Saturday, 23 February 2013

Thank God For Parking Tickets

Just finished John Lanchester's book, a very readable and intelligent book - to my mind.  I liked this passage seen from the viewpoint of a woman who is working as a traffic warden:

"When you gave people a ticket they were angry, always and inevitably.  And the anger could spread, and become catching, as it had with this plainly mad woman, crazed with resentments.  There were times when she wanted to say: Get down on your knees! Be grateful! A billion people living on a dollar a day, as many who can't find clean drinking water, you live in a country where there is a promise to feed, clothe, shelter and doctor you, from the moment of your birth to the moment of your death, for free, where the state won't come  and beat or imprison you or conscript you, where the life expectancy is one of the longest in the world, where the government does not lie to you about Aids, where the music is not bad, and the only bad thing is the climate, and you find it in yourself to complain about parking?  Woe, woe!  Down on your knees in gratitude that  you can even notice this minor irritation!  Praise God for the fact that you resent getting this ticket, instead of rending your clothes with grief because you lost another child to dysentery or malaria!  Sing hosannas when you fill out the little green form in the envelope stuck to your windshield! For you, you of the deservedly punished five-minute overstay, you of the misinterpreted residents' bay area, you of the ignored Loading Only sign, are of all people who have lived the most fortunate!"  

A great reminder about perspective and being grateful for all the things we rarely think about.

Friday, 22 February 2013

A walk in the woods

A grand day out yesterday.  Very cold up on Exmoor but bright enough to tempt me down with camera in hand to visit Snowdrop Valley near Wheddon Cross.  By the time I'd traveled down the sun had pretty much disappeared but it was still worth it.  I enjoyed the rare delight of playing my choice of music loud (Scritti Politti's Anomie and Bonhomie, completests) without disparaging comment from family members on the way down and the two or three mile walk was good for me.

Topped off with a great curry, a dreadful film (Knowing) and a couple of glasses of red wine, it was good to take the day off - the first for over a week.  Even then it was tempting to just do a few odds and ends; work is unending and not without it's challenges.  But we are not machines - even church ministers are subject to the laws of work and rest. 

Then this morning read this - 

Sabbath is not dependent upon our readiness to stop.  We do not stop when we are finished.  We do not stop when we complete our phone calls, finish our project, get through this stack of messages, or get out this report that is due tomorrow.  We stop because it is time to stop.

Sabbath requires surrender.  If we only stop when we are finished with all out work, we will never stop - because our work is never completely done.  With every accomplishment there arises a new responsibility.  If we refuse rest until we are finished, we will never rest until we die.  Sabbath dissolves the artificial urgency of our days, because it liberates us from the need to be finished. 

We stop because there are forces larger than we that take care of the universe, and while our efforts are important, necessary, and useful, they are not (we are not) indispensable.  The galaxy will somehow manage without us for this hour, this day, and so we are invited - nay, commanded - to relax, and enjoy our relative unimportance, our humble place at the table in a very large world.  

Do not be anxious about tomorrow, Jesus said again and again.  Let the work of this day be sufficient.

Sabbath says, be still.  Stop.  There is no rush to get to the end, because we are never finished.

Wayne Mueller - quoted in Peter Scazzero, Daily Office, p. 107-8.

Seems I did the right thing.

Consider the flowers of the field...

Monday, 11 February 2013

10,000 Reasons

Amazing news this morning - Matt Redman has gone and won two Grammys for his worship song, "10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)".  This is a great new song that we were introduced to by Stuart Townend (along with several thousand others at New Word Alive) and have since been singing in church.  It's been a special song for me in that time and it seems slightly surreal that it has won Grammys.  But 'Yay' for Matt!  Take a listen... 

"Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes"

Disagreeing Gracefully

Stumbled across Malcolm Duncan's blog this morning.  Malcolm is the Pastor at Gold Hill Baptist Church and in this particular blog post he is commenting on the vexed issue of same-sex marriages.  I don't pretend to quite understand everything he writes but I do recognize grace when I see it.  He commends Steve Chalke in a number of ways and also is unafraid to call him out where he feels that is right too.  He commends Steve for the grace that he has exhibited thus far and Malcolm displays it himself in his reply.  

This paragraph is pretty secondary to the whole main thrust of the article but generally very useful, I feel.      

"Why do we persistently look for men and women to be heroes in the church and take our lead from them? The best of men are men at best. Steve is a wonderful brother whom I am grateful for, but he is nothing more than a man. The best of us are people at best. Broken, flawed and in need of grace. Our words do not bring life. Our plans do not change the world. We are only under shepherds of the Great Shepherd. The impact of Steve’s article tells me that we must determine to move away from the celebrity driven culture that has invaded the church and we must each learn the art of wrestling with Scripture and seeking to live under is authority and power."

Malcolm Duncan's article  is quite long and complex but full of good and gracious comment.  It makes me feel hopeful for the church.   

Monday, 4 February 2013

Searching for a place of peace

Read this on the Church Times website and have to say that I think a lot of this makes sense in my situation too, it's not just an Anglican thing!  Justin Welby - who becomes the new AB of C, makes some pertinent points here.  There are people lost and looking for an alternative, will they find a place of peace that shows them another way?  
Justin Welby - he does a mean Selwyn Froggitt impression

Bishop Welby went on to say that he thought that the present moment was "the greatest moment of opportunity for the Church since the Second World War". Since the banking collapse of 2008, "all the idols on which our society was based have fallen. They've been toppled."
But, he said, "the Church needs to be a place of peace if, now that the idols have fallen, we are to show people. That doesn't mean that we all agree; it means that we love each other when we don't agree. . .
"If you look back on some of the arguments we've had over the last few months in the Church of England, it is poison to the mind of those who are outside the Church. It anaesthetises them against the gospel."
He said that the Church needed to find "a way forward" on women bishops and the debate over sexuality. "The Church at a national level has to be outward-looking and a body that is engaging, not looking inwards and consumed by its own problems. . . I am optimistic we can make progress."