Posts Tagged 'karl martin'

Must I Paint You A Picture? (Part1)

“Must I paint you a picture

About the way that I feel?

You know my love for you is stronger.

You know my love for you is real.”

From “Must I Paint You A Picture?” by Billy Bragg.


A couple of weeks back we had a small group leaders’ meeting at church to help us to assist our small groups to pray together.  Exciting, huh?

Well, that ironic tone was kind of my attitude ahead of the meeting if I’m honest.  I mean, our little collective have started meeting weekly rather than fortnightly and tried to place more of an emphasis on praying on alternate weeks – but have we really embraced it?  We know that it is right and important, but the topic isn’t that gripping is it?  Yet, when Karl has commented that we can get 1000 people through our services on a Sunday and only a handful at the church prayer meeting it does beg a whole bunch of questions.  Why do we think it’s boring?  Do we really believe it changes things?  Do we need to learn to pray in new and different ways?

Anyhow, the session was led by Ollie Clegg from Holy Trinity in Wester Hailes and was truly awesome.  Man, he has some amazing stories to tell.  He made me realise how much of my prayer life is still a one way conversation.  How much time do I actually spend in silence or listening?

He split us into two groups.  One group had to face the wall and close their eyes.  The rest of us had to stand behind them, guys behind guys and girls behind girls.  Many of us didn’t know the person in front of us and the person facing the wall had no idea who was behind them.  We then spent a few moments in silence just asking if God had anything He wanted to show us or say.  Then all the people facing the wall had to turn around and just tell the other person whatever impression, picture or verse of scripture had come to mind.  Before you think we are a bunch of wackos, none of us were used to this kind of thing.  People shared sheepishly, but did so nonetheless.  When Ollie asked how many of those who shared stuff were encouraged? – almost all the hands went up.  Same reaction for those who had received from those who had been facing the wall.  Then we all swapped over, albeit everyone shuffled so that, once again, those now facing the wall didn’t have a clue who was behind them.

Later we split into groups of three.  We asked what someone wanted prayer for.  Rather than barging right in there, we spent a minute or two in silence asking God for a picture or verse or impression.  We then shared whatever we had got and asked if it connected with the person in any way? Then we prayed into it.  It was hugely helpful.

I have tried praying this way for the past couple of weeks.  I have had two pretty clear pictures for folks – one of which I will share with the family involved, because I think it will bring encouragement – the other I won’t because I think, just like a previous picture and dream I have had for that person, it serves to remind me to keep praying for them – even if at times I feel like my prayers fail to collide with their situation…



“The further away I get

The sharper are the lines

You need some distance

To help you redefine”

From “Stop” by Mega City Four


Maybe I’m undertaking far too much navel gazing this first week of January but holidays and space away from the normal routine always bring me perspective.  I’ve been thinking about the changes I sought to bring into my life 12 months ago.  As is normal for me, I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions per se at the start of 2008, but during the year I did resolve to do some things differently.

During my first surf of 2008, I discovered that I’d lost a bit of my fitness.  From the summer onwards I decided to get up earlier and go out for a run, typically doing 2 miles every second morning and doing weights every alternate morning.  I’ve always been a morning person and parenthood has shattered any illusion of needing 7 or 8 hours sleep to function.  I also recognised that I wasn’t being disciplined in reading my bible, so I would use the time in the mornings before my wife and daughter awoke to spend some time reading that in silence and without distraction.  It was all well meaning, but when combined with a long ongoing period of my daughter awakening any time between 3 and 4 am and sleep being totally disrupted between then and 7am, I exited 2008 totally whacked.  The reality is that I have ringing in my ears in the evening thinking I can hear our daughter calling for us.  Maybe that’s a side effect of listening to too many loud Sonic Youth records.  We often collapse into bed with no idea of how much or little real sleep we will get.  I took comfort in Karl’s words on Sunday about “parenting being the most difficult thing in the world”, although it is also equally one of the best things.

A combination of everyday conversations with friends, conviction about my reliance upon my car from an environmental stance, a stand-up comedy DVD by Rob Newman, my desire to keep fit and to gain more sleep and a recent sermon on “Green Issues and Justice” have led to something else I have resolved to do differently in 2009 without getting all guilt-driven about it.  The below shows some more navel gazing (neither of which are mine!)


Hoping cycling can also reach the parts that most turkey, mince pies and associated grazing reach, I could have asked Santa for a shiny new bike, but the collision of a couple of Karl’s recent sermons and a great article in Surfers’ Path re-directed my thinking to the “re-use” part of the reduce, reuse, recycle equation.   So: reduce CO2 ommissions whilst increasing the amount of sleep I am getting and staying fit; re-use my 14 year old bike and ask Santa for panniers, new lights and a hi-viz jacket it was instead; and just cycle.

Week one – 4 days on the bike versus one in the car.  Which journey did I dislike most?  – The one in car.  Even a heated car cabin and Ida on the iPod couldn’t compete with the exhilaration of the bike ride in on a frosty morning.  Seeing snow fall later in the day with the realisation that the home journey would also be done in shorts only made me smile…Oh yeah, and I made it into work quicker than a colleague who drove in from further along our street and there was great joy in overtaking his car on several occasions.  It’s amazing how much pleasure the simple things bring…

New Year


“So this is the new year.
And I don’t feel any different.
The clanking of crystal
Explosions off in the distance (in the distance).

So this is the new year
And I have no resolutions
For self assigned penance
For problems with easy solutions”

From “New Year” by Death Cab For Cutie

New Year is a funny time of year.  A time for new starts or false dawns, happy memories or painful regrets.  Time to be with the ones we love or to feel alone in a crowd… Edinburgh holds a huge street party were a majority celebrate by getting drunk – possibly to forget the disappointment of the year gone by and to escape the fears of the year ahead or, possibly,  just because it is the expected norm.

So here we are, the 5th of January 2009 – the first day back to work.  The sense of childhood memories of the end of the long school holidays.  Maybe there’s something still wrapped up in the season of goodwill, but there is something nice about most of the country taking a holiday at the same time.  You come back to work without the dread of hundreds of unopened emails and phone messages. 

It’s a time of year when we look back.  We look forward and wonder.  Often we make lame promises to ourselves to do things differently – but for how long?

I love the time just to regain perspective.  Holidays usually do that for me.  But what will I/we commit to do differently in 2009?  Who will I/we determine to be?

Karl shared some thoughts at our little community gathering yesterday that really challenged and struck home.  He talked about the story of Caleb from Joshua ch 14.  He challenged us that the Bible doesn’t often tell the stories of half-way dwellers – the Bible tends to focus on folks who are on top of the mountain or down in the valley. 

The temptation with being neither up nor down, is that it somehow feels safer or less risky.  Maybe it’s like at the time of the transfiguration.  We are tempted to pitch a tent and enjoy the view rather than returning to the world into which we were sent (to paraphrase the excellent “White Light Unkown” by Calamateur)…

I can look back to New Year’s Day 1992 and know that I was in a place where I wanted to journey forward – not to set up camp or become spiritually stunted.  My whole life lay before me – I didn’t have a clue what I’d do career wise, all my friends had paired off and I felt like a gooseberry or left on the shelf.  I spent time in solitude putting it all before God.  I believe to this day that as I prayed about relationships and girlfriends, He showed me the person I would next go out with and gave me such a peace about it.  Nine months later we did start going out.  16 years later we have been married for over 11 years and have a beautiful daughter.

The challenge for me now, just as it was then, is not to get too comfortable and to settle for anything less than all He has for me.  That is a daily choice and the outworkings will have ramifications not just for me, but for those around me.  I need to live by my convictions and to know my intrinsic value to God.  That is not something pious, but something very humbling.  As the old hymnal goes, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…”

In a life full of busyness and noise, do I order my day in a way that looks like someone wanting to hear from God?

Wonder (part 2)

On the first post in this short series, I was wondering about the notions of things not being right in the world and the role of church and state…you can link to that here.

Growing up in Scotland, I found it a strange concept to understand that for many Americans if they labelled themselves “Christian”, then that generally also directed which political party they voted for (a generalisation, I know).  It’s also strange that when I have found myself in a voting booth and presented with an option to vote for a specifically “Christian” party outwith the main political parties or an independent candidate using “Christian” as an adjective for their manifesto, that the first thing that comes into my head is, “they must be dodgy”.  That’s probably hugely unfair, but it goes to show how prejudiced my natural response can be at times.

So, Church and State…What are our experiences of these?  For a glimpse into my experience, please click on the arrow below.


“It’s gonna be a glorious day”

From “Lucky” by Radiohead

When Thom Yorke delivers the above line, it is a crecendo which soars and lifts my spirit.

Today I was awoken by the my daughter’s calls for me which have become my Sunday morning alarm.  Once I got focused, I realised that I had a heart and head full of content thoughts having spent the last two evenings in the company of important friends, chatting to the wee small hours over good food and red wine. 

After a read of yesterday’s Guardian whilst my daughter watched a little TV, I pulled on my jeans and wind-cheater and strolled down the road to our favourite, nearby, cafe to pick up fresh coffees and pastries.  The sun was still low in the sky and bright enough for me to squint into it for most of the walk.  The air had that frosty chill when you inhale deeply followed by steam exiting my nostrils.  My Bloody Valentine provided a perfect sound-scape from my headphones as I tried to dampen the muffled sound of the passing cars and their long shadows.  There were copper leaves in the gutter and middle aged women carefully delivering communion galsses to the local church.

Sunday is often referred to as a day of rest.  We had the best laid plans of making it to the early service at 9.30 as my wife was heading off to a class with a friend at 12.  We were nowhere near making 9.30 and had thought of just ditching the 11.15 service in exchange for a family day together and, maybe, a drive in the car listening to last week’s sermon on iTunes.  20 minutes before the 11.15 service, our nearly four year old started saying how much she wanted to go to church.  Five minutes later the two of us were properly dressed and bundled into the car with her singing “Worthy, You Are Worthy” the whole way there.  (It is usually that, or “The Milkman of Human Kindness” from the child seat these days and either is fine with me).

We made it to church on time and joined some close friends in the pew.  The music was great and my daughter was desperate to go down the front and do some actions she had learned to “Worthy You Are Worthy”, before disappearing to Sunday Club all by herself like a proper little indie pop kid.

The sermon was powerful.  Our Senior Pastor Karl noted, “We are here today because God brought you here”.  I was there because my insistent nearly 4 year old wanted to be at church enough to kick my butt into action and I am more than grateful to her for it.  As I type this, my wife has headed out to the evening service to hear the same sermon.  As I look at the scribbled notes I took during the sermon, I wonder what specifically I was meant to hear?  What is to be illuminated to me and how will I respond?

The afternoon was spent helping my daughter on her bike, aping around in crunchy, fallen, leaves, playing in the swing-park, eating a late lunch and playing “nurseries” whilst being scolded any time I tried to sneak off to play my drums.

All in all, it has been a glorious day. 

I once heard Rob Bell deliver an amazingly helpful sermon on what it means to keep the Sabbath.  He described it as “the day when my work is complete, even if it’s not”.  A time to intentionally set aside the things that so often consume us, to rest and be fed instead.  He encouraged the listeners to find out what feeds their souls and to do that.  For me, I really miss church if I’m not there on a Sunday – not out of any sense of religious guilt, but, simply because it is a great place to be.  A place where I am accepted, stimulated, challenged and leave with a bunch of thoughts and ideas scribbled in my notebook and bouncing around my  head.

Feeding my soul might include anything from spending a lazy day with my family, a cozy afternoon in our home with the rain drumming off the skylights or paddling out into the sea on my surfboard to try and catch some waves – just feeling small in the vastness of nature, but fully alive.  And yet, any of those activities would take second place for me when compared with getting to one of our Sunday services.

Morrisey once beautifully sang, “Every day is like Sunday.  Every day is silent and grey”.  I no longer see Sundays or Sabbaths as something to be endured, but rather as something to be embraced.  As the Icicle Works put it “Love is full of wonderful colour”…or as REM put it, “That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight losing my religion”.  But, what I have found is something stripped of tradition and ritual and yet appreciative of what those things point to or can help with.  My faith has felt more alive and stimulated in the last three or four years than it has done in a quite some time.

RSS What I’m Listening To

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
"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
Blog for Amnesty - Protect the Human