Thursday, 28 July 2011

Our Debt

I'm wondering if anyone can help me answer a question?

So the United Kingdom is in debt.

The government is raising taxes and will be cutting public spending to reel in the debt and pay it off.

Apparently 'we' owe about £1 trillion or something like that.

So all of us...many of us are paying this money back through tax raises etc.

The banks were in trouble so we bailed them out.

So my question is...

Who do we owe this money to?

Who exactly are we paying this money back to?

It can't be a human free organisation or company because there has to be someone at the end of the line. There is always a person somewhere down the line.

So who is this person or people that we owe all this money to?

If it is the banks then why did we bail them out?

If it is a person then who are they and how do they have so much money to lend?

As you can see I am no economist, but I am seriously troubled by this question.

Anyone care to help?

Monday, 25 July 2011

Honesty in Church

I preached yesterday morning at a Baptist church who meet not far from where I live.

They were a nice bunch of people and I felt very welcomed.

After the service I had a number of people come up to me and thank me for my honesty in my preaching. They said it was refreshing. They also said it shook them out of their Sunday morning routine.

Honesty.

I find this interesting, especially in church.

When someone is honest, especially when preaching or leading worship, people are almost amazed. It shakes people in their seats. They are not sure what to do with honesty.

I don't try and be controversial or provocative when I preach (well maybe sometimes I do! ;0)), I simply try and be honest. Yet it often seems that people are not prepared for such honesty and find it something completely alien when confronted with such honesty in the church.

Some people react very positively when they hear honesty within the church, and some...well they don't like it.

Sometimes we try all sorts of ways to not be honest because we feel like we can't.

Sometimes it is the curse of the smile; feeling like you have to smile when inside you are hurting and darkness is your only friend.

Sometimes it is because you do not feel there is anyone you can be yourself with, so you put on a show, pretend you're ok and shuffle out of church before anyone notices you.

I think it is important to be honest, to be yourself and to live authentically.

I wonder how liberated many would feel if they knew they could be completely honest in church.

I'm hurting.

I don't believe in God anymore.

I'm so happy.

I'm gay.

I'm depressed.

I haven't prayed for months.

I'm so excited.

I'm pregnant.


Be great wouldn't it...

Thursday, 21 July 2011

A Dinner Party Meme

Sam has come up with a new meme based on a dinner party theme.  Here are the rules.

Rules: You have to have 12 people including yourself. Of those there needs to be at least four men, at least four woman, at least four who are known to you personally and at least four who are "famous". You are not allowed anyone who has passed on to the great hereafter - that would be a rather different sort of party. It needs to be one that might plausibly 'work' (i.e don't just pile people together. You also need to choose a place/style of food.

Here is my party:

Myself
My wife Sarah
My twin bro Tom
My daughter Grace
My daughter Lizzie
Caroline Laver
John Colwell
Daniel Day Lewis
Brad Pitt
Damon Albarn
Gweneth Paltrow
Peter Kay

We would eat tapas because it is great for sharing and allows good conversations to flow.











I tag Tom, Rach and Peter

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Turning 30



So I've reached 30 years of age.

I love it.

I haven't been too reflective approaching this age. I've simply let it roll and embraced it.

My story is one of self-destruction and brokenness to transformation and healing. It is a story that I believe only makes sense because of who Jesus is and the story of God in all of human history. My story has no significance outside of God's great story. 

So reaching 30 is a gift from God, a beautiful gift that I thank God for.

When I look back on my own story I see God's touch of love and compassion, healing and hope, chastisement and correction. I see that I am truly blessed.

I have above and beyond all I could ask for or imagine as I have reached this age.

I am married to a beautiful woman who has taught me how to love.  When I met her I was selfish, proud, abusive and drunk. She has taught me to be generous to others, humble in life's circumstances, a servant and to seek being filled with the Spirit.  There are times when I continue in selfish actions, self exaltation and hurtful ways, but by the grace and love of God these times are rare. She has shown me the beauty of relationship and the wonder of love. She is more precious to me than I could begin to describe. I am thankful to God that he continues to teach me what it means to be a husband. I need Him to teach me daily.



I have to beautiful daughters who daily give me a glimpse of God's heart. I still cannot believe I am a father. I love them. They are amazing. They teach me honesty, integrity and how to be authentic. They teach me about prayer and how to love God. They show me that every moment is precious and that we should try never to take any moment for granted. They are wonderful.




I have shared my entire life with my twin bro. One egg that split into two. Two babies that grew. Lives lived together for so many years. Lives still shared even though we live a few hundred miles from each other. We have a closeness and a connection that is hard to describe. We share similar thoughts and aspirations. We believe similar things. We are very different. We are uniquely ourselves and uniquely a twin. He teaches me how to be real, to tear off the mask and to live honestly.



I live in a house, I have food to eat, clothes to wear and water to drink. I can watch films, read books, look at the internet and use a phone. I have friends and family. I have more than I could ever want or need.

I am so aware of all those who have so little, who suffer and struggle. I wish that I was better at being more compassionate and more loving to my neighbour. I wish I had the balls to do more for those who are suffering and abused and oppressed. I wish I was less selfish. I wish I had the kind of heart that bled and longed for those who suffer.

I wish I loved God more. I want to be able to pray more. I want to be better at loving God. I want to be a man who takes seriously the call to love God with all that we are. I fail at this all too often. I wish I took seriously the call by Jesus to take up my cross and follow him. I need God to change me. I turn 30 far from being the man I need to be.

I belong to Jesus.

He dragged me from the depths and transformed my life. I turn 30 as a man who has been given life by God. I have experienced His love, grace and mercy. I am a new creation. I am forgiven and being forgiven. I am redeemed and being redeemed. I am saved and being saved. I am restored and being restored.

I am who I am because God is who God is. My identity lies in Him. All I am finds its goal and its purpose in Jesus.

Today is a good day. 30 is a good time.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Love Winning and Dark Knight Rising

We were sitting the restaurant having some dinner when a waitress walked over to us.  The first person she spoke to was Lizzie, my eight month old daughter.  She stroked her hair and her cheek, smiled at her, held her hand and tickled her.  She then picked her up, cuddled her and walked off with her.

Another evening I was standing with Grace when two ladies walked over and started talking to my four year old daughter Grace.  They didn't even look at me but looked straight at Grace.  They stroked her cheek, kissed her and cuddled her.

Another day a man walked over to Grace, knelt down smiling the biggest smile, and held Grace's hand. He asked her name, called her princess and stroked her cheek.

On another evening a man walked over to Lizzie when she was in her pushchair and smiled at her.  Lizzie beamed back and her laughed out loud.  His face was filled with joy as she smiled at him.  He held her feet and stroked her hair, all the time smiling and laughing with so much joy written all over his face.

I asked Grace how she felt when people kept coming up to her and holding and kissing her, people that she had never met or seen before.  She said it made her feel soft inside.

This was our experience of Turkey this year.


I think we have become too paranoid and too fearful in the UK.  Much of that has to do with the evil media.  And fear is the opposite to faith.  We need to have more faith in our neighbour.  Not everyone is a pedophile. There are many people out there who love and care for children.  Children should be shown loads of love.

I found myself constantly filled with joy as I watched the joy that my children gave to complete strangers in Turkey. I loved how my girls smiled and laughed as they were showered in love and affection by complete strangers.

My children existed in Turkey.  They were noticed and spoken to and attention was given to them.  They were not ignored or dismissed or made to be like an adult.  They were children.  Treated like children and listened to like children.

And these moments were very special.  Moments of heaven.


And speaking of heaven, I am so looking forward to this film!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

A Warm Heart

I have just returned from a beautiful week away in Turkey with my beautiful family.

I love Turkey. I love the people.

When I'm back in full swing I will write a post about their attitude and approach to children. I felt my heart strangely warmed many times.

While I was there I turned 30...seriously...I know I only look 24 but honestly I'm 30... ;0)

I will write a post too about turning 30 and what I have felt in approaching this beautiful age.

As I sat in the sun I watched my two daughters and beautiful wife swimming together in the pool. They swam and laughed together and looked the picture of everything that is good and right in this world. I watched and reflected on how good life is right now. I reflected on how blessed I am. I prayed to God that I would not get complacent or take these precious gifts of moments for granted.
As the sun beat down on my girls swimming in the water I prayed that the radiance of the Son of God would wash over them like a river and drench them in His love.

My heart has felt very warm this week.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Forgiveness

Forgiveness seems to be a strange and difficult concept so often in the world in which we live.

Destruction, revenge, and 'pay back' seem to be the order of things and the way culture often understands 'justice' and 'putting things right'.

Forgiveness is tough and difficult.  Forgiveness is costly.  When I forgive someone who wrongs me, it costs me something.  It costs me something because it is tough.  I feel wounded by someone, yet in forgiving them I am able to begin the healing process.  It hurts, but the pain is like an antiseptic beginning the process of restoration.

Unforgiveness is like a wound that is torn open day after day with no desire or chance for healing.

Revenge is seen to be the best option.



I remember when Sarah and I were first together.  We had been asked to baby-sit for a friend and so we went one evening to their terraced house to look after their young baby for the evening.  The front door opened directly into the front room where the TV and sofa was, and Sarah and I were sitting watching TV when there was a knock on the front door.
I got up, opened the door, and there before me were three men in balaclavas.  They charged at the door.  Sarah screamed and ran upstairs to the baby.  I tried closing the door while they were pushing at it, and then all of a sudden the door slammed shut.
I ran upstairs and Sarah was sitting with the baby, who was still fast asleep.  Sarah was shaking and distraught.
A few days later I found myself filled with rage over what had happened.  I found out that an armed robbery had taken place in the town and these men who had come round to the house were part of that group.  They had used the house as a distraction so the police would come to the house while they were robbing.
I felt really angry that fellow human beings could cause so much distress to others.  I was angry with them by the way they had upset Sarah so much.  Revenge would have gone down a treat.

Then God spoke into my life.  I was reminded of God's love and forgiveness lavished out upon us.  I reflected on Jesus hanging in the Cross to bring love and forgiveness.  I thought about how God will seek to forgive and forgive and forgive even though we often reject him and hurt each other.  I felt God speak powerfully into my life telling me I needed to forgive these guys.

So I asked God to help me.  I asked to have the strength to forgive them the way in Jesus I had been forgiven by God.  I found myself one day praying for these guys, asking God to pour out his love into their lives.  I realised at this point I no longer despised them, but that I actually wanted them to know love and forgiveness.

There are people who have been through MUCH harder stuff than that who have forgiven and found freedom and liberation in that act of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.  It is something we need to grasp hold of in our society.  It is something that will transform our communities if we would but seek to be a forgiving people.

Revenge will never lead to justice or peace.  Unforgiveness tears families apart and destroys lives with bitterness and hate.

Forgiveness will lead us into peace and transformation.  Forgiveness will lead us into the very presence of God.

As Jesus was being nailed to the Cross he called out 'Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.'  Forgiveness helps clear the mist from our eyes and enables us to see what life is really all about.  It is the road to a better future.

Because it is always better to give and to give forgiveness.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Dawn is on its Way

'There is a verse in the bible where Jesus says,'I am the bright Morning Star'.




 
Now the Morning Star appears in the sky when the night has reached its darkest point. When it appears you know that the dawn is on its way, that the night is at its darkest and the light is coming. 





There are times in our lives where we feel that the darkness of pain and suffering, fear and difficulty are surrounding us and closing in all around. This darkness can be self afflicted, given by us or given to us, but whatever the reason, it's tough. We can look at the world around us and wonder if the darkness has overcome. 





Yet Jesus speaks into this darkness by declaring that He is the bright Morning Star and that the Dawn is on its way.



 

As we celebrate here together, we reflect and remember lives lived together,





as well as look hopefully and expectedly on lives to be lived. 





Mum and Dad are celebrating 40 years of marriage. We look back with them on the journey they have taken together and we join with them in the memories and the joys.




 
It is a past that reflects the kaleidoscope of colours that our lives can be. Joy and sorrow, hope and despair, pain and healing. The true beauty of celebration finds itself fully aware and honest of all that has gone on before. Our past has shaped who we are today and we celebrate because we are able to embrace today, because we are still in this together, because God has not left us. 





We celebrate because your story is one of perseverance and endurance, of togetherness today, of love enduring; your story reflects the very nature of God. 




And it is in the reality of the past 40 years that bring meaning and significance to today, as well as hope and joy into tomorrow. For the journey continues with a path laid out for them and for us all, a path that calls us to embrace yesterday, to make today significant and live with hope for tomorrow.
 
We join with Bram and Tracy in celebrating with them the gift of children. Parenthood is a deep responsibility given to us by God. It is a calling to be faithful, hopeful and full of love for our children that they may be given the best start to their lives. As we look at these young lives we are excited by the possibilities and mystery that lay before them.





 
When we consider that Paige is just 13 years old we reflect that 13 years is a mere heartbeat in all of human history. But our prayer is that her heart would be filled with love from others and for others so that in your life you may bring love to the people you meet. 




5 years is but a blink of an eye in the course of humanity, but our prayer is that Cameron may see the world with wisdom and compassion and bring tears of joy to the people he meets and the communities he is a part of.



 
8 months is but a whisper in the history of the human race, but our prayer is that Nate will speak words of life and love enabling others to shout for joy and sing in celebration as he lives and grows in this world. 





Our hopes and dreams for Mum and Dad, for Bram, Tracy and the children, for each other, can be held deep in our hearts because Jesus is the bright Morning Star. 




His life, death and resurrection has ushered in a new day for all of creation and a promise that one day God will wipe every tear from our eyes and where everything will be made new. God will bring in a new creation where light, love and peace will cover the earth. This is the the new dawn that is on its way. We live in this tension where we see darkness and light, yet today has meaning and hope, where there is real love and light shining through.







  
Our past shapes who we are today. Our today is significant and to be embraced. Our every tomorrow can be filled with hope. The night is darkest just before the dawn, but Jesus declares that the dawn is on its way.'



Tuesday, 5 July 2011

My twin bro was on TV yesterday.

ITV recorded 10 Mile Menu recently and Tom was on the most recent episode. He comes across really well on camera! :0)He is on about 8 minutes into the programme.

Go here to watch the show.




You can watch on the show and hear how long my family have been in the oyster industry. It is a trade that will always be close to my heart. I hope that government won't make the trade an impossibility but will honour the wisdom, hard work and beauty that occupations like that of my Father's offers to our society.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Memory

I have heard it said many a time 'Forget the past, look to the future', or 'The past doesn't matter, what is important is today' or 'The past should be left in the past otherwise it will ruin tomorrow'.

Around New Year people get very nostalgic about the past, usually in a negative way, and vow that this year will be a better year.

Time and again, day after day, people have a bad day and then speak about the past in a very negative way, trying to distance themselves from it and be identified in a way that forgets the past and only looks to the future.

I have serious problems with this.

I wonder if our identity is best understood in terms of memory.

Is not our entire life and existence all a memory?

When you read this sentence, every single moment you read it turns into a memory.  The reading of this sentence has now become a memory.

Every moment of my life is a memory, some forgotten, some remembered, but all of it a memory.  But it is this memory that defines who I am with every heartbeat.  My identity is a memory.

What do I mean by all this?  Well I'm not 100% sure, but let me see if I can make a bit more sense of it.

When something good, bad or indifferent happens in our lives, these moments and events are played out before our very eyes, felt by our very souls and lived, survived or simply existed through.  These life journeys obviously impact us in various ways because of their very real pain, joy or indifference.

As we live through these events, even when we are in the midst of them, they are continually becoming a memory. That is not a bad thing but a reality.

When I hold Sarah in my arms and tell her that I love her, that moment becomes a memory.  The beginning of the hug is a memory, the words 'I love you' are a memory, the warmth of the embrace a memory, even as we still hold each other.  But it is the memory that makes the moment even more special because it is the memory of the moment of embrace that gives you the desire to continue the embrace.  Every beautiful moment shared between us may not be remembered, but it is the memory of our lives lived and love shared that compels us to desire to make tomorrow another part of that beautiful memory.

When something painful happens it forms another part of our memory.  As the painful event continues to unfold the view of tomorrow's pain is shaped by the memory of the last second of pain.  The pain of a moment will become a memory in a second, a year and ten years.  And in each second, year and decade the memory shapes who we are.  Whatever we remember or forget about the pain, the memory defines our identity.  But the memory of that pain does not need to define us negatively.  But rather help us understand the beautiful parts to memory even better.

So you can't forget about the past and say that the past doesn't matter, because very single second is a memory, and you are being defined by your memory.

God says to Moses that he is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  These three guys had died when Moses was alive.  But God had made a promise to these guys that he would be their God for all of time and that the descendants of these guys would never be forgotten by God.  The memory of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob mattered to Moses and who Moses was and what he would do with his life.  The memory of these guys mattered to God because God had made promises to them that would count long after they died.

Memory matters.

Memory matters not only for our lives, but for the lives of our children and our children's children.

So who you are and your identity is defined by memory.

What if your memory involved God?  What if you got involved with the promises God had made to humanity through Jesus?  What if the promises of Jesus became your promises?  And what if those promises were a part of your memory?

The thing with God's promises and memory is that God does not 'remember' like we remember.  So when I make a promise I make it in light of what is happening at that moment and in the past with a hope for the future, but still an unseen future.  God makes a promise FULLY aware of what that promise will mean into the future.  So when God 'remembers' you it is something deep, secure and beyond imagination.  God's memory of you can be something that leads you into a bright and beautiful future.

You can be shaped by God's memory.

I'm not sure if any of this makes any sense!  I've rambled in my writing today.  Maybe some of you can help make sense of this...