28 March 2015

Watching the potter

Watching a potter at work can be very interesting. You will see a creator at work, a process of making, and you may see much more than that. If your eyes and ears and mind are fully open, who knows what you might see? So read on and pay attention.

Theaster Gates
Theaster Gates
Yahweh told Jeremiah to go to the potter's house and watch him at work, and that he would speak to him while he was there. Read about this in Jeremiah 18:1-6.

Sometimes, seeing something acted out makes it very much clearer than just hearing the message. For Jeremiah, seeing the pot crumple and the potter start the making process all over again spoke volumes about Israel's future.

We can (and should) also apply this to our own lives as individuals. We are jars of clay intended to hold a precious treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7). But Father will mould us and remould us as he sees fit, until we are suitable for his purpose.

In the words of an old song
Go down to the house of the potter
Watch him work the clay
Listen to what I say as you watch him

Go down to the house of the potter
Watch him turn the wheel
Know that's how I feel as I'm working.
Having said all that, I'd now like you to watch a video of Theaster Gates (a potter by trade) as he transforms more than a lump of wet clay. He takes what he's learned about making and moulding and transforms an entire city district. It's a work of redemption.

Jesus is the great Redeemer, he remoulds and remodels as necessary. We are made in his image, and we are learning to walk as he walks (we are his disciples). As you watch the video consider how it feels to be a redeemer, how it affects places and people. And ask yourself an important question:

What can I redeem? What places and people can I rescue, encourage, bring new life to? It's not likely to begin with an entire city block, but it might begin small and grow. Who knows where it will end?

It's easier than you think. Be brave, be very bold. Go and redeem something. Don't wait. Begin now, today! And as you begin, let Jesus lead you.

Here's the video...

13 March 2015

Pictures and music

I was delighted to discover some really great cards by Hannah Dunnett. I bought several of them for friends and soon found the Dunnett's website where Ben and Hannah provide more information and sell their material online. Hannah is an artist, Ben is a musician.

One of Hannah Dunnett's cards
Some time ago Donna and I visited the lovely old city of Bath, and we decided to have a coffee at St Michael's Without in Broad Street. And there we found a selection of Hannah's cards again.

I want to make you aware of Ben and Hannah's beautiful work because it deserves to be much more widely seen and heard. Not only is it all available to order and in a growing number of retail outlets, but Ben and Hannah have made everything available online, pictures and music too.

You will need to buy their products for the full quality, but you can also enjoy it for free. I predict that having tasted it, most people will end up buying prints or CDs.

Hannah's cards - Hannah paints stylised designs with words from the Bible in sweeping curves. She makes these available as greetings cards, high quality art prints, and posters. The picture above is a design called 'God of all Comfort'.

Because of the carefully chosen words these cards are not just beautiful in their own right, they also bear the stamp of a loving Creator. From the picture above we read, 'I will sustain you, I will give you rest, I will carry you, [I] will be with you, I call to you'. And there is much, much more. Words of great comfort from the One who is quick and ready to bring great comfort.

Ben's music - Ben is a music teacher and examiner. He writes some delightful melodies and is clearly a gifted pianist. If the worship albums and the children's album are anything to go by he's also very talented in laying down individual tracks to build up a full backing for songs.

You will find everything here from reflective, gentle melody to robust rhythms good for dancing, and great lyrics provided by Hannah.

St Michael's Without - I simply can't close this post without saying more about this lovely Anglican church in Bath. Everything about the place is delightful. The interior has been modified to make a quiet space for coffee, cakes, books and a comfortable place to sit. The website soon makes it clear that the people are delightful too.

They are evidently active in the local community in many ways. They seem to be conscious of the need for gentleness and peacefulness in everything. They are careful and deliberately slow in making changes trying to 'avoid the rush which undermines friendship'. They pray about everything in love.

If you are visiting Bath, try to make the time to drop in to spend a little while experiencing the peace and the fragrance of this lovely place and the people who make it what it is - a little piece of heaven right here on earth. Just like Hannah's pictures and Ben's music.

Questions: 
  • Are there ways you can be a little piece of heaven for those you meet today?
  • Might there be 'difficult' people in your life you could make an extra effort to bless?
  • How does Hannah's artwork and Ben's music make you feel?
  • Does it help you find the peace you need to become a blessing to others?

See also: 

28 February 2015

We've run out of wine.

< Drawn to the light | Index | No later items >

I'd like to introduce you to Jesus, but I don't want to persuade or cajole you. In fact, I don't intend to tell you what to think at all. Instead, I want you to see for yourself what he is like and then make up your own mind what you think.

An empty bottle
An empty bottle
We're going to begin with a bar malfunction at a wedding. The drink runs out. This particular wedding was two thousand years ago in Galilee, now part of northern Israel. But the planning was not thorough. I'm sure you know the feeling. You've laid on a big event. The invitations have gone out. The day has come. People are enjoying themselves. And then you run out of something essential - like 
wine.

A wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, ‘They have no more wine.’

‘Woman, why do you involve me?’ Jesus replied. ‘My hour has not yet come.’

His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from eighty to a hundred and twenty litres.

Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water’; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, ‘Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.’

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’

That's the story straight from the Bible - John 2:1-10, New International Version (NIV). I have four questions for you. Try to get the answers out of the story you've just read, you'll need to consider all the characters. What did they say? What did they do? What did they think?

  • What does this tell you about people?
  • What does this tell you about Jesus?
  • Is there anything here for you to follow or do?
  • Who else needs to hear this?

< Drawn to the light | Index | No later items >

19 February 2015

Local groups meeting informally

This page lists simple and organic church groups meeting in and around St Neots (within a twenty mile radius). At least, it lists those I'm aware of; if you are part of a group not listed here please let me know and I will add your details. (Where there are no contact details, get in touch through me, Chris Jefferies, 07775 850783).

  • Bedford
  • Brington
  • Great Doddington
  • Northampton, Paul Veitch, 0745 109 2222
  • Oundle
  • St Neots, Chris Jefferies, 07775 850783 (3 meetings)

09 February 2015

Earth-Moon ballet

This animation of the Earth-Moon system was made available by the BBC. The animation was produced by NASA.

This has to be seen by as many people as possible; it truly puts our planet into a different perspective. While you watch, remember that the entire Earth-Moon system that you see here is itself orbiting around the sun, which in turn is orbiting the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, which in turn is heading slowly towards an interaction with the Andromeda galaxy. If that doesn't inspire awe, nothing will!

02 February 2015

Loving more fully and widely (Repost)

Here's another reposted article, this time from 26th October 2012. It was originally part of a chain blog. I've removed the material related to that, but you can read the original if you want to see it.

British currency
One another - Today we're going to see how much we can draw from a single occurrence of the phrase 'one another'. Romans 13:8 is the particular example we'll consider.

Here it is in context, verse eight is in italics...

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.

Wider context - There's a wider context too, that we need to bear in mind. Paul first writes about civil government, making it clear that goverments are there because the One who is Authority puts them there. They have a function and a purpose, we must submit to them.

Then come the verses above.

And finally Paul writes that time is short, we need to act now while we still can. Jesus is returning - soon! We need to be found ready and obedient and already covered by him. Romans 13 is relevant in its entirety. We should read this chapter often and let it sink deep into our hearts and minds!

Three statements - But in verse eight, Paul makes three statements.

  • Don't let any debt remain.
  • Continue to love one another
  • This fulfils the Law

What does he mean? He is not simply saying that I should pay off any debts I owe. He is saying that I should allow no debt to stand. He is saying I should pay my own debts but I should also, if necessary, pay yours. The important thing about debt is that it is paid, the effect is the same no matter who pays.

Jesus paid my debt so if I want to be like him I will pay yours. And Paul is not writing merely about money, he has just explicitly used the words respect and honour as well. These things apply to one another as much as (or more than) they do to governments.

There are to be no debts amongst us, not only because we pay them off but because we forgive them. When I lack the means to pay I become dependent on your willingness to forgive. Jesus is our example in this. He is the ultimate debt payer and forgiver. We are called to be like him in our dealings with one another.

Will I pay my monetary debt to you? Will I forgive your debt of money to me? But also (and often harder) will I pay the respect and honour I owe to you? And will I forgive you if you disrespect and dishonour me? This is the nitty-gritty of not allowing any debt to remain.

If I continue to love you I will indeed pay and forgive in all situations where debt might remain. Love will cause me, compel me to cover every kind of debt. If not, do I have love at all?

The debt that remains - And it goes further yet! Paul writes that there is one debt that should stand, the 'continuing debt to love one another'.  Love is not just for today but also for tomorrow and for tomorrow's tomorrow. I owe you love and that is a debt I cannot pay off. Love goes forward without ceasing. 'Faith, hope and love remain', writes Paul, 'And the greatest of these is love'. Love remains, even in the kingdom of heaven, especially in the kingdom of heaven.

So, just as love is the fulfilment of Torah, so love is the fulfilment of civil law and indeed every kind of law. If I truly love I will not be able to commit any sin at all. The fact that sin remains is just a clear sign that love is not yet complete in me.

Let's go forward in our lives understanding that love remains and is greater than anything else. And let's remember who 'one another' means. It's not limited to the church.

Jesus made it pretty inclusive. What begins with brothers and sisters becomes all encompassing. Love the Father, love one another, love your neighbour, love your enemy. My love is to extend out and become fully inclusive, not in any way for club members only. 'One another' is just a starting point, the nursery slopes of loving.

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