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Archive for the ‘Good News’ Category

Louis, was a rather awkward and sad boy. This was made worse by the fact that his parents did little to encourage his self-esteem. In fact, they all but came out and told their Rabbi that Louis was too stupid to learn the traditional Hebrew passages a boy recites for his bar mitzvah.The Rabbi was determined to bring out the best in this boy. He spent extra time teaching him the songs and prayers, and in so doing, he discovered that Louis was quite intelligent and also had a fantastic singing voice. On the day of his bar mitzvah, Louis performed beautifully. At the end of the ceremony, the Rabbi stood and spoke directly to Louis. He said, “Louis, this morning you met your real self… This is who you are. You are good, graceful, talented, and smart. Whatever people told you yesterday, and Louis, whatever happens tomorrow, promise me one thing. Remember . . . this is you. Remember, and don’t ever lose it.”A few years later, Louis wrote to the Rabbi. The boy whose parents predicted that he was too stupid to perform a traditional bar mitzvah was studying for his medical degree … Louis ended his letter by saying, “I kept my promise – I always remembered my bar mitzvah morning when you said that this is who I am. For this, I thank you.”   Having someone believe in him made a huge difference in Louis’ life.

You are unique: be who you are called to be

We have someone who believes in us and that someone is God. God has chosen us for great things. God has forgiven us all of our sins, faults and failings and declares us to be holy. God tells us we are his dearly loved. He also shows us that his love for us has no limits, and if we can just keep these simple truths in mind it will help us to accomplish the goals that Paul puts before us in Colossians 3:12-17:

Put on then, or clothe yourselves, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, with compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Be who you are called to be, but also do the things you are called to do.    And just in case you think that it is beyond you, I leave you with this declaration and promise from 2 Peter 1:3 to remind you that we don’t do it in our own strength:   ‘God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.’

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Recently I’ve been reading through the Book of Genesis and once again I’ve been caught up in the stories of the families of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – not, it has to be said, your ideal template for ‘happy families’.   Yet I am constantly amazed by the fact the people think that if you belong (or even come along) to a church then you should have some kind of perfection in your life, whether it be your personal life or your family life. 

Many believe that over the past few decades there has been a shift in the shape and the nature of family, but has there?  Have we not always lived as fractured people, in fractured families, within fractured communities?  It’s just that before we didn’t openly acknowledge it – we kept it under wraps; hidden behind a veneer of respectability.   (Certainly that’s what I’ve found as I researched my family tree back over three or four centuries!)

The fact is there is no ‘perfect family’ modelled within the pages of Scripture.   And yet this ideal is still put forward and even offered by some within the wider church.   The proposition being – if one adheres to the ‘rules’ then you will escape the pain;  your marriage will work; your children will grow up well balanced and responsible;  you will cheat the chaos that surrounds you in society as a whole.  And if the chaos affects you – well then the fault is yours!   You failed – you – the divorced; the addicted; the imperfects.  

It is any wonder then that when the chaos does hit, the first thing people do is to stay away from the church.   Even for some within the church, this notion of the ideal of perfection means that many strive to produce a perfect image, because by doing so, they do not have to deal with the brokenness and chaos that they face in their lives, and they can still feel that they belong.  

The role of the church is not, nor has it ever been, to project themselves as a community only for the perfect, rather it is a place where the broken should feel they are able to come to find acceptance and achieve wholeness.

When it comes to the chaos that we encounter in our lives and in our world, the church needs to step up to the mark and declare its belief:  that God is at work and he will bring order from chaos; that it is only through him that our broken lives can achieve wholeness.

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Messy Church was one of those things I’d heard about and read up on – one of those “fresh expressions” of church that was happening down south (by that I mean England and not the central belt of Scotland!), and so when I saw that there was a Training Day being held in Aberdeen I tried to encourage a few of our leaders in the Children and Families’ Ministry to go along and suss it out for themselves, to see if they also saw it as an effective outreach tool for our community.  

A few weeks later our Children and Families’ Worker – Bill, was planning and recruiting for our first event – A Messy Christmas Celebration!     

Messy Church is not just about your existing church and children.   It is about the opportunity to invite new people to come to church that wouldn’t normally come.  We certainly wanted our existing children and parents to be there, but it was also about getting new folk to come to church and finding out that church isn’t necessarily the way they remembered it, or expected it to be.    Messy church is a time for families (from the very youngest to the very oldest), to come and join in the fun – to play games, to create,  to talk, laugh and be with friends, to share a meal and make more friends, and think a little more about Jesus.    (see the Messy Church website for more info – www.messychurch.org.uk)

We had a fantastic time.  42 children and 20 plus adults came along.   The age range was from a couple of weeks old to 70+.   We began (more…)

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sunset

sunset

I don’t know about you, but one of my favourite pictures to draw when I was younger was a sunset. You know the picture I’m sure – two hills and a sun in between, maybe a beach or a river or a field in the foreground.  I liked to draw that picture maybe because it was the simplest to draw; no humans, nothing elaborate, or maybe it was because I liked the implied peacefulness. Who knows? But I was reminded of it recently while on holiday.

It was late in the day and the train was full of people coming home from work.  We on the other hand had just arrived at San Francisco Airport after an eleven hour flight and were making our way to Walnut Creek to visit family.  People around us looked like I felt – shattered. We’d just come through the tunnel under the Bay when the train came to a stop aboveground; halted by a red light.  People continued to read their books, newspapers, magazines, computer screens, or scroll through their i-pods and tap messages into their mobile phones.  Basically I think the idea was to make sure that you were secure in your own little world; no eye contact therefore no intrusive and unwanted conversations.  The only voice I could trace belonged to a girl who had been talking incessantly to a wide variety of friends on her phone trying to find someone who might want to go out with her that night for a meal.

Moments later the disembodied voice of our lady train driver announced: “That’s really quite a sunset out the right-hand side of the train”. Almost every head turned to look, and true enough, it was a spectacular sunset.  People smiled, and there was a perceptible change in the mood of the passengers in our carriage.  All, that is, except for the girl on the phone, who never flinched from her task of trying to find companionship, and so a beautiful moment in our world was missed. It was a moment when disparate people found a sense of common wonder.  It was a moment when we looked at a visual illustration of beauty and peace in a chaotic and busy world.  It was a moment of community.

And the only person who missed it was the girl seeking company; on the phone telling yet another person in a bright and breezy voice “I’m on the train.  Want to scope out a place to eat tonight?”   The thing is, the voice belied her face and posture, and as I witnessed the continuous phone calls I became aware that I was looking at someone who was essentially lonely and in need of a friend.

angel

Angel announcing Good News

Later, as I thought about that unexpected announcement on the BART, my thoughts turned to other unexpected announcements.  The angel Gabriel made an unexpected announcement to a young girl called Mary: God was going to bring an unexpected addition into her family.  God also used angels to announce to shepherds tending their sheep: “This very day in David’s town your Saviour was born — Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11).  Yet this unexpected announcement, this beautiful moment: the good news that Jesus is Lord and the powers of the world are not, is something that I am convinced so many continue to miss because the are wrapped up in their own little world looking for relationships that will fulfil their immediate wants and needs.

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