10 November 2010

THOUGHT - A wind-up torch

Who wants to keep on buying batteries? A wind-up torch can be used indefinitely providing it is wound from time to time. Are you a wind-up torch?

A wind-up torchI was just sitting here quietly this evening, relaxing briefly after a busy day. Into my mind came a clear picture of a wind-up torch, the green one we keep in the cupboard in the kitchen.

And I thought how we wind the torch and it stores the energy, and then we can get that energy out again in the form of light. As I paid attention to the thought a little parable formed in my mind.

There was a wind-up torch that hadn't been used, any energy it had when it was first made had long since dissipated. One day the torch's owner needed light to shine into a dark place. He took out the torch and pressed the switch, but no light shone out. No matter how often he pressed the switch, no matter how long or how hard he pressed, there was no light.

The owner wound the handle vigorously for a minute or two and then tried again. This time a powerful beam shone from the torch and filled the dark place.

People are like wind-up torches. You are a wind-up torch. We were made to contain the energy of our active and powerful King. But if there is no energy inside you, you cannot work.

When the Master wants to shine light into the dark recesses of a person's heart, he often calls a servant and commands light to pour out so that he can direct it at the dark place. But light will only shine if the servant is filled with energy.

If the servant lacks energy, the Master can provide it. Then the servant will pour out the true light of the world (Jesus) into the places that are dark.

The place where you live or work is filled with people who are in the dark, people who know little or nothing about Jesus Christ. When he chooses to use you to shine his light into the darkness, he needs to know that you can draw upon his energy stored within you. Lack of energy isn't a problem to him, he can always add more energy if you have run short. He can act in your life to add energy at any time.

When you contain his energy he can use it to shine light into the lives of those around you. He knows where the dark places are, he will point your beam in the right direction. It will be his light going out to dispel the darkness, not yours.

What can we learn from this story? There are probably several lessons, I'll pick 'Be careful who you allow to wind you up' :-) Please use the comment option to add some ideas of your own.

  • Is this parable useful?
  • What particular lesson does it teach you?
  • When you run out of energy, where do you usually go to find more?

REVIEW - The Jesus Virus

The Jesus Virus is a blog by Ross Rohde about planting small, organic churches. I've just read his latest post 'Another Story from the Harvest' and once again I really like what I read. I'm recommending this post and indeed the entire blog because it's full of life and energy and it reports real events as they happen. I think anyone who follows Jesus will find Ross's posts encouraging and enlightening.

The Jesus VirusIn 'Another Story from the Harvest', Ross explains how things don't always go the way we expect. It's clear that we need to be wary of pattern and methods - certainly in the sense that they may sometimes go against the things that Jesus really wants to do in a situation.

Ross provides a recent example of this. Best to go and read it for yourself!

Ross's blog is not like anything else I've come across. It's very matter of fact, thought provoking, and full of stories about real people. There are so many sites out there that are essentially teaching a doctrine or a method or inviting us to join them in what they are doing.

But this site draws readers into the excitement about what Jesus is doing, and then encourages them to taste and see for themselves. Ross knows that for the church to grow, Jesus must do the building as he promised he would. That means I (and you) must get out of his way. I can add nothing to the work he is doing. If I won't do what he tells me I will not become part of his work. If I do what I judge to be good in my own eyes I will probably hinder his work by acting against him.

09 November 2010

Meeting Ben Taylor from Somerton

Today Ben Taylor visited me from Somerton in the West Country. It was good to have the afternoon together before he left to spend some time with another friend in Great Gransden.

Autumn in the Riverside ParkI originally met Ben and Cath at a meeting in Chepstow. Ben came on his own this time and we walked down to Cornerstone through the Riverside Park as the weather was fine. When we arrived Jim was there and he sat with us for a while, the conversation was good. How encouraging it is to spend time comparing notes with others on similar journeys!

Ben shared a picture of a bee's sting, and he told me that the Lord would use me to soothe and heal people who'd been 'stung' or hurt in various ways. This is most certainly accurate.

We discovered we have a lot in common. We both come from a Plymouth Brethren background, we have both been led out of more structured forms of church life and are now trying to reach people in a variety of everyday situations.

I've put Ben and Cath in touch with my friends in North Somerset, and Ben tells me he's also kept in touch with Mark in South Wales.

FAMILY - Fireworks and soup

Donna and I travelled up to York to see Debbie and Steve, Beth and Paz, and their families. We joined them at Thorganby for the fireworks on Saturday 6th, and then had lunch in Fulford on 7th before travelling home.

The Thorganby bonfireIt's always good to see the grandchildren! I discovered that Aidan is almost too large to carry on my shoulders now, but he still likes us to read stories. Aidan and Meredith are both getting rather good at writing their names, while Sara and Verity are too small for that. Sara is getting to grips with conversation and Verity is, in her Mum's words, 'a poppet'.

The weather seemed too warm for fireworks, Debbie and Donna swinging SaraBonfire Night is normally much colder in my memory. The bonfire was huge with flames leaping to perhaps seven metres or so. And the fireworks were magnificent, quite a grand display for a small village.

We stayed the night at Debbie and Steve's and then had a walk in the autumn countryside after breakfast. This was followed by a lunchtime feast at Beth and Paz's. Paz had made an awesome soup, a sort of thicker version of minestrone crammed with all sorts of good things. Perhaps we should name it Pazestrone Soup!

05 November 2010

Eaton Ford (day) - Psalm 66

There were three of us this morning, Paul, Roger and me. We worked through SASHET (CO2) together and discussed the value of the Virkler component.

Psalm 66We talked and prayed for a while about a friend's forthcoming court case. It's about a very minor offence caused, not deliberately, but by mistake - if indeed the law was broken at all. But the anxiety and emotional strain being caused far outweighs any penalty that might be imposed. Everything seems to be out of balance, things have blown out of proportion. The distress, however, is very real.

Roger read Psalm 66 which is full of praise and worship. It lifted my spirits for sure! HalleluYah!

THOUGHT - This, not that

I responded to a post on 'Simply Church' a few days ago, the post had piqued my interest for two reasons. Firstly, the topic being dealt with has been in my mind a lot recently, and secondly it reminded me of the meetings we used to have in the 1970s.

The 'Simply Church' blogAs I started to write I felt the Holy Spirit taking charge of my thoughts and the words just flowed. That's always a good sign!

The 'Simply Church' post was called 'Who is in control when we gather?'. Follow the link to see the original post and the comments. I duly sent off my response and later had an interesting reply by email. As I wrote back the Holy Spirit took control again and words appeared almost without any effort on my part.

The Spirit is always ready to lead us if we will just let him. But first we need to turn to focus fully on Christ. The Holy Spirit is after all the Spirit of Christ, he is Christ in us (the hope of glory)! (Colossians 1:27) When Jesus is full and central in our hearts and minds then we may begin to see what he is doing and hear what he is saying. He reveals the father to us (John 14:7) so that we can shout out Abba (Daddy) (Romans 8:15) and run to him with arms outstretched knowing he will pick us up and whirl us around.

Jesus said, 'I only do what I see the Father do (John 5:19), I only say what I hear him say (John 12:49-50).' Frankly, if that was good enough for him it should certainly be good enough for us. We really do need to stop what we are doing, keep quiet, watch and listen, and then do and say the things we are shown.

As I wrote he gave me a list of short phrases along the lines of 'this, not that'. The more I think about them the more helpful they seem to be. In particular they are challenging me and reminding me, not my way Lord but yours, not my will Lord but yours, not my words Lord but yours. I'll just list them below, then expand one or two of them.

  • Life, not structures
  • People, not things
  • Community, not organisation
  • The Spirit of Christ, not our own reasoning
  • Love, not deeds
  • Stillness, not busyness
  • Hope, not despair
  • Acceptance, not rejection
  • Grace, not offendedness
  • Gentleness, not strength
  • Service, not leadership

It's a list that could go on and on and on. Those things are not really opposites, some of them are but it's not as simple as that. For example, the opposite of life is death, not structures. But structures are apt to cause a sort of death or at least a paralysis.

There is no real opposite to the concept of 'People', and if there was it wouldn't be 'things'. But the things in our lives sometimes prevent us reaching and touching the people around us. This is especially true for the precious things we cling to (events, ideas, hobbies, memories, chores as well as possessions).

And how many of us have become frustrated, even angry, about organisations yet have an unfilled space in our hearts for real community?

Maybe the best way to summarise it is to say that we need to avoid everything that stifles our ability to walk arm in arm with Jesus.

I'd be interested to hear your response so go ahead and comment. In particular it would be good to see comments that suggest more 'this, not that' pairs. And also it would be good to see some comments that expand more of the pairs. What do they say to you? How do they challenge you?

04 November 2010

St Neots (Cornerstone) - Meeting at the corner

This evening we decided to meet at Cornerstone Cafe and Books because Pam was planning to do some cleaning there. We all worked for a while, had a coffee, then met, and finally did a little more work before heading home.

Cornerstone's websiteWe chatted for a while as we often do. Jim asked me what I'd been doing during the day and I mentioned waxing one of our new doors at home. Then I shared how I'd read 1 Corinthians 13 and how it is perhaps my all time favourite chapter, and how I'd read Psalm 7 today too. I read out the last verse in which David relies on Yahweh's righteousness, not his own.

Jim told us that he's been reading Hebrews and how the people seemed to be starting to drift away from Christ. The author is saying, 'Hey, get back to the truth about Jesus!' Someone he knows had spoken about Jehoshaphat who ahead of battle had spent time praising the Lord instead of preparing his weapons. We have to have the same frame of mind, the real priorities are not always the obvious ones.

Sean told us about a dream he had. He was in an old Anglican church and the vicar was going through the service. Sean became bored and began praising and worshipping loudly. The people in the church tried to stop him but couldn't. They were prevented from interfering.

Jim and Sean then discussed how, without revelation, the gospel is a mystery and may even repel people. In the end it's all about the supremacy of Jesus, not about the law, rules, and regulations.

I thought that we're just like the prodigal son, but we sometimes overlook the fact that the father in the parable was also prodigal. He poured out abundant mercy, grace and love upon the returning son. We have only to turn back towards our Father and he runs out to meet us and throws his arms around us.

I felt I should speak out the words of the old song...

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face.
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace.

Jim was surprised and encouraged by this as it was the second time today that someone had shared those words with him. And of course I found that encouraging too!

03 November 2010

Moggerhanger - Fireworks

Donna and I were invited to join Jim's small group (part of River Church). We met at Moggerhanger Park for some hot food and drink and then watched a simple but good firework display from the covered area at the back of the main house.

A firework in actionIt was a good social occasion and we found a lot of our friends were there. Val, Valerie, Tracey and James, Jim, Beth, Mike and Betty Lou, Paul and Angie, and many more. There were quite a few children so Jim ran a simple competition for them. They had to guess how long the main firework block would last!

We also attempted to launch some of Mike's hot air lanterns. The first one sailed off into the night sky just as we were arriving, the second attempt failed later as there was too much wind.

TECHNOLOGY - The Cool Farm Tool

The Cool Farm Tool is a spreadsheet that allows farmers, growers and organisations interested in crop production to easily model greenhouse gas emissions and how they might be affected by changing production methods.

Unilever's Cool Farm ToolThe tool was originally developed for Unilever by a research team at the University of Aberdeen and is now being used on an increasing scale by individual farmers, companies buying agricultural and horticultural produce, cross company groups, researchers,  governments, and inter-governmental agencies.

The spreadsheet is published with an open source licence so it can be used, modified, and republished by anyone. It's accessible by ordinary farmers around the world and is easy to use without scientific expertise. The tool can be used to explore the effects of adjusting the methods of production to help minimise emissions.

An IPCC report in 2007, Mitigation of Climate Change provided global information, but Unilever knew they needed specific, farm or field level data if they were to make a difference. They commissioned the Cool Farm Tool as a means of obtaining this data. Much to their credit, Unilever and the University of Aberdeen decided to make the tool available for anyone to use or adapt.

There is more detail on Unilever's Growing for the Future website and in an article published by Ecosystem Marketplace.

I think this tool can really make a difference. Indeed, it must already have made a difference and will continue to do so. Well done to all concerned, especially Unilever and the University of Aberdeen. The planet needs more effort of this sort.

02 November 2010

Brampton - Look at his face

We began by running through SASHET together (part of the CO2 idea). This helped us to understand one another's current situation and thoughts. Then we made a start with Virkler (also part of CO2) where we deliberately listen to what Jesus is saying to us, it's a way of paying attention.

A fast flowing streamHowever, we agreed that this didn't work as well as listening individually and sharing later. I saw a picture of a little babbling brook running down towards me. I had to look up the slope to see it, sometimes it was running smoothly, and sometimes the water was tumbling down over rocks. I just had to share it there and then, it simply seemed wrong to wait.

Then I saw a large shovel, very big, loaded heavily with grain. And I thought about the jubilee, a Royal Jubilee when debt is cancelled, slaves are freed, and there is a sense of renewal and a fresh beginning throughout the land.

Sean said the the harvest is so big that we won't be able to bring it all in. We need to look to the source of the stream of living water, and we need do it all the time. We need to look at his face to see his love for us, but we often won't look because we think we know what his reaction will be. We expect him to be angry and disapproving and disappointed. If we did look we would see only love and acceptance.

We think our acceptability depends on the good work we do and the bad things we don't do. In fact it depends entirely on his grace and love. How can we get it so wrong?

REVIEW - Chris Duffett's Blog

I've just been put in touch with a guy called Chris Duffett. He, his wife, and their three children live in a village not far from St Neots, we plan to meet up for lunch later this month. I've just taken a look at his blog - perhaps you should too!

Chris Duffett's BlogChris is a man with a passion for reaching others. He wants them to hear the good news about Jesus. Not only that, he also has a passion for helping other followers of Jesus do the same. This is very healthy!

Chris founded The Light Project and was its director for eight years. His blog is refreshing and is packed with encouraging and challenging stories.

Here's an example, Chris felt he was supposed to find and pray for someone with lower back pain. He stood at a car wash looking out for this person...

Then I saw a young man, cool skater rags and plenty of piercings. I felt that he was the guy I should pray for.

A few minutes later I approached him and explained that I had felt God say that I should walk to the car wash and pray for someone with lower back pain. I asked if he was ok, and to be honest because of his age and ‘coolness’ I expected him to say yep, all was AOK.

Yet he looked stunned and said that this was ‘remarkable’ as he had been to the chiropractor for lower back pain. I asked if I could pray for his back and he said ‘yes please,’ but later as he was late for college. Non the less Phil and I said a very quick ‘non eye closing- get on your knees kind’ of prayer and asked Jesus to heal him.

The guy looked kind of shocked and I reassured him that God knew about him and his discomfort.

What do you think of my story? Coincidence or God?

Coincidence? I don't think so! The blog is fun to read but will also stop you in your tracks sometimes with an unexpected challenge or revelation.

But why take my word for any of this? Click the links and take a gander yourself. I may post again after meeting Chris and spending some time with him.

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