Facebook this week a blessing from William Channing; may your life preach more than your lips.

 

There was once an old missionary home from foreign parts on furlough in London. He was invited to a party at which many of the great and good were present. Maybe not surprising then he felt a bit like a fish out of water. Not least when each was required to say or do something to amuse the other guests. A singer of note, sang. A pianist played a show-time hit. A famous actor recited a piece from a popular play that included the Lord’s Prayer. Then it was holy gentleman’s turn. He protested he knew nothing or could perform anything. But they would not take no for answer. So he said the only words he could remember were the Lord’s Prayer and that had already been given. The company nevertheless accepted a repeat with a good grace and he started to speak. At the end, there was silence. Then the actor stepped forward and said I knew Christ’s words but our missionary friend clearly knew the author.

 

May we then this day make choices that shout to the rafters – the Lord is God – the Lord is my God. May our actions tell a story to set the hearts afire of all who are distracted by unworthy things. May the fibres of our life’s being say clearly we do know our true author and creator, our true mentor and friend, in truth our very true guiding light and ‘sole’ mate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sparing a thought for those in peril..

During the British National Suicide Prevention week spare a thought and a prayer for those who suffer so badly they would take their own life.

 

386509_488862777843930_1936067659_n

Days that changed the world

Great story and a reminder that life goes on… literally!

Morning Story and Dilbert

I walked into the grocery store not particularly interested in buying groceries. I wasn’t hungry. The pain of losing my husband of 37 years, Rudy, was still too raw and this grocery store held so many sweet memories.

Rudy often came with me and almost every time he’d pretend to go off and look for something special. I knew what he was up to. I’d always spot him walking down the aisle with the three yellow roses in his hands. Rudy knew I loved yellow roses.

With a heart filled with grief, I only wanted to buy my few items and leave, but even grocery shopping was different since Rudy had passed on. Shopping for one took time, a little more thought than it had for two. Standing by the meat, I searched for the perfect small steak and remembered how Rudy had loved his steak.

Suddenly a woman came…

View original post 428 more words

Tourism as Direct Trade

 

Yesterday I preached a sermon basically saying that we should do good without thought of reward. Specifically when we give a few coins to a beggar we should also not worry about what she/he will do with the money. And the reason is simple – we have that choice of what we pick in life, why shouldn’t they?

That’s why I think this blog on Fairtrade coffee is very thought provoking….

If you would like to know more about Fairtrade, then here is their link

Fairtrade Foundation

 

 

When Coffee Speaks

Smart locals. These are the ones who spent their childhoods sweating on the family farm, but realized that their land could give them something more. Smart locals are the ones whose families have spent their lives being ripped off by North Americans and Europeans buying their products at prices below the cost of production; they’re the ones who saw tourists on the horizon and realized it was time to make back all that money.

Smart locals see that agriculture is a good way to stay broke. They see that as much as those North Americans and Europeans like to eat bananas and chocolate and buy so many tropical products, they like to come to the tropics. And if they’re coming, they’re coming with money to burn.

Smart locals are the ones who turn their aunt’s vacant house into a bed and breakfast, who don’t try to cut corners but who…

View original post 532 more words

My house in Umbria


9994-sunrise-at-orvieto-umbria-italy-free-landscape-and-scenic-desktop_531x331

For on Tuesday on returning home from a series of Church meetings, I caught the second half of that great film – My house in Umbria. This is a bitter-sweet comedy which nevertheless deals with some very dark themes indeed.

It starts with a terrorist bomb going off on an Italian inter city train. The foreign survivors of the bombed carriage all end up recuperating in a chaotically rustic pension ruled over by a somewhat fey and often tipsy Emily Delahunty played by Maggie Smith. The main plot revolves around a small American girl who has been orphaned by the atrocity. She is destined to return to the States with her desiccated and self-absorbed uncle.

In time, it is revealed that the gentle young German student, Werner, who is so attentive to the child – almost like a brother – is in fact the bomber.

At the film’s end, with the child entrusted to this rag-tag group’s care, they walk in the warm Italian sunset and Maggie smith’s character says to Ronnie Barker’s, I forgive even Werner. Shocking the others, they ask why. And she replies we all need forgiveness.

It seems then by the good action of offering forgiveness, they could give to each other their brokenness as well. And as a result they found peace, they found acceptance, they found even contentment.

Now as we approach Easter, let us do the same.

A Week of Crucifixion?

I don’t know about you – but I do feel the telly is rubbish at the moment! It was therefore a delight a few weeks back to watch a programme that truly engaged me for a whole two hours. It was about the annual competition
held by the metropolitan opera in New York to find the best young singers in the United States. As you can imagine this is a highly prestigious award and competition is fierce. The programme picked up when the finalists
from across the states meet up in the vast opera house itself and prepare for their trial debut on stage.

Well, needless to say, there are many tears and tribulations on the way until the few awards are dished out a fortnight later at the end of a gala evening. However, one singer stood out. Continue reading

Called to be a wind of change

Matthew 4.1-4

Most of our ideas of what the desert looks like come from Laurence of Arabia. And that means we think of smooth sand dunes rolling across the landscape like the waves of the sea. However, a TV programme this week disabused me of that image. For in it the desert was stone strewn and mountainous and ravine torn. A desert then is not defined by what it looks like but by something else. And that is, of course, a lack of water. Needless to say that fatal shortage, in turn, gives two other characteristics of deserts – a lack of food and a lack of living things. A desert therefore is a place where there is no generous provision.

Now it was each of these scarcities that Christ had to contend with in his tempting stay in the desert. For who can doubt that hunger, thirst and loneliness were the key components in his temptation. But, in overcoming the enticement to feed himself at the expense of God’s will, he insured the return of generous giving. Since, it was his subsequent teaching of God’s word that inspires and motivates self-centred hearts. It was his living the word of God that challenges self-seeking minds. And it was his generous dying for the word of God that became a powerful wind of change in all human barrenness.

Well, this Sunday we celebrate not a dearth of provision but an excess of generosity. For in our harvest festival we show gratitude to God for his bounteous gifts to us. And also at the end of our stewardship campaign we celebrate the generosity we have found in ourselves and in others. Put directly, we give thanks by answering the same call as Christ did and that is to put aside self and to be part of his wind of change.

For just as in the time when Jesus was led out into the wilderness by the Spirit, so to there is an overriding need for the winds of change in our today. The wind of change in a physically starving world that hungers for our Christian giving – a wind of change in a spiritually thirsting community that could flower with our Christian witness and a wind of change in a multitude of individual solitary deserts that would celebrate after even a few moments of our Christian time.

Indeed, there can be few countries in greater need of that wind of change than Afghanistan. Now sadly that benighted nation is daily on our news for all the wrong reasons. And so I thought today we could celebrate with one of its good news stories. Since, it was from western Afghanistan that Mari Mishmast tells of when her husband died she had to sell 5 of their 22 goats to feed her 7 children. Then drought came and the remaining animals died. She says she wouldn’t have known what to do if Christian charity had not gifted her six new goats.  Now she and her family had enough to live at least. But that is not the end of her story. Because her village is located in an arid region which has practically nothing of value except – you’ve guessed it – wind. Indeed that part of the world experiences 120 very windy days a year. It is so strong that you have to wrap a scarf around your face to prevent you breathing in the airborne sand; so strong in fact that often you have to brace yourself to prevent yourself being blown over. Yet that is why Christian Aid then chose to dig a water well deep down and set up a wind powered pump. The outcome is that the local inhabitants now not only feed themselves but gain some wealth from the 2000 animals that they breed.

Moreover, dare I suggest that such a generous wind of change is also likely to change hearts and minds as much as any political initiative to prevent the hatred that evil seeks to fester in that country.

Mari goes on to say – I am very happy and I want to say thank you directly from me to you. So at this harvest and stewardship celebration, let us also say thank you – me to you. Thank you to God for his generous providing. Thank you also to each other for resisting the temptation to keep and for freely giving. Above all, thank you to ourselves for being part of Christ’s wind of change. Because, it is that self-giving wind of change alone that provides the very water of life.  It is that God-serving wind of change alone that can make arid deserts bloom. In truth, it is only that grateful wind of change which fulfils the words of Isaiah: waters shall break forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground – springs of living water.

Amen