Christianity maybe should be painful

Let me state my case, I am not a liberal christian. I don’t soften his words to make them easier to live with. When he says I am the way the truth and the life and nobody comes to the father except through me. He meant it.

I don’t try and diffuse or deny his miracles, I am born again, he does rule my life. Atheists are just plain wrong and live in a world that’s just been made man size.  The logic they have demands god jump through hoops to prove to them that he exists.

I get annoyed when fellow Christians say things which are harsh to fellow man, when they start sentences with “should they come over here”, “why would we help them”. When they take an aspect of someone and use it as a stick to beat them with.  IE He/she is a refugee, lbgt, right wing, greedy, a banker, a criminal whatever.

Why does that annoy me? Because its simple, this thing he said. ““I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other just as I loved you. 35 All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.”
Really people, he said that a LOT whats hard to grasp. If you’re not doing that, then your doing it wrong. You go to church each Sunday, you will hear it, you wont hear repentance but you will hear that. So what’s confusing you?

Love them, so that people know you’re his followers by the way you love them.

Also god numbers the hairs on your head, so don’t refer to people as groups, black, gay, refugee? Your not  a WASP (white anglo saxo protestant) in Gods eyes, he knew you before you were in the womb (psalm 139). So that’s a clue when you blurt out generalizations.

Also don’t hide it from work, friends, Facebook, twitter, costa coffee. Its not a dirty secret, and if you’re worried about how people will stereotype you?   Then Stereotypes happen when people leave a vacuum to be filled by people who never knowingly met a real live christian that isn’t in the closet.

You know we carry in us the greatest gift the world could have, the secret to all its problems. The love of god. If its painful for people to hear it and painful for you to say it?
Then that’s a small price to pay for the love he has shown you and the duty he put on you for his sacrifice.

Why would it be painful?

Because the world wants to hear about and hear others tell them that greed and self protection, and me first, consumerism, exclusivity, singularity, personality, pride and self preservation from a man made source. It wants to hear you make the future and you can make your own little  moral system that makes the world work. Miss out the bits your not very good at and your off.

Your job is not to smile wanly at that point and swim with the fishes. In fact for all of those things your sposed to be visibly swimming the other direction. That Hurts, your a primate, and they go with the group. But we don’t.

Those things I call the “titanic morality system”. See Man thought he was greater than the sea, he had built an unsinkable ship, and so with great pride (the greatest sin) he sets off certain that science and engineering and his own intellect will save him. We know the rest.

Lastly his book?

He meant it. Every single word of it, bar none, specially the bits the world dislikes. There are some cases where he rewrote it, where you can see a sentence can be used two ways, where one comment probably shouldn’t be literal and used to batter a section of society with. But its not “inspired by” its written by god. All the people were that wrote it, were no more than gods “pen” at that instance.

However WHATEVER its says and WHOEVER you think falls foul of the sins that get YOU judging, your job is to LOVE THEM, welcome them, feed, clothe, include, cherish, share, and give too. Miss any of that list out for anyone you meet in or outside your congregation? Your doing it wrong.

So its wonderful being his, its great handing over so many of the fears, its also really hard and difficult, and not meant to be a thing that’s going to make you fit in all the time. But you will if you’re doing it right be giving love to the world, and if you’re really spot on that means “what you give so shall you receive in good measure”.

God blessed you, god chose you, he wont let you go, go shine your light.
The world needs a torch!

Humility – Part One.

This blog is actually as a result of last years Lent course.
Our group asked what is humility?

My reflections on that very subject finally sort of come together in this blog…

Humility is made a very difficult concept by so many because they are looking for a clause in the contract. A way to make his view even when clearly stated in scripture match our worldly view. When Jesus challenges the latest societal diktat, or when his view challenges our view of whats loving, kind, or even cruel.

It makes me wonder the logic of it, for some Christians who hold on to secular and worldly ideals and ethical ideal we learn.

Why? because Jesus often does battle with all the learned behavior we assimilate. His ways are not our ways.

That behavior we learn and copy from the world, from others,  can be what we see and have learned, as the right thing to do, or as the wrong thing to do.

When we first come to Jesus we take on board that he is both divine and human, a son of god come down to earth to reconcile humanity to God.  Most realize repentance is required, forgiveness and love for our fellow man.

For a while we walk around in the joy of his love and then we start to understand more of what he means  (mat 13:12) and he asks more of us.

Then it becomes a little more painful. We start to see our past stripped of all the layers of self delusion we use to come to terms with what we did and who we were. Through his eye’s and with his love he shows us where we fell short of his standards and the lies we tell about ourself.

These self deceptions aren’t in the most terrible lies, just small ones that go to build our own mythology. They enable us to see ourselves as better than we are, more kind, more honest, heroic, brave whatever than we actually are.

This stripping down, is usually as a result of Prayer where we ask him to make us able to follow his example.  Because as long as we see ourselves as strong, intelligent, brave, caring without his help we can’t be what he wants us to be. We can’t see ourselves as the repeat offenders that we are while we construct layer after layer of excuses.

These excuses happen as a result of pride, and pride always seeks to cover embarrassment, anger, condemnation of others with , or by constructing our own mythology. Pride justifies ourselves by comparing it to our own faulty self image. I am not that bad, I can’t be wrong, I cant admit, how can that be true, no that’s not right.

In Matthew five, Jesus begins his beatitudes with the sentence “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

See going to his kingdom requires repentance. Seeing ourselves as who we truly are as he holds a mirror up to us.  Then as we see all our weaknesses clearly, not using pride to hold on to them but releasing them to him, giving them up standing exposed before him.

Once you know how poor in spirit you are then yours is the kingdom of heaven. Why because he loves you and will use that awareness to build you up in his own image without the resistance and obstacles that pride puts in the way.

The true end result of that is that when you read the bible, and find something your old self would have argued with.

You don’t (or try not too).
Abraham didn’t ask for answers when god asked him to kill a son that god himself had given to him very late in life. How capricious and cruel must god have seemed to want to kill a son that God himself had given as a miracle, that he now loved very much.
He just held the knife and was prepared to plunge it into his own beloved sons heart.

God wanted to know, could Abraham overcome his own pride, love, the illogical, cruel nature of the request and kill his own blood. In effect could he overcome the sin of pride that he , Abraham knew better?  Was he strong enough in the lord to overcome his weakness that his idea of the world was better than gods?

As so often in the old testament, an unchanging god shows us how he wants us to interact with him.

In my own personal experience when challenged by my thoughts and feelings, when Gods view seems cruel or capricious I follow him.  So far when I come through that process the thing I learn from it far exceeds the narrow view I had before.

With humility you come before him and say you know what I don’t understand this, show me why this is better, but even until you do. or even if you don’t. I trust you, I am humble enough to know when my thoughts are not your thoughts then you are right.
In my humility I can accept your leadership not without question but without an answer.

At that point, quite often is when the answer comes, through prayer.  Not quite as dramatically as Abraham with an Angel telling him to stop, but through lessons learned by following him, . For me they happen as insights as a new much better clearer way to apply his ideals, and ideas.   Then once that leap is made the ripples go ever outwards.

Logically, Why argue with a god, who we accept as our creator, as our guide? Who gave his son for us, who wants us to come before him and gave us the way and the truth and the life to be able to do so.

God is an illogical concept, that only becomes logical once you begin to follow him.  Reason, at least our reason is the weakest way to him.   Hold the knife as Abraham did over every idea you ever held and be prepared to plunge the knife into it.

That act of obedience is actually the only logical conclusion once you know your creator, your god, a more superior thing you could never imagine or conceptualize wants that from you for your own good. His only son put it at the top of the list numerous times when he spoke.

Once you accept god exists  and have even the merest idea of who he is.  How does it then become logical to argue with him?

and of course Jesus, even Jesus knew that ultimately your will not mine. His theology of course is the only perfect theology.

humility, humble , god

The only way to god

In part two of this series we will show the ramifications of Jesus ultimate act of humility.

I asked Jesus in prayer what am I to be like and he showed me , 49 things to do, start today!

This morning I went into my room and prayed…
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.

And I asked

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive”

WHAT DID I ASK?

What am I supposed to do lord with this day you have given me?
Why does faith need deeds?
What deeds should they be?

These were the things I was shown this morning…

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?
Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.

16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

I think Teresa of Avila a carmelite nun (1515–1582) sums this up nicely in her poem, said to be written to the nuns in her convent.

Christ Has No Body

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Jesus said

46“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
47As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.

49But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

What deeds are these?

Well remember

“Jesus is perfect theology”
Jesus showing us what theology really means

The most important two…

37Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’c 38This is the first and greatest commandment.

39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’d

Because?
40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Repent

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
Follow Me

“And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

Rejoice

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11–12).

Let Your Light Shine

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Honor God’s Law

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).
Be Reconciled

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

” (Matthew 5:23–25).

Do Not Lust

28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

(Matthew 5:28–30).

Keep Your Word

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. ” (Matthew 5:37).

Go the Second Mile

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

(Matthew 5:38–42).

Love Your Enemies

44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

“” (Matthew 5:44–46).

Be Perfect

46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

(Matthew 5:46–48).

Practice Secret Disciplines

 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
(Matthew 6:1–18).

Lay Up Treasures

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).
Seek God’s Kingdom

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

Judge Not

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and [a]by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how [b]can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

(Matthew 7:1–3).

Do Not Cast Pearls

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6).

Ask, and It Will Be Given

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

(Matthew 7:7–8).

Do Unto Others

 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

(Matthew 7:12).

Choose the Narrow Way

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

(Matthew 7:13–14).

Beware of False Prophets

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” (Matthew 7:15–16).

Pray for Laborers

“The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37–38).

Be Wise as Serpents

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

Fear Not

“Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Hear God’s Voice

“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15).

Take My Yoke

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
Honor Your Parents

“For God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother: and, he that curseth father or mother, let him die the death” (Matthew 15:4).

Beware of Leaven

“Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6).

Deny Yourself

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” (Luke 9:23–25).

Despise Not Little Ones

“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

Go to Offenders

“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican”

(Matthew 18:15–17).
Beware of Covetousness

“And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).

Forgive Offenders

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21–22).

Honor Marriage

“And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:4–6).

Be a Servant

“. . . Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26–28).
Be a House of Prayer

“It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer . . . ” (Matthew 21:13).

Ask in Faith

“Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea: it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:21–22).
Bring In the Poor

“Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12–14).
Render to Caesar

“Show me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:19–21).

Love the Lord

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38).
Love Your Neighbor

“And the second [commandment] is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:39–40).
Await My Return

“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:42–44).
Take, Eat, and Drink

“As they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:26–28).
Be Born Again

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:5–7).

Keep My Commandments

“If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Watch and Pray

“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Feed My Sheep

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jona, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jona, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep” (John 21:15–16).

Baptize My Disciples

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19).

Receive God’s Power

“And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

Make Disciples

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations . . . teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19–20

This is why he is the way the truth and the life.

Are you at odds with the world, if not you should be.

Jesus calls us to be different.

If you fit in with society, if nobody questions you, if your not challenging yourself, or the latest doctrine, politically correct idea.

If your life does not stand out as different to your peers, or even more different to before you became christian, if you are not standing for something,unpopular to the noisy, scary, people, the rulers, the elite, those that place true value goods and chattels.

If you dont STAND OUT AS LIKE THIS.  to the point where others either despise or love you for it. If all the people who love making sure they are first, they have the big car, that they have the comfiest, nicest life possible.  If they aren’t questioning you, find you annoying,.

Then you are of this world, and not of the next. The holy spirit calls you and fills you and changes your life, and CHANGES who you are and saves you from yourself.

If your inside is changed then what comes out of you will change. We are told nothing going IN to the body can defile you only what comes OUT of it.

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19″If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.…

also

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:12-16).

Timothy confirms this: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Why does this happen? Its is because if you ACT in a way that Jesus would then you become an example to him. People don’t want to feel bad about themselves, or have selfish views challenged.

Selfishness hates challenge more than anything

This is made even worse if they cannot see a way to demean or undermine the source of this angst.

The pharisees knew that every time jesus called them a “hypocrite” he was right, every time he said their faith was to show off, and be admired, and laud it over lesser people to them.

He was right, so every time he undermined them, they were certain they were undermined. Because HE spoke the truth in their souls.

They thought if they could get rid of this person making them see themselves as they really were then the pain of seeing themselves would go away.

When we act in a way that christ asks us to, it does one of two things to people, Draws people to be like that, make them curious how he has made you change so obviously.

Or makes them dislike what they see in themselves and therefore make them hate you for showing them.

Here’s the thing if you give your safety, your protection to him and say I know this is what you want me to do, how you want me to be.

Then all the world can do is make noise.

Those of this world will make noise, those of his world,  However those called by him will see their future.
If you are accepted by all your peers, if all your views lack challenge to injustice, cruelty, callousness, self interest, selfishness, me first, lack of value to others who may take from them etc Then your not doing it right.

Ask him to change you
Be different.

Photographing God.

Photography and God and Othona

When we were at our parish day at Othona (and a very lovely day it was), a christian retreat and we were encouraged to spend some time looking at, contemplating and just being part of god’s creation.  Very much needed in our busy lives as we simply never stop.

God requires that we “be still and know that he is god” and I notice that when I am busy or focussed on worldly things he can become a bit distant.  That’s me not listening as opposed to him not being with me though, because whenever I do stand still then “whoosh” there he is (although I always worry when you assign god a gender).

That day and subsequent days since I have found my newfound hobby of photography is perfect for bring back a very “othona” type experience.

Photography, life though a lens , makes you look at your surroundings first from a high level and then at the detailed level.

Light, composition, the shift in the days, seasons, changing faces and places, seeing everything again and again.  cannot avoid being in the moment and connected to your surroundings when you hold your camera and look for a shot.

One recurring thought I have when I find a place that I really think will make a great shot is “wow, thank you god for making all this”.  That’s very much the one of the core goals of our day wasn’t it?

Also the process of trying to take it all in and not taking it for granted , noticing it, looking at it.  Also  when done over and over again has one more aspect to it, when you start to notice the detail both large and small you start to really experience the vastness and diversity and detail of gods creation. It really brings it home.

DSC_0102
I quite often go to the same place and being as I started at Christmas (yes my camera was a present),  you can start to see the change, where I photographed an icy footprint is now lush and full of bee’s, bare trees in leaf etc. I like that as well.

Also some of my favourite spots are right outside my door, just outside my window , the big pink  shrub (I am no gardener) outside my house.

You don’t have to travel far to see life’s beauty it’s all around you? I wandered out my garden the other day just to see a meteor shower, after a while I gave up trying to take shots and just sat and stared up at the sky, and the stars and thinking “wow”.

Sometimes when I have taken a few shots or I am wondering where to start, I just sit, watch the bees and insects buzz around, and look for the light, and find myself very much immersed in the sights and sounds of the place I am in.

I lost that when I grew into the duties of being an adult, I get that back quite a lot these days. Last week I just sat for ten minutes and watched the wind through a wheat field, awesome .  I was still and god was it felt like enjoying me, enjoying his creation. For ten minutes I was properly grateful and he knew it.

Also one thing becomes very clear the lens through which you view something makes a great difference to how you see it, where you focus makes the mundane seem brilliant, and occasionally reveals a thing to be very light on substance.  The thing you decide to focus on and how you see it, shapes how you later think about things.

One more thing it makes you realise, that sometimes after the actual event you edit the picture and then the edited version over time becomes real. I wonder how many times do we do this in our lives?  Since I became a Christian looking back at my life it’s as if he makes you strip away the editing software and see again how it really happened.  Our encounter with jesus makes you re-evaluate, things and events through his lens. Once you do that you learn to forgive others, yourself and appreciate your place in creation, small and beyond value all at once. Humility, as you know you needs forgiveness a lot, an awful lot.

I wasn’t expecting it, but life through a lens doesn’t as the metaphor insinuates “take you away”  from god’s creation, it actually brings you closer, makes you more aware of the detail, the range, the size, of the big of the small, of the light, of the seasons. Makes you see the layers we put on that distance ourselves from him, and the way we sometimes edit our past.

Mostly though you become more aware of how unlikely it was that chance alone, made all of this.  That very awareness is quite nourishing, the more I see it the more certain I become.

Maybe to make the point, just to bring you into the moment, just sit and imagine if I were to photograph this what would it be of, that bee in the shrub, the sun going down, my Childs smile, etc etc

Then thank him for it. See that , I think that’s Othona every day, and you have, most likely  just been still and known that he is god.  That is something very special.

What does faith mean?

I made the journey from secular agnostic, to someone who considers themselves a sincere christian. The first step is of course to realise their has to be a god. Then over time you end up in a religion, a formal place where religion is practiced. The one who seems to worship in a way that makes sense to you. Where god planted you, where you fit in.

When people ask you are you a christian , you say yes.  They ask you your faith and you say C of E, or Catholic or whatever. That declares you to the world.

So you can be a man or woman of faith, deep within a church and heavily involved in its workings.

Did you make all the steps?
Is that enough?
Is that what its all about?

Here’s the question that you may never ask yourself. If you do or don’t nobody will ever know. Certainly nobody should judge you if you haven’t, or have parked this issue. We are all on a journey, but that doesn’t make it any less important,

Do you “trust” god,  Trust is what is truly meant by faith.
Not just does he exist, and his church is great, and you work well within it.

Do you trust him?

Trust him to provide you with the ladder for your salvation, trust him with your life, trust him when things are bad, when they are good.

Trust his word, trust his order.

Faith isnt about does he exist, what church you go to, what events you attend, outreach you organise, fundraising, messy church whatever.

God wants you to trust him, trust alleviates doubt, keeps you firm when it may seem easier to doubt. You follow without too much question those you trust, follow them when it seems maybe things are a little unsure.

When Jesus rebuked people with the words “oh ye of little faith” he meant faith in him, as a person. Trust, trust that he wouldn’t let his disciples sink in a boat, or go hungry in a desert or whatever.

Trust him that he left you the words in the bible to understand what needs to be done to live properly.

faith
Trust him that he left you enough to make it to gods presence.

Nobody will ever know if you asked that question, resolved it, lived it, became it.

How well you made that a central part. See you can have that and move mountains, or simply be the unspoken joy in the lives of those around you.   They may be the  pillars of the church you go too and rely on for everything, or they may be the one you hardly speak too….

God knows if he has your trust and he cares.
Why?

He sacrificed a lot to earn your trust.

Does anyone know an angry, homophobic, science denying christian that uses god as a prop?

One of the things atheists use is that Christianity is a crutch, something we need for filling a gap. A comfort blanket, a teddybear, a prop for our bigotry.

Jesus temple

Plus we are increasingly painted as homophobic, science denying, fundamentalists that judge the world on harsh terms.

This is so far from the truth I feel I have been asked to meet in him, from the people I meet who have the same challenge set to them.

The challenges to these perspectives if anyone holds them, comes from having to react to the level jesus expects you to reach?

How can you hold these views if you follow jesus?

Their are some facts that support the idea that christianity on the whole when applied on Jesus model is good for us all.

Anti slavery, prison reform, social services, the nhs, our legal system, salvation army, most the major philanthropists advances in medicine,  medicine that was given away, red cross, nspcc, save the children, declaration of independence, magna carta, unhcr declaration on human rights the list is endless…

All driven by devout Christians tackling the world on the terms jesus sets us.

The point IS , Christ calls for reform, on an internal and external level.

In contrast to the Christian system, modern materialistic philosophies do not provide a strong basis for reform.

Humanism is, in effect, a philosophic smuggler; it has borrowed the “dignity of man” from Christian precepts and has not bothered to say, “Thank you.” It also lacks a coherent example beyond what we “make up” ad-hoc, borrow, and meld together, and ignore the bits that take us out of our comfort zone. Also christ is alive and he helps, challenges and drives us forward.

Lastly if you hate the anger , hypocrisy, judgement, and bile that comes from some people who call themselves “religious” then christ did too.

the constant misuse of state of religion to mobilize and create division, and hierarchy based on external wealth. Jesus despised it.

They killed him to keep their positions, and to keep him quiet.

They really DID not like him making an ad-hoc whip and beating them with it as they were using his fathers house as a bureau de change. He knew this was the exact antithesis of his message.
Profit and Loss on worldly terms is the precise opposite of the measure he thought you should use.

He wanted you to pick up your cross and follow his example into places you never would have seen yourself before you gave your life to him.

That is the reality of following Jesus that I know.

Just Occasionally he lets us see how perfect his timing is

god_has_perfect-timing

God sometimes lets us see how perfect his plans are, and they sometimes even include is foreknowledge that we will not listen.
Here is my story showing exactly that..

When I first became a christian, I had the strongest desire and was called to wear a cross (I am sure as many of you were) . I was very certain I was supposed to go to a certain jewelers in town, and get my cross to wear from there, however they weren,t very efficient, and the sizes of the crosses they had for sale were VERY large.

michael frank-shop

I found a smaller one, for a lesser price and bought that.

However it nagged at me that I was supposed to buy my cross from that shop. Then one day I realized the NAME of the shop was MICHAEL FRANK.  My First and second names are MICHAEL FRANK. That really made me feel bad, and I knew I had ignored something our lord was asking me to do. However I now had a cross, and the ones in that shop were and ARE too LARGE.   I never went back, but whenever I pass that shop its still bothers me.

Also I was brought to Christianity by a bible from the Gideons, and from day one I wanted to give them something back. However  as much as I try to help the timings rarely work and I never find a place where I can help out, hand out his word.
The only day so far was the day after my confirmation, perfect timing.

But the friend I made in trying to help remains so to this day. I never really found a way to help as much as I would like, to share the same thing that brought me to him, his word.

Cut to a year later, and one day I spot a homeless man. I feel compelled to help.  I do give him some money, but feel really worried about him. I pray for him and for others like him, post my prayer on Facebook and end up helping out in a local homeless kitchen.

I pray that me and my wife find more interests in common, and as soon as I say I am going to the homeless kitchen she jumps up and says “I am coming too”. We both LOVE going to help.

About the same time I by accident (mine not his) end up signing up for an evangelist course. The course starts the same weekend I start at the homeless shelter. The timing is perfect, I can go to one, go home for lunch, pick up Paula and we drive to the kitchen.

Almost as soon as I start helping, people talk to me about god, and I have the STRONGEST feeling I am supposed to bring god to that Car Park in Southend where so many wounded souls exist and need his love and peace. I cant find a way to do this that seems appropriate. Sit at a table, deliver a Eucharist, but the evangelist course is giving me more idea’s and the confidence to reach out, but not a reliable method….

One of the chaps I meet who is homeless I find so inspiring and he cures ME of one pf my greatest fears – poverty, as I see that with gods help you can always find a way.

My role seems to be the one who floats around, hands out fruit, dog food (they go hungry too sometimes), I listen and use his lessons on how to react. The changes he has made in me as a christian, means this new person has an open heart, and ear and loves to react with love.  I seen the human behind the rough clothes and they like to talk, the people I meet I find so inspiring.

I talk to a street pastor who comes about how I can bring Jesus to that car park. He says overt religious ceremonies are banned from that space. I ponder for 2-3 weeks.  How do I bring jesus to this place.

Also the friend I made through the Gideons, hands me bibles to hand out at the car park, I have handed out two, who I thought would be helped by his word, i have more in the car.
He also shows me a local church that will take themin for a eucharist despite the scruffy state some might be in?
How perfect is THAT?

But the problem remains how do I make a statement without breaking the no overt religious ceremonies rule in that environment?

Then THIS week a lady comes and she is very clearly having lots of christian conversations with people who are attracted to her by one thing….

She wears a VERY large cross, about the same size as the one I rejected. Open around her neck. I know at that instant I dont SIT at a table with a cross, I WEAR a cross and just walk around hand out fruit, start conversations as I have done since I started.
If they are interested

This morning I say to my wife, Paula you know when I first started talking about Christianity and I said we had to buy one out of Michael Frank Jewelers? But they were SO large we bought another one…

Also I have been trying to figure out how to start a christian conversation with the people who seem so lost and angry with him?

But overt Christian service is banned?

Yes Says Paula…

Well I the answer is THAT cross from Michael Frank, I will be the table, I will show who I am, and anyone who wants to talk will know by that cross.

In two weeks I finish the evangelism course, and in two weeks the Cross will arrive at Michael Franks Jewellers.

It will be my Birthday Present, and so if people ask why I am wearing this new cross, I will simply say “it was bought for my birthday” 🙂

See he even knew I wouldnt listen, but the cross wasnt needed until I had been trained in how to reach out, its made me more aware that gentle steps are needed, so I am better placed to do his work.

When the cross is ready, I will be too,

I call those every day miracles, but he has had a plan for me forever.

Look back at this story it spans over 18 months.
It shows all the things he had to place in my way.

All the things that had to happen, the homeless man I met, the rejection of his order which showed me humility, the course I took by accident, the method, the cross I never bought that bothered me so much.The stock of bibles,  And so on and so forth, all independent things that bring you to where he knows your headed.

He knew How I as going to bring god to a car park in southend, before I knew I was going?

Praise him

The Return of the prodigal son – Why Act, Why Kiss, Why ask?

the-prodigal-son

Some of the stories of the bible are SO familiar they start to lose relevance in our lives.  We kind of know them, but we never absorb them.

One of my favorites is the return of the prodigal son. The themes of this parable, recur over and over in my life..

The son leaves his father because as with so much in life we think the grass is greener somewhere else, more interesting, has better prospects. So we go looking, or we get angry and we slam the door on the way out, or we think we deserve more etcetera etcetera

This story when told to our children  is often told as one of forgiveness, and we relate it to our fathers. It is of course about that but also much much more.

It about our father in heaven, and how he relates to us.

You hear so many christian journeys like this we wander off, look at so many things doubt, anger, worldly distractions, and (at least for me) looking back stupidity take us away.

This for me is lesson number one in this story…

For me the thing is, he doesn’t stop you, he gives you what you need for the journey, more than just letting you go he makes sure you get whatever you feel your due as you leave?

As the story goes the son was quite direct and said…

‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

This is one of the things we often forget about Christianity and our god. We have free will, we can injure ourselves and he will let us go. We can do wrong and he wont stop us. Often I see people blame god for this, when people do bad things, or bad things happen.  Why didn’t god stop that?

God let’s his children go, we are not in prison, we aren’t toys, we are more than his playthings. The gate is open, the jail doesnt exist, the walls were never built, we never got put in a play pen.

Lesson Number two, ask and it shall be given.

Then the next thing he shows us is that we have to make the first step, and come back in the right way. The son realizes his mistake, he takes action.

“I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.”

He went, he took action and he realized his error.

That is also key I think to our relationship.  So often I struggle with things and it isn’t till I pray that things start to turn.  My favorite hymn at the moment is “what a friend we have in Jesus”.

The lines in the first verse are very true…

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

God waits in the hymn and in the parable for US to make the first step.  For us to reach out and ask him.

This happened to me recently I struggled and worried through some testing times. It wasn’t until I said “help me” that things changed?

Also on the day I converted to Christianity, I asked him to come into my life, and I called myself a sinner.

The good news is that no matter how far we stray, or how far we let ourselves drift from his love and care we only have to make a tiny small step back to him.

The story says it, you walk towards him, he RUNS towards you.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he RAN to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Lesson Three his love never stopped.

Kissed him? not a cold “I’m glad your back” but unrestrained love, we don’t kiss people we haven’t quite forgiven yet, we may hold on to pride, or self respect, or make the returning one feel the weight of his sin, because he deserves it.

God doesn’t do that.

When we come back to him, god throws his arms around you, and kisses you, that is so much  more than forgiveness.
Its Love, that continued while you were away, that was untarnished by your misdemeanors, wandering around aimlessly searching for what you already have,for the anger to subside,  your wrongdoing to your father to stop.

I think some people also think that god offered his errant son a “clean slate”.

This was not  a clean slate, that infers that he stopped loving you and then started again, that’s why he kisses him This wasn’t a “restart” of love, a renewal of a relationship.

He never stopped loving you, and he never stops.
But always, as with the prodigal son, you have to make the first step.

So whatever is bothering you, whatever is broken in your relationship with god, whatever your angry about, whatever doubts you have. I think this simple parable shows the way back, to the love that never stopped.

Open your heart, and ask. Take the small step, so he can run to you.

Maunday Thursday – Last Day of Lent and the day I learnt the most.

shoe shine man

So lent was almost at an end. Lent Classes had taught me a lot. Mainly how the lens of our lives change how we view our faith. How god works with all of those perspectives to make a unified church. I could write on that subject all day but I want to focus on the last day of lent.

The Maunday Thursday service was lovely as usual, until we got to the washing of feet. As Jane and Sue started the preparation of the jug and the bowl of water you could see and almost palpably feel the awkwardness in the room. Here were people we all hold in respect doing something quite lowly. In among all of the services they give to our community, surely this was too much to ask, too demeaning. Someone we respect so much lowering themself? At the time I went with the flow of the service and watched everyone’s equally unsure reactions to this.

Later however the penny dropped somewhat. I have traveled on business to Sri Lanka, a poor country raising itself from a dirty civil war. Poverty is everywhere, and in the middle of this in Colombo are two of the grandest hotels anywhere. Air conditioned, plush, overflowing with delicacies from the gardens, food from every part of the globe.

I have stayed in one, the cinnamon grand, on about 3 occasions for two weeks at a time. Once when I was being picked up from work by a colleague from Bristol who had been there a few years I went past the shoe shine man. The service in the hotel was amazing, people assist you every time you move. I felt very awkward with all this, never lifting a glass without it being filled, never carrying a bag unless you almost snatched it from the bellboy. My friend had watched many of these encounters.

The shoe shine man asked me to sit on a grand stall where you have to climb up, I would be sat much higher than him, having a menial act done by another human being.

I refused, I just could not bring myself to let this be done.

At that point my friend snapped, and with obvious bad temper said “Get your shoes shined!, if you don’t he doesnt eat”. That convinced me, then he said something that really made me feel bad. “You are not above him, you go to work, he goes to work, so step down from your lofty tower!” (I paraphrase a little he was a bit ruder actually).

Then I saw it, my pride made me feel like I was looking down on him, because of the act. So by stopping myself from having it done I was showing how lowly I felt the act made him look. Pride, the greatest sin of all was truly my motivator. My Western pride meant that I felt I had to not show superiority. In avoiding it, I was merely showing myself as such.

That man was working hard to feed his family, if I cleaned his shoes, or had my feet cleaned then we are no more or less in god’s eyes. By avoiding having either done I was saying, this act is menial, and by doing it you are lowering yourself. Loss of pride, true humility means that we see ourself simply as human, and give to each other never seeing ourself as lesser or greater regardless of who undertakes even the most menial task.

Jesus taught us that when he washed his disciples feet, that us seeing him as lowering himself reveals our perspective and shows us more about ourselves and our pride than we really care to look at. That we saw him as lowering himself simply because of an act of kindness, or as in my case a normal part of a days work by the shoe shiner. Who like me was supporting his family that day, going to work just like me.

It said far more about me than him, more about how I saw the world, about my pride, my set of values. Acts of work, or kindness, or devotion raise us up. From poverty, of spirit, or from real poverty.

He was just earning a living, or showing an act of kindness, or showing her flock what Jesus was teaching.