Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Wonder of Spring

I was having some quiet time this morning, reading my bible, a good book and praying... as I sat there I found my gaze looking beyond the pane glass of our sliding glass doors and into our back garden.  You should see the Daffodils.  This morning we actually have some sunshine... so the yellow of those gorgeous flowers is brighter still. I sat there and thought about how for the three years we have lived in this house and every February/March those flowers have appeared and graced us with their beauty.  I didn't plant them... I don't water them... all I do is enjoy them. 

My eyes wondered from those gorgeous flowers to Psalm 81 where we hear these words over and over again... "Listen to me."  It's God's plea for us to listen to him.  

Going back to those daffodils... God was using those flowers as a megaphone to speak to me this morning.  What was he saying... "I'm at work!"  "I'm faithful!"  "I do all things well!"  My task was simply to listen with my ears and my heart.  

It was as if God was saying... Why don't you recognise my hand in your world and in your life? Why don't you SEE where I'm at work... because I am.  And don't just look in those places where you've planted or watered... look EVERYWHERE.  I can't wait to get started... how about you?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Sorry... no room!

Well the new year is here… I hope you were able to find time over the holidays to pause and reflect on the meaning of HIS coming. Today is the first day everyone is back to work and back to school here in Ireland.  Facebook posts like this one abound… “Back to the grind stone…”  The days of feasting and fun are over… in some ways it will be nice to get our schedules back, the only problem is more often than not those schedules get overburdened too quickly… am I right?  It reminds me of my plate when we came around the table on Christmas Day... it was FULL and so are our lives...

Let me ask you this?  Is that right?  Not the full plate... although that may need to be the topic of another blog post...  I mean our lives our schedules.  Have you ever wondered is there a better way?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our schedules were not so full?  Maybe you’re thinking that’s what’s vacations are for… this is real life.  It’s busy!  Did you know that tomorrow is Epiphany... it's the time when we pause to remember the coming of the wisemen to worship Jesus... our problem is we're back to our schedules and already busy.

I believe many of us become SO busy in the church that we’re of no heavenly good, never mind earthly good.  I hope you hear me right.  I was a pastor before I moved to Ireland.  I had a great staff, a wonderful board and great people.  Life was busy.  I have one regret.  I never created any space for my neighbours, those who lived next door… I was always busy doing church.  I was always doing this or that.  It was all good stuff, but those people whom I lived besides… I never got to really know them.   I was just plain to busy doing I forgot to be….and I missed it.

I guess that's why I find myself drawn to words of scripture like this... “Be still and know that I am God!”  

Those words have a pull, don't they?  They resonate, at least they do with me.  Maybe it's because my life is so busy.  I mean think about your schedule.  Think about your time.  We have SMART phones to help... they bring email, Facebook, Twitter to wherever we might be at any given moment, so we can "redeem" the time, right?  Do they?  Sure they help in many ways, but they also cluttered our lives with so much stuff that there is little room for much else.  How many times do we see a dad or a mom on their phone while a little child begs for their attention.  Is that an image of me in my relationship with God?  We wonder why we don't hear HIS voice.  Maybe it’s because we’re never quiet long enough.  Maybe it’s because we never create space for HIM to speak.  I find myself wondering about the innkeeper in the story of our Lord's birth.  "Sorry, no room!"  How tragic!  Yet do we sometimes say the same thing? 

This issue is crucial for you and for me.  It’s crucial for us personally, but also for the mission of the church…

I've come to see this idea of creating space is not just about me and my relationship with God, but also the mission of God. Truth is I would suggest it's impossible to be missional without entering space...the space of another.  You see the message of God cannot be separated from the messenger.  Remember these words from John 1...  "The word became flesh and dwelt amongst us."

I’ve come to see that being missional is about having space in my life, a place where I can connect with others… a place where God can speak.   You see I seem to remember Paul somewhere suggesting that YOU and I are the body of Christ…. that’s right we are HIS presence in our world, our communities and in our families. 

As this new year begins I find myself wondering how I might create more space for God to work in me and through me in 2015.  How about you? Maybe it can begin by taking time to come and worship him as those wisemen did so long ago!

Happy New Year…

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Empty Handed...

I have discovered what I believe to be one of the greatest lies of the enemy when it comes to building the kingdom.  We're convinced that it flows from what we have to offer, and let's face it we have SO much.  The gospel is not subsistent living, it's banquet faire.  What do I mean?  The gospel is bountiful.  We go with this gospel... knowing we have something wonderful to offer humanity.  And yet I wonder....

One of the greatest examples of evangelism in scripture is found in John 4 where Jesus confronts the woman at the well with her need.  Actually that's not quite true.  It's really the story of where a woman confronts Jesus with HIS need.  She is the one with the resource to gather water, not he.  If truth be told, Jesus is the one in need of help.  He has no cup, no bucket, no way of lifting water from that deep well. It was within his grasp, but not.

We often read this story and notice her need, skipping over his.  And it's true, she is hurting.  She's come to the well at high noon.  She's alone....she's in need of God's great salvation.  Yet I find myself wondering about Jesus need.  He was thirsty, and instead of ignoring his need he asks for the woman's help.  I think Jesus understood something that we in the church have often forgotten.

We often think the way to go about doing evangelism; the way to go about meeting people's needs is to meet their need... And while that seems to make sense that's not how we see the conversation in John 4 unfold.  He begins from a position of need. He is thirsty and instead of suggesting he's not, he admits his lack...  What is going on here?

It got me thinking about those words of Jesus when he commissioned the 72. He sent them out saying "take NOTHING for the journey...."  Think about how that would put them in an incredibly vulnerable position as they entered a village they'd never visited before.

It got me to thinking about the words of Paul where he, speaking of Christ, says... "Who being in very nature God... made himself NOTHING..."  When you contemplate the incarnation... can you think of a more helpless way to enter our world?  Why enter in such a helpless way?

For whatever reason we've arrived at the conclusion that effective evangelism occurs best when we enter the fray equipped, certainly NOT empty handed.  Yet I find myself wondering... what would happen if we'd enter people's lives like Jesus entered our world... as he entered the life of that woman at the well.  I wonder, what might take place.

What do you think?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Glimpses of Spring...

I know it's only January... but something is changing.  The other day I could feel the warmth of the sun on my shoulder as I walked into town.  You could almost sense spring seeking to burst out.   Don't get me wrong I've read the long range forecasts suggesting that February could be quite cold; that winter could once again take hold, but still something is changing.  You see regardless of how cold it might get in the days and weeks that follow... spring is coming.  Nothing will stop its life from bursting forth.  Personally I can't wait.

Glimpses of Spring!
As I mentioned there are signs everywhere....

Just the other morning I noticed the signs of life pushing their way through the soil in our front and back gardens.  Tulips, daffodils and crocuses reaching for the sky.  I realise snow could still cover them, but I also know that eventually they'll fill our garden with their beautiful blooms.

I say all this... and then I wake this morning to discover that winter almost in response to my hopeful words is saying NOT SO FAST.... the wind, the rain, the cold remind me that while spring will come, it won't come easily.

I think ministry is very much like this... there are times when you feel nothing is happening, where it appears all your efforts make no difference whatsoever.  Then there are those days where you're caught off guard by the appearing of a shoot, a sign of something.

I remember Reuben Welch, in one of the many classes I took from him at Point Loma saying... "when nothing is happening something is happening, because God is always working."  I like that and hold on to it, but to be honest I really love the signs of spring, don't you?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

the relentless power of persistence...

I think in many ways we have bought into the lie that the spectacular is what makes the difference.  What takes place in a moment is what defines history.  There are plenty of examples that might prove our point... Who can forget the events of September 11th, November 22, 1963 or April 1916 here in Ireland.  These are defining dates that in many ways changed the course of history.  Yet the truth be told...there were things that led to each of these moments.  They didn't just happen.

I'm sure that in your own life there may be dates that loom large.  The death of a loved one... the birth of your child.  To be sure these events change our lives... but I'm beginning to wonder how much of what we perceive of as sudden is the result of time.  Don't get me wrong there are things that do happen in a moment that change us. I think of the shooting in Connecticut, where the lives of so many were taken in such a reckless way.  I think of the Gunman in Norway who made his way to an island off the Norwegian coast where he proceeded to slaughter innocent children.  There are certainly times when a moment changes us... even if that moment was preceded by hidden movement.  I think about the moment I was confronted by the grace of God for the first time.  It was certainly not the first moment God's grace had been present in my life, simply the first time I'd become aware of it.

Yet I also wonder if we underestimate the relentless power of persistence.  Think about it. Maybe the next time you're by the water notice how it has impacted everything around it.  Rock is carved, hued out by the power of the wave.  Stones are rounded to leave us with the smooth pebble, all the result of waters power of persistence. Truth is many of the things we believe to have occurred in a moment are simply the revelation of what had been going on perhaps unobserved.  Heart attacks reveal the gradual build up of obstructions of arteries over time. 

What does this have to do with anything?  I'm glad you asked.

I was walking by the sea yesterday and as I watched the waves beat the shore I found myself reflecting on the unchanging nature of God.... I've walked that coastline since arriving here in Ireland and nothing much has changed... the ruins of Black Castle still remain... yet in that moment it was as if God helped me to see something else... He wanted me to see the incredible power of persistence.  He wanted me to see how the relentless power of those waves and the wind had carved out that coastline. The seemingly immovable rock has been carved out by the sea since the beginning of time and that relentless persistent pounding, continues to impact even today.

Do you ever wonder if you're making a difference?  Perhaps in the lives of your children or those you lives amongst?  We look for change and so often what we see is nothing... perhaps we should all be reminded of the relentless power of persistence. 

Maybe you're tempted to give up... to quit praying, to quit trying, to just quit because it seems that only something BIG will make any real difference.  Can I challenge your thinking here as God has challenged mine.  I think about the people of God walking around the city of Jericho... hardly significant.  I mean what difference can a walk make, right?  Yet as we're faithful in small things... God moves in ways we can't fathom.

I wonder what small thing might you continue to do to lavish God's grace onto the shore of your world today?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Little is much....REALLY!

"Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.  Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.  Calling the disciples to him, Jesus said, 'truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on." 
Mark 12:41-44

I was reminded of these words last night as I helped at a fund raiser seeking to raise funds for a family whose son found himself in a coma following a terrible accident in Bangkok, thousands of miles from home.

My heart went out this this family.  I'd never met Robbie, but his mom had made us feel SO welcomed when we first arrived in Wicklow.  We'd even got a free Christmas Tree from her and her husband our first Christmas.  People from the community decided something had to be done to help, so I offered to help.  Last night I helped man the door as over 250 people made their way to the Grand Hotel to come and show their support.  They gladly paid a €10 cover charge per person, all the monies were going to get Robbie home. They then gave again, bidding in an auction and buying raffle tickets.  It was great fun.

However the high water mark of the evening occurred when a homeless man, who was well known in the community, walked into the Grand Hotel.  He came to the door and simply laid a small bag of coins on the table.  He then turned around and walk into the night.  We stood there and like those first disciples crowded around Jesus to hear the story, we crowded around that small bag of coins marvelling at what we'd just witnessed.  It was amazing.

As I later walked out of that warm, loud banquet room and into the cool night air I sensed Jesus tapping me on the shoulder... did you see that?

Thank you Jesus for glimpses of the Kingdom of God!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The present of presence!

Gorgeous views from our home in Wicklow!
As I write this I'm listening to the sounds of summer here in Ireland.  Children are playing in their back gardens.... water is a big part of their fun.  Trust me, if you could hear them you'd know that water was involved. Like most days we can see the sea from our window but today it's beckoning me to come... although I have a feeling I'd only get my toes wet... the water's about 50F, COLD!   Regardless it does looks inviting from this vantage point.

We've been back in Ireland about a week now and most of that week I've been dealing with back pain... I'm guessing it's the result of six weeks plus on the road.  As a result I've felt rather melancholy... you might say I've been made aware of my physical limitations, my weakness, dare I say it, my age?

Anyway, I'm starting to feel better and with that is a desire to get back at it.  Yesterday, however was a bank holiday Monday.  In other words, a day where the banks and most other shops are closed.  We spent the morning cleaning, Matthew washed our car and we joined with other neighbours enjoying what was an incredibly beautiful day.  Later we had a BBQ to celebrate.  What? I'm not sure... but we're always up for a party.  In the course of events we ended up chatting with our neighbours across the back fence.  It was a good day.

It's now Tuesday... and as I travelled down into town I discover Wicklow was once again a buzz of  activity.  All those shops that were closed yesterday are open once again.  It was good to walk the  streets, even if my gait was not without the obvious signs of my back issue.  I stopped in a couple of the shops and spoke with some individuals I hadn't seen since before our trip to the US.  As I walked I began praying, asking God to help me.   I began thinking about our presence in this place we now call home, we'd been missed.... at least that's what they told us.

Eventually I made my way to my favourite Coffee shop.  I sat there reading, reflecting and praying and in the midst of those moments God came and met with me.  It was wonderful, it was what I needed.  He didn't say much, but His presence made a difference... and that got me thinking....

In the midst of my musing  I heard a lady climbing the stone stairs right by the little street side table where I was sitting.  She was labouring.  Cane in one hand, the other on a rail.  She was willing herself up those stairs to that little coffee shop.... and I heard her... under her breath whisper, "...Jesus!" I don't know how she meant it, but I prayed for her in that moment that HE would be real to her.  As I did, I began thinking about how very often we're so unaware of his presence.  We miss him even as he's right there with us.

I thought about our call to come and live in this place and as I did I began reflecting on what we're DOING... yet in that moment, even as I was aware of God's presence... I could not help but think how perhaps the greatest call involves NOT what we do, but simply being present.... being present with people....

So as I sat there sensing the the call not so much to DO anything, but to simply be present in the lives of those about me....

As I sign off... Blessings on you... as you walk through this day may you be aware of HIS presence in your life, and maybe like myself, you'd be impressed to be present, really present with the people that God brings across your path today.