Posts Tagged 'morningside baptist church'

The Question Is Complete.

“Your lack of faith is useless…”

From “The Question Is Complete” by Aereogramme.

It’s that time of year again…the papers and television shows chronicle the highlights and lowlights of the year fading out.  We look back before looking forward.

How would you sum up 2009?  What words or pictures would you use?  What were the defining moments?  Could you make sense of them at the time?

Mine is here.  It’s a post I wrote on this blog back in April.  It all seems so much clearer now as another year ends.  The third interpretation in the blog post seems to ring true.  As 2009 ebbs away I have laid down worship leading and small group leading.  Family life will change in 2010 as we eagerly await a new arrival in May.  Work brings new responsibilities and new contacts – even with surveyors who share my love of surfing!

The lure of the sea with all its symbolism pans large on my horizon and I’ve been spending much less time on my blog and much more getting this off the ground.

Here’s to the New Year!

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Sweet Thing.

“And I will raise my hand up
Into the night time sky.
And count the stars
That’s shining in your eye.
Just to dig it all an’ not to wonder why.
That’s just fine.
And I’ll be satisfied
Not to read in between the lines.
And I will walk and talk
In gardens all wet with rain
And I will never, ever, ever, ever
Grow so old again”.

From “Sweet Thing” by Van Morrison.

Is it just me, or does the pace of life step up a gear every December?  A constantly growing “to-do” list of presents to buy, places to be, people to see…all before we collapse into an exhausted heap come the holidays or the period when we get our space back to ourselves.

I seem to be juggling a bunch of things at the moment.  For the most part they are good things – things I am glad to be a part of.  I am looking forward to laying some of them down in coming weeks though…

Karl has talked a lot about the speed at which God moves.  Is it faster than the speed of light or sound?  Yes.  Is it slower than we often want?  Yes.  Is it at the speed of life?  Yes.  Is it at the speed of love?  Yes.  What is that?

Last night on my way from the office to another appointment I blew a puncture on my bike.  It forced me to stop – to think – to walk and talk with God.  When I looked beyond the Christmas lights, I noticed that the sky was clear and the moon and stars were bright.  The air was cold and sharp (0.5 degrees) and it was strangely refreshing and invigorating.  I dropped my agenda and was in a much better head-space when I arrived at my next destination.

Sometimes we just need to slow down.  Maybe the speed of love is 3 miles per hour.. That is the speed we walk at.

My next stop was to inhabit a, somewhat, secret place and just to be still.  To think, to reflect and to pray.  The two of us who met had a really useful bit of time out as we turned our eyes away from ourselves and towards others for whom we are grateful and to whom we would love to be good news.

This Is The Sea

“These things you keep
You’d better throw them away.
You wanna turn your back
On your soulless days.
Once you were tethered
And now you are free.
Once you were tethered.
Well, now you are free.
That was the river.
This is the sea!”

From “This Is The Sea” by The Waterboys.

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I’ve written about the concept of “missional expressions” on my blog before. 

It is the direction our church community is moving in.  Groups of folks clustered around a post-code, people group or shared interest and trying  naturally to be distinct – to bring flavour, to preserve that which is good, to shine a little light in the darkness.  To be outward looking rather than insular.

The leadership asked us to float ideas and the first eleven or so are about to be rolled out and tested between now and February.  So here’s what I’m looking at being a catalyst for:

Soul Surfers –  An opportunity for Christians who surf (or who would like to learn how to) to arrange to do so together.  We will look outwards, intentionally building natural friendships in the surf community and inviting non-Christian friends to join us. We will encourage and support each other, “doing life together”.  We’ll spend time getting to know each other, including our non-churched friends, to live our lives as open books and to build familiarity with those we come in contact with”.

Want to join me in sussing out if there is any mileage in this? 

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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?

Must I Paint You A Picture? (Part 2)

“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.

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This forms the second part of  two halves.  The previous post can be linked here.  It explains an exercise we did when half of those gathered at a meeting a few weeks ago were asked to face a wall, unaware of who would then stand behind them and to ask God to reveal a picture, verse or impression that they should share with the person behind them.

I was stood behind someone I’ve never met before, but whom I know is held in high regard by many in our congregation.  He said that he felt he had seen a picture of a fruit tree –  a peach tree –  and that the fruit was really ripe.  What does it mean?  I think I know what it relates to, but I’m not sure what the interpretation is.

I guess I’d been thinking ahead of the meeting about how my life looks in terms of how I spend my time.  It is largely taken up by work, family and church commitments.  Despite the pressure of work deadlines, I am trying to find time for the things of God in all of that – whether it’s to work with all my best efforts, to influence the office culture or environment or to catch up socially with people I ought to.  I sometimes I wonder how much of a witness I am at work as I often just have my head down trying to maintain focus and get things done…Right now things are very demanding and many evenings are spent back in the office (after I’ve made it home to have meal with my family and be their for my daughter’s bath time) with me eventually making it home only to collapse into bed.  It’s not always like that, but right now is one of those periods.

Family life is great and there’s loads to be thankful for, but, it still demands (rightly) a huge amount of my time and energy.

Church life is also busy with organising, preparing for and facilitating a weekly small group, preparing and leading the music parts of our evening services once a month, helping drum at a friend’s church service once a month and assisting us find a property solution to our growing congregation.

Maybe the picture means that as I grow older, I am growing into the person I am meant to be?  Maybe the fruits of the spirit are more evident in my life than they once were? (that sounds pious and unlikely as I know I still have a long way to go)  Maybe, as I use these different skills I have been gifted with, it is pleasing to God?

Maybe the picture means that the fruit is ripe and is to be enjoyed by others – the benefactors of my efforts?

Maybe the fruit is ripe and ready to fall?  Maybe I have grown to fullness in some of these areas of life and it is time to hand those things over before the fruit gets over-ripe and rots?  Maybe the tree was overladen?  My gut instinct is that it is this latter interpretation that is more accurate of how life actually is right now.

We then went to pray in groups of three.  As we shared something for prayer, we were encouraged to wait in silence for a minute or two – again asking God to reveal whether there was anything He wanted us to share – a picture, a scripture, an impression, etc and then to share that with the person being prayed for, to see if it resonated and then to pray into that. 

When asked what people could pray for for me, I shared something of the above (not the picture – just the question about whether I am doing all that I ought to be or whether I should do less and do it better?).  One of the guys praying said that after the moment or two of silence he just sensed the word “blessing” and that is what I was to others.  He talked particularly of my role in leading music at church (which was an encouragement as I’d been a bit frustrated and discouraged by the previous Sunday night’s service). 

My wife was also in the group and she thought she saw a picture of a jigsaw which had a picture of the sea on it.  The corner piece was missing to complete the picture and there were a few final pieces piled on top of the bigger picture, so she couldn’t see exactly what the picture was…

One of the most helpful things I have done in my Christian life of late was a thing called the Network Course.  It helps explore, establish and affirm natural abilities and spiritual gifts,  From it I learned that my gifts are creative communication, faith and encouragement.  At the time I was leading worship once a month and that seemed like a natural outlet for these things.  I used to try and tell stories or set the scene or use DVD clips to help communicate and encourage us all into God’s presence.  As church has grown, I seem to spend less time doing those things as others try to cram loads of announcements, testimonies, DVD clips, etc into the space we have.  I spend more time just getting lost in my drumming and I concentrate on doing that as well as I can.  I found myself leading worship when our church was a very different place to what it is now.  We were really short of gifted musicians back then and short of folks who wanted to see something more contemporary happen musically.  I stepped into  a gap, explored it, felt anointed and forgiven when I made mistakes.  I wonder if that was a role for a season and whether there are others who could more naturally organise and lead that whilst I revert to just getting stuck back into my drumming?  Is that what this is all about? 

Maybe my blog is a good means of communicating creatively for someone as softly spoken as me?  Maybe hosting our small group and helping facilitate something like the art project linked here is more fitting just now?

Would that give me more time to feed my soul in other ways?  As an individual and as a family we love being near water.  Would that give me the time to spend with my family on the beach or by the sea?  To enjoy the view?  To walk and shoot the breeze?  The sea is a powerful image for me due to my love of padlling about and falling off my surfboard and also because of a recurring dream I had when I was going through a particularly difficult period about 10 years ago.  There is something about the vastness of the sea that enables me to see how big and awesome God is and how small I am.  Why is that picture incomplete?

What does it all mean???

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.

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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…


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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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