Posts Tagged 'church'

Brickbat.

“I used to want to plant bombs at the last night of the proms.
But, now you’ll find me with the baby in the bathroom
With that big shell, listening for the sound of the sea.
The baby and me”.

From “Brickbat” by Billy Bragg.

 

Douglas Coupland entitled his 2001 novel, “All Families Are Psychotic”.  I think the title was memorable and connected with many of us.  It put a smirk on our faces.  It became a cult classic.

The thing is that we all belong to families.  They may be conventional nuclear families or a whole myriad of other set-ups.  You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.

I find it easy to think of church community as a family.  That has been my very real experience in the darkest hours of life or the most trying times.  My four best friends are like brothers to me.  I refer to them all as “bro” regularly.  Would we be as close if we didn’t share a common faith that bonds us that way?  Would my marriage be the way it is if I stopped reminding myself that I’ve to love my wife in the same way that Christ loves the church?  I think that means I’d be prepared to die for her.  That thought often puts tidying up after myself or other menial tasks in proper perspective…

Yesterday, however, Karl said something that really got me thinking.  I know many people find it hard to relate to the concept of God as a “Loving Heavenly Father”, because their own perceptions have been tarnished by the way their own Father’s are or have been.  Thankfully, that has not been my own experience.  That said, if our own experience of our earthly Father is the lense through which we see our Heavenly Father, then that’s a really big deal.

The thing that struck me right between the eyes is that the way in which my children will perceive the notion of Father God will be influenced hugely by how they perceive me.  Now, that’s a REALLY BIG deal!  I think fondly of happy, sun-speckled, cozy, snap shots of intimate moments with my little family unit, but I also recoil in the thoughts of those times when I’m at my whit’s end, hassled, grumpy and determined to get onto the next thing…

It’s good to have another hook to pull my attitude back into line…

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Life’s What You Make It

“Baby, life’s what you make it.

Celebrate it.

Anticipate it.

Yesterday’s faded.

Nothing can change it.

Life’s what you make it”

From “Life’s What You Make It” by Talk Talk.

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I’ve been thinking a lot in recent weeks about stories and how they help us make sense of our place in time and space.

We use metaphors to describe life.  I most frequently think of it as a journey.  What if it is a story? 

Famous people often get asked, “Who would play you in the film of your life story?”  What a bizarre question to be asked of the rest of us.  My life feels a lot more uneventful than how I imagined it might have played out when I was a teenager.  No international stardom for me.  My life often seems hum-drum and run of the mill, but I love it too.  When I stop to think about it, I realise there are shed loads of things to be thankful for.

As I think about my own story, I realise how often I shun or avoid the word “Christian” in certain company.  It holds so many negative connotations.  It is loaded with baggage which would lead people to jump to a whole bunch of assumptions about me and my world view – many of which would be wrong.  Maybe it’s time to reclaim what being a follower of Jesus is?

Our church leadership are an amazing bunch of folks.  I’ve seen little glimpses of so much that is done behind the scenes in recent weeks.  I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on a Sunday morning.  Karl concluded a four part series this week and his message about the restoration of all things was so refreshing, so engaging and so inspiring.  Why have we so often made it about something it’s not?  Isn’t it time to start living for what we believe in?

I recently heard someone pray for “death to religion”.  That may sound shocking to some, but I knew what they meant and couldn’t agree more.  What if we started to get a fresh vision for what we’re meant to be making of our lives?  To realise that we can invest our time and energies in things of significance and still enjoy life to the full. 

If history is ultimately a story, then as today fades to yesterday that itself forms part of the story.  We have the ability to write ourselves in or out.  Life’s what we make it.  Our decisions have consequences and we’re not meant to figure it all out alone.

Sometimes we need to humble ourselves and abandon ourselves to something bigger than us.  Today it was hugely meaningful for me to get past the awkwardness factor and to actually go to the front of our church and have one of the leaders place oil on my head and to pray for anointing.  To pray for a realisation that I am who I am and that I don’t need to pretend to be someone else.  There’s something heartening to realise that people who know our lifestyles can pray specifically into them.  To pray about: the situations I feel I can coast through on my own strength; the meetings and presentations that I feel more apprehensive about; my words and conduct in the day to day goings on of the office and the wider circle of people my work brings me in contact with; my role and responsibilities at home and in family life; the time I’ll spend with friends surfing this week. 

There’s something refreshing about stopping, being still and refocusing on how we live our day to day lives. 

Baby, life’s what you make it.

Metamorphis

Hello friend, it’s been some time,
Since I’ve sat at your table and drank your wine.
Worldly lies, empty skies,
But only you can satisfy

Can I be somebody? Not what they want me to be?
Just a pale reflection of what you want me to be”.

From “Metamorphis” by Delirious?


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Who would attend your ideal dinner party?  Who would provide interesting conversation as the aroma of strong coffee scented the room, as wine was drained to top up people’s glasses, as individuals dabbed their dampened fingers on their plates savouring every last crumb of food and as the wee small hours beckoned?  Whose stories would you want to gather in close around the table to hear unfold?  Whose pearls of wisdom would you relish to hear?  Whose jokes or stories would leave you laughing so hard that your sides ached as you gasped for breath and were left defenceless against as tears gathered in your moist eyes?

Eight of us gathered around our table one evening this week.  Feasting on a simple selection of nice breads, red wine and grape juice, great cheeses, light salad and meat.  There was something more than symbolic in the food we shared – the breaking of bread, the pouring of wine.  There was a recognition of provision, of daily bread.  Here was plenty with no need to be gluttonous.  There was a thankfulness not just for food, but for friendships which have developed, for community, for journeying together.  There was discussion of how the future might look and how we could encourage, affirm and support one another in that.  There was little that was superficial.  There was much that was real.

I got to thinking about all the other folks who come through our door, sit around our table or chat on the phone or via email or texts.  So many people whom I know life would be all the less rich for not knowing.  All the individuals who may look like their lives are attractive, who have loads to be thankful for, but whom all have their own battles to face:  hospitalised parents; broken family communication; a loss of confidence in the very institution they have committed their life’s study and work to; financial issues; miscarriages; prisons both metaphorically and physically; relationship issues; fear of facing an uncertain future alone; a realisation that life hasn’t played out the way they might have dreamed of when they were younger; struggles with sexuality; mental illness; sleep deprivation; pressure of employer expectation, to name but a few.

Life is complicated.  We’re not meant to face it alone.  I think we were made for relationship.  That doesn’t just mean boyfriends or girlfriends or life partners, but real and lasting friendships.  Accountability, encouragement, affirmation and mutual support.  I think it means community.  I think that for me church is not a place I go on Sundays (grateful as I am for that place and the leadership there) but the wider group I belong to – scattered throughout the country, facing different situations and periodically sat in one another’s company regaling tales, sharing food, listening intently and knowing we will walk back into our ordinary lives carrying those others with us in our hearts, minds and very spirits.

Ball Of Confusion

“When the only person talkin’ about love today is the preacher.

And he says, “Nobody gets you solid learning, but the teacher”.”.

From “Ball Of Confusion” by The Temptations (and superbly ripped apart and reconstructed with shards of feedback by Love And Rockets).

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I’ve really been chewing over things these past few days.  At church we’ve been looking at the whole topic of leadership.  Each and every one of us finds ourselves in positions of leadership at various points in time.  Often we face a crisis of leadership in politics, in economics, in home life…How well do we lead ourselves?

Our texts in recent weeks have come from 2 Chronicles.  I’ve discovered how little I know of these stories or their context.  Spending time really reading these chapters and the scribbles I have jotted down in my note book has been hugely helpful.

It has made me see afresh how fortunate I am to have gifted teachers and leaders who can make these stories come to life and can reveal lessons that I can seek to apply to my everyday life.  It has made me appreciate the books, podcasts, sermons, DVDs, blogs and a whole host of resources that are available to me.  I see afresh how precious the time I can spend alone in my lunch-hour with a notepad and my bible – taking some time out, gaining perspective, breathing in – actually is.  I really look forward to that part of my day now – not something ritualistic, but a little oasis of sorts.

Sometimes I wonder if there is a danger of putting leaders on pedestals?  Is there a longing within congregations to seek positions of leadership?  To hog a little limelight?  I’m reminded of the words from James Ch 3:1, “Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged by God with greater strictness.”  That makes me all the more thankful for those whom God has anointed and who have been obedient to that.  It also makes me wonder why, if God will judge, there are so many people who fill church buildings who are so ready to offer vociferous and less than humble opinions of the leaders and teachers within their churches or leaders and teachers in other churches?

In a world that still seems like a “ball of confusion” 39 years after The Temptations had a hit single by that name, the lyrics at the top of this post still ring true.  Why are we so slow to listen?  Why are we so slow to learn? 

There are so many “thank yous” owed.

Holiday

“Holiday.

Celebrate.”

From “Holiday” by Madonna.

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We’re counting how many sleeps till our second pilgrimage to Cornwall within the space of nine months.

The above photo bears some resemblance to what our family portrait might look like if we overindulge in clotted cream scones, Cornish pasties and Sharp’s Doom Bar.  Thank goodness for high metabolism and the knowledge that a wetsuit isn’t too flattering.  All things in moderation.

Here’s to sunny day-trips and surf being up.

Also looking forward to going to church here:-

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Bad Architecture.

“Let’s take them apart, all of these old beliefs and go back to the plans.

Burn them down to be rebuilt to house the lonely and the damned.

Bad architecture will never last”.  

From “Bad Architecture” by calamateur.

 

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I love the above song.  I love the lyrics, the picture language and the truth it conveys.

A structure can either be a vehicle or an obstacle.  We often say we love change, but settle for the comfort of what we know.  As a church community we are looking at restructuring things.  The current model works, but is it more than symbolic that we’ve outgrown our existing building and leased another building which has recently been sold which will leave us forced to look at relocating again?  We will be having to look afresh at buildings and structures physically and metaphorically. 

Existing properties can be functional, but outdated.  Better solutions can be found to the changing needs of those frequenting a building.  New ideas can transform things and a new design can make a positive impact upon its environment.  Good architecture can become something that attracts and is talked about positively.  It can become something cherished. 

I think it is proper to recognise the history of a church building and generations of community with thankfulness.  But, a vision received over 100 years ago may not be the same as the vision for the here and now or for the next 1, 10, 50 or 100 years.

It is exciting, but unsettling.  Are we willing to demolish something we love and have a vested interest in in order to bring new life?  As we move from a structure focused around small groups of people doing life together to forming groups centred around people with a common passion (known as Missional Expressions) what will the church gathered and scattered look like even twelve months from now?  What legacy will our actions now make for future generations? 

P.S Calamateur will be playing in Edinburgh for the first time in 3 years at The Lot, Grassmarket, Edinburgh on Easter Monday.  Tickets £5 on the door from 7.30.  It is guaranteed to be fantastic.

Here’s The Church

“Here’s the church,

and here’s the steeple.

Open the doors

and see all the people.”

From “Here’s The Church” nursery rhyme probably recited by anyone growing up in the 1970’s.

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It’s funny the things that stick with you from childhood.  I think the suggestion in the rhyme above is that as you open the church doors you will see the people inside.  Conversely, most church buildings are far from full on a Sunday.

This little rhyme actually contains some untruth.  The church is not the building.  Church is the people who associate themselves with it and commit to its vision.

Whilst I don’t believe churches should be ranked or graded on the number of people attending, the congregation I belong to have outgrown our building and, at present, we hire a larger building to host two of our Sunday services.  The building we hire is just down the road from our own building and in the same neighbourhood.  It doesn’t have a baptistry, so whenever we host a baptismal service we have to hire yet another congregation’s building.  This other building is on a main arterial route in the heart of a commercial part of the city.  Every time I leave that building, I can’t help but be hit by the contrast outside and in.  The power of what happens in those services seems completely lost amidst the hustle and bustle of life outside. 

As the rhyme goes, “Open the doors and see all the people”.

Maybe more of our focus needs to be directed toward the people outside?


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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