30 January 2014

The Railway Man

Good films tell good stories; 'The Railway Man' is a great film. This is the true story of Eric Lomax, a prisoner of war under the Japanese in Thailand, the brutality of building the Burma Railway, his later marriage and subsequent friendship with one of his Japanese captors.

The Railway Man
The Railway Man
Donna and I went to see 'The Railway Man' last night. What a film!

It stars Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman and is a marvellous story of redemption, forgiveness, freedom and life. It's based on real events and real people.

Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) is an ex-soldier. He had served in the British Army in Singapore at the time when the Japanese captured the city. As Japanese prisoners, he and his fellow servicemen suffered most terribly while constructing the railway through Thailand and Burma (the railway made famous by the film 'Bridge over the River Kwai').

Memories and freedom - Lomax was always fascinated by railways but couldn't forget or deal with his secret memories of wartime captivity and torture. He met Patti (Nicole Kidman) on a train journey in northern Britain and they fell in love. Later they married, but Eric's past haunted him until a friend discovered that Takashi Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada), the Japanese interpreter who had assisted in his interrogation, was alive and working as a museum guide on the railway in Thailand.

Eric travels to Thailand and arrives unannounced; the two men meet and a tense exchange takes place. Through this experience Eric is able to move forward in his life. Later, when a letter arrives from Hiroyuki, Eric decides he must go to Thailand again, this time with Patti.

Some parallels - 'The Railway Man' is a great film and a wonderful story. Like all good stories it contains elements of human life at its most gripping and poignent [Tweet it!]. Wisdom, anguish, love, grace and forgiveness are all clearly portrayed.

Because of this, the story has many parallels with the greatest story of them all - the story of a powerful father who sends his one and only son to bring grace, love and forgiveness to a lost and desperate people so that darkness may be replaced by light and death may be overcome by life. These themes are eternal and significant.

Questions:

  • Have you seen 'The Railway Man'? What did you think?
  • What other films would you recommend? Do any of them provoke thoughts on deep human experiences and eternal truths?
  • All stories are worth hearing, all stories contain truth. Is this statement true or false?

See also:

21 January 2014

More soup and bread

Visiting Huntingdon with soup again, we are astonished at the way Father is leading us. We spent several hours walking and meeting people, but nobody needed or wanted soup. But just as we were about to leave we met a man on a mobility scooter and everything changed.

In Huntingdon
In Huntingdon
Following the first soup run to Huntingdon, we have repeated the exercise twice more.

On 12th January Sean went on his own as Matt and I were at Open Door in St Neots. And on 19th Matt, Kevin and I visited Huntingdon with flasks of Donna's tomato soup.

I'd better backtrack a little. Kevin is a friend from Caffè Nero in St Neots. He's part of a group of local people I've got to know quite well by visiting Nero's between 15:00 and 16:00 several times a week. With a swollen ankle and visitors over the Christmas period it's been quite a while since I was there.

Meeting on the street - I had met a group of the Nero guys in town. They were chatting in the street and I stopped to join the conversation. It crossed my mind to invite Kevin to join us on 19th, and I was amazed by his enthusiasm to come along and help with the soup run. Matt and I loaded the soup, rolls and paper cups into the car and collected Kevin from Nero's. John and Gordon were there as well and they were very supportive of Kevin.

When we arrived in Huntingdon we spent some time walking, chatting with people who were willing to talk (and a few who were not), and offering soup. We visited the river bank, a play area, the bus station, the High Street, and other parts of town. But we failed to give away a single cup of soup.

A special encounter - We sat by the fountain, warmed up our hands with some of our own cups of soup, and chatted. Just as we were considering leaving, we were making our way along the High Street and saw a man sitting on a disability scooter. Kevin was very clear and definite at this point, walking right up to the man and offering him soup [Tweet it!]. After a few moments he said he would like soup and Kevin gave him some from one of our paper cups.

Soon we began chatting about football and other things. Gerald told us a bit about himself and explained that he was waiting for his wife who was in one of the shops nearby. When she returned we chatted briefly with her too, and then I asked Gerald if we could bless him. He agreed, so we prayed a short prayer for him and for his wife before saying goodbye and heading home. Gerald wanted to shake us all by the hand before we left, there was a real connection between us.

All three of us felt we were in Huntingdon that morning specifically to meet Gerald and his wife. It's not that the walking and talking in and around the town centre wasn't good. It was good but it wasn't special. Meeting Gerald was special, and we knew it.

We don't know what will come of this. We don't know if we'll meet Gerald again. We will continue to pray for him and for his wife. And we are excited about what is happening in Huntingdon!

Questions:

  • What makes a meeting special? Is it about us, or about the person we meet, or about the Almighty who arranges our day if we are following him?
  • Matt and I almost passed by the one person we were supposed to meet in Huntingdon. But Kevin's eyes, mind and heart were wide open. What might you miss in your own life if you are not fully awake and open?

See also:


14 January 2014

Come to the mountain

What are the basic rhythms of our lives as followers of Jesus? They involve coming into his presence and going in his Name, and that, really, is all there is to it. Following Jesus is not complex or hard; he says it is easy and that his burden is light and comfortable.

The view towards Coniston
The view towards Coniston
I was at a church meeting recently and The Holy Spirit gave me the words 'Come to the mountain'.

I knew that if I began by speaking these words out, the rest of the prophecy would follow, but I didn't feel it would be acceptable to just speak, and I knew that if I'd gone to the front and asked to share it, the moment would have gone and I'd have lost the flow.

There's an immediacy about prophecy that will not be denied. So I borrowed a pen and jotted the words down as they came. Here they are.

Come to the mountain. Come!

From the mountain comes your salvation.
From the mountain comes your holiness.
From the mountain comes your light.
From the mountain comes purpose, grace, glory, power, peace, love, honour, authority and hope.

Come to the mountain.

I AM that Mountain.
I AM the Rock of your salvation.
I AM dependable.
Now I say to you, go in my Name,
Go in the authority, grace, love and peace that I have poured out upon you.
Go into the world, for I AM with you.

I don't know that these would have been the words I would have spoken; they are almost certainly not. But the gist of the message is probably the same.

Coming and going - And it seems to me that coming to the Mountain and going into the world are at the heart of all that we do. Jesus says, 'Come to me everyone who is tired and struggling, I'm gentle and I'll give you rest. My load is light, the weight I lay on your shoulders is manageable and comfortable' (Matthew 11:28-30).

In coming to him we will also be gathering together. When we are where he is, we will inevitably find his other followers in that same place. We don't gather because we decide to be together, we gather around him. Moths don't gather as a cloud because they want to be together but because they are drawn to the light.

Does he send us out together? Yes he does. Jesus taught his followers to go out in twos (Luke 10:1-2). We are to go, not as a cloud around the Light who is Jesus, but in smaller groups. We do not go alone, we go in company, but we go in the company of a few.

So if we are attracted to him, we will be among many. But if we are obedient to him we will be among a few. And because we need to do both, sometimes we'll gather together and sometimes we'll go out with a few.

Basic rhythms of life - Coming into the Light and going in his Name are the basic rhythms of following Jesus [Tweet it!], they are the pattern of discipleship and missional living. These were the rhythms when he walked the dusty roads and hills of Galilee and Judaea with his followers, they were the same rhythms during the time of the early church, they are the basis of life for his persecuted people in China and Pakistan and Indonesia and many other places, and they are the same rhythms of discipleship and mission that the church in the West is beginning to rediscover.

So the call to all his people is twofold. 'Come to the Mountain' and 'Go into the world'. We are not truly following Jesus unless we are doing both. Come into his presence singing, 'Jesus is Lord'. Go into the world sharing in practical ways the good news that he is the Lord of love and of forgiveness and of freedom.

And rejoice! Again I say, rejoice!

Note: The photo was taken from near the top of Coniston Old Man, a mountain in the English Lake District. The view shows Coniston Water and the lovely little town of Coniston. Click the image for a larger view.

Questions:

  • Are you gathering around the Light? Are you going into the world? Consider if and how you do these things.
  • Is there anything you should change about your gathering and going? Pray about it.
  • When you are on a mountain you can see the country below laid out like a tapestry, you see it as a whole in a way you cannot do when you are in it. Is this significant for discipleship and mission? In what way?

See also:

12 January 2014

Sharing soup with strangers

Here's what happened when we took some tentative first steps in reaching out in Huntingdon. We enjoyed good soup, met interesting people, had some great conversations, and found that Jesus was with us and took us straight to the right places and people.


Huntingdon town centre
Huntingdon town centre
Back in December Sean told me that he wanted to do something positive for people on the streets.

Reading Chris Duffett's blog I'd found a story about Louise Frood, a young Baptist pioneer who had taken soup and bread onto the High Street looking for people who are hungry, lonely or willing to talk.

Sean had taken this very much to heart and wanted to do something similar. We decided there and then to put 5th January into our diaries and make a start.

Giving it a try - On Sunday 5th I drove over to Sean's with two large vacuum flasks and a pile of paper cups. Sean was already making leek and potato soup when I arrived and we filled the flasks, drove to Huntingdon, and set out to walk the streets from about ten o'clock.

It was a fresh morning, the shops were not yet open, and there were only a few people around. We walked down the High Street, looped around the back and returned. Then Sean suggested another street where he thought there would be someone selling the Big Issue and, sure enough, there was. We poured out some soup and sat on the pavement to talk, soon getting to know Richard a little and having some good conversation. We were with Richard for quite some time; when we decided to move on again he suggested we try the bus station.

Sure enough, the bus station is a warm place to go when the streets are cold and there we found Paul and Matt. Sean spent some time chatting with Paul, while I sat next to Matt and quickly discovered we had a lot in common. Matt has recently lost his job and has nowhere to live at the moment. He follows Jesus and has a similar understanding about church to Sean and me. All three of us have a strong sense that we are supposed to meet again; we are waiting to see where the Holy Spirit will lead us.

The results - Now, just a week later, Matt is using the spare room in my house and Sean is out on the soup run again. I can't make it today, but plan to be back in Huntingdon with him again next Sunday. Watch this space!

For me, the take-home message is that on our first day of obedience in taking soup to Huntingdon, Sean and I found three interesting people. A tiny amount of obedience led immediately to a remarkable result [Tweet it!]. Neither of us had the faith to expect such an outcome, both of us know we must continue whether or not amazing things like this happen every time.

In the end the outcome is not in our hands, but in Jesus' hands. He provides, he leads, he sends us but he also accompanies us. Who could want a greater guide and friend than that?

Questions: 
  • Are you willing to take a risk with your time, your money or your reputation?
  • Have you ever tried reaching people you don't already know?
  • What could you do to open up possibilities for conversation? How will you make significant contact?

See also:


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