Sunday, April 30, 2006

More quotes to make you dance.

I'm never ever going to get over the ridiculousness of the love of my Father. Who doesn't delight in my outward show of faithfulness (which masks my inward rebellion) but who delights in me coming back to him with my sin, shame and darkness and letting him take it away and fill my hands with Good Things. Amazing. He delights in those who hope in his love, and when I've got nothing else and nowhere else to go, that's something I can do, I can cry out help to the one who loves me most, and that's all he wants. Crazy. But very wonderful.

"We need to be reminded that we really are a new creation, that underneath the failure and the wrecked meringue nest of our own security or self confidence, lies the love of God...It can be an immense relief to learn that though we sin, God's grace abounds. However far we fall God has done a work which goes deeper. Even though we go right to the very bottom of the slimiest pit of sin, we find that our Lord has already been there, has taken the sin, has redeemed the humanity that lurked there, has provided righteousness for us in himself, has provided a rightness of relating to the Father that includes love. When you sink to the darkest and vilest depths of your own soul, what do you find? You find Jesus the Proper Man, with a perfect love from his Father. You actually are redeemed from the depths, for you are a partner with him in loving the Father." (Dominic Smart- When we get it wrong)

Friday, April 28, 2006

but i can't be these things i say
i wish i could but there's no way

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Amuse yourself. Go on.

This is genius. Finally someone has done something cool with the excellent Cake song- Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell. (ht Sarah Brown)


So anyway, I was chatting my aforementioned (I do like that word) brother last night about certainty. We were musing on some people who think that to be certain is to be naive. That as we go in in our Christian lives we get over our little certain phase and move onto some plain of less naive uncertainty where nothing is black and white anymore but many shades of grey. I have some sympathy with this view. The more I go on in being a Christian, the more I see that not everything is as simple as I might have thought a few years ago. Some questions just don't have any answers. Some darkness will not leave. Sometimes knowing the truth isn't enough. I don't think I've ever been a particularly 'hit people over the head with lots of definite answers' person, but the more I go on, the more I want to treasure the questions, feel the uncertainty and sit in the darkness with friends who can't see anyway out.

But, and in the Bible there is always a But. (snigger) It's not as simple as chucking out all certainty and swimming in a big fog for the rest of my life. If nothing is certain I might as well pack my bags and leave. I might as well head off into self indulgence and giving into all my temptations. If there is no certain resurrection, if there is no guarantee of what is to come, if there is no certainty that Christ died for sins, once for all, then I'm out of here. That's not naive. That's a reason to jump up and down for joy. There is hope, purpose and meaning, not because I have wish fulfillment and want life to be rosy, but because one man lived, died, and then did what no-one else has ever done. Rose again. Sent his Spirit on his church and promised to come back. At the core of our lives, in the mire of fog, blackness,fun and joy is a certain and sure hope. The rest of life is up for grabs, I don't understand how God works most of the time, there is SO much I cannot tell. But there at least is hope in the line "but this I know".

So don't hit people over the head for not getting every Truth you want to hit them with. Don't create fences of black and white things that you must all have in common to be able talk to each other. Allow that people might doubt, question and not get the thing you think is so obvious. Love as Jesus did. Live out the Body of Christ and be his certainty in action. But, equally, don't call certainty naivete. If we can be certain of nothing what's the point? Where's the joy coming from? Where's the sure and certain hope of there being more to this world? Or maybe that's my naivete shining out again. Confusion and certainty can live side by side. (or maybe that's just my desire to have my cake and eat it...but then again what are the Psalms and Gethsemane all about?)

More albums to buy

Good to hear the sound of a man having lots of fun with a cool band and singing the songs of a folk genius. It must be great to get to this point in your career and be so at ease with your audience and music loves that you can get away with having lots of fun with something you are passionate about. Whatever your expectations of the Boss man, blow them away, he still has the best voice, sings the songs of the oppressed and carries off the old American folk tradition in style.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A song for the Journey

Amidst the sorrows of the way
Lord Jesus, teach my soul to pray
Let me taste Thy special grace
And run to Christ, my hiding place

You know the vileness of my heart
So prone to act the rebel's part
And when You veil Your lovely face
How can I find a hiding place

How unstable is my heart
Sometimes I take the tempter's part
And slight the tokens of Thy grace
And seem to want no hiding place

Lord, guide my wandering feet
Draw me to Thy mercy seat
I've nought to trust but sovereign grace
Thou only art my hiding place

Hiding place, hiding place

The Yorkshire Dales.

Things I thought, and things others thought, whilst in the Yorkshire Dales:
1) Whenever God compares us to stuff in the Bible he uses really weak frail images. We are like sheep, who are very stupid as we discovered as we tramped through many fields of the silly creatures. We are like grass, which is small and fragile and frankly withers away. We are dust. Puff and we're gone. Sensing the theme? When God compares himself to stuff, so our little brains can grasp a little corner of what he is like, He gets to be solid BIG things. Rocks, mountains, a shepherd a refuge, a fortress, a green pine tree (prizes if you can find that in the Bible, it is there.) All images of strength and permanence. You'd think he was trying to tell us something eh.
2) Apparently I'm really easy to insult (this was explained to me as a very good thing and may explain the comments that follow), have a weird nose and an arrogant walk (quite pleased with that one as I've never ever been called arrogant before).
3) Meandering around the dales for a week with 3 other friends, climbing over dry stone walls, walking through fields of sheep and sitting on hillocks eating sandwiches makes you feel like you are in an episode of Last of the Summer Wine, a not unpleasant feeling. (unlike watching an episode of...)
4) It's not possible to go to Wenselydale without saying at regular intervals, "More cheese Gromit", in a fake Northern accent.
5) Visiting a local fish and chip van that arrives at the village green every Thursday night at 8.30pm is lots of fun, and slightly surreal.
6) Asking for a cappuccino in a Yorkshire pub is probably a bit stupid. (see no 1 again)
7) Laughing until you hurt is a good way to spend a week.
8) Neighbours is SO much better now Susan has returned. But Karl is a little bit too needy and desperate.
9) Grace is really the only thing that will get us home. And oh do I need it. I am very sinful. Thankfully where sin increases, grace increases too.
10)If for this life only we have hope we are to be pited... A lot. This living God's way is really dumb if it's only for this life. After all why shouldn't I do what I want to do right now? But that's not the point. There is a maker, there is a book that describes who we are and why we are here. And heaven is real. Something I must repeat twice daily so it sinks into my small brain (see no 1 again)

The wanderer returns

After three weeks of being unaware of the day or time I return to the world of time, routine, a place where I live permanently and a underused bed. I've been in the Yorkshire Dales, Cambridge, London, Guildford, Brighton, London and back to Brighton again in 48 hours (I did stay in the Dales for a week before leaving, I'm not that insane... really). It's a feeling akin to jet lag as I adjust to the land of Hove Actually. Boring details aside, thoughts, musings on life and amusing pictures will follow soon. As, no doubt, will work, life, church, knitting and all the rest of the stuff that makes up normal life. Enough, I'm going to enjoy bed and the last day of holiday on the other side of some good sleep. I'll leave you with this thought from the Dales.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Dead men don't come back to life. Or do they? Sunday has come. The tomb is empty. The world has been changed forever. "Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered." This is reality. If this did not happen, if only for this life we have hope in Christ we are to be pitied more than everyone. But Christ has indeed risen. Blazing the trail into eternity ahead of us. Meaning that we have hope, we have eternal life, we have power to live right now.

One day we who hope in Christ will meet him face to face. The whole world has been changed and transformed. This is our story, this is our song. Go, live it out, live and breath in the reality of the risen Christ. go and sing out to the world around for which He died. Go dance for joy for once you were lost but now you have been found, once you were dead but now you have been made alive. Dance, sing, exult, jump up and down because the dawn has come.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


The day inbetween. The moments of waiting and hoping that make up our lives until Sunday comes. The Sabbath comes, the day of rest but with a body in a Tomb. A day of desolation and the emptiness of grief. It is right to sit in the darkness and feel the desolation before moving to quickly to the end point of it all. This world has too many unanswered questions, too much brokenness to not take time to sit in the darkness. To reflect on the blackness of the day in which it seemed like God had vanished from the scene. We can too quickly jump to the end.

The real hope though, in that darkness, is that one day this darkness will pass. One day our Sunday will come. Sam and Frodo can express this better than I ever could.

"Frodo: I can't do this Sam.
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for"

We live out our Easter Saturday moments not in the despair of hopelessness but with the knowledge that Sunday came and that means another Sunday is coming. Cry from your hearts. Sense the despair and then cry out. Come Lord Jesus.

Friday, April 14, 2006


The sky darkens. The Word who became flesh is now nailed to a piece of wood. The crowd cries out for more, taunts and scoffs. Who could have predicted such an ending?, not the women crying at the foot of the cross, not his followers bewildered and confused. "A murderer they save, the prince of life, they slay." The horrible irony of that moment. The sky darkens. The wrath of God poured out on himself as he takes our bullet. As he dies my death. "All my pride, all my greed, all my falleness and shame, and the Lord has laid the punishment on him." The sky darkens.

He cries from the cross, "Father forgive", "Why have you forsaken me?", "It is finished." Who can tell of the horror of that moment, the trinity wrenched apart for you and for me. A God who comes, who suffers, who takes our place, who rips apart history to bring about his Kingdom and Glory. A broken weak God displaying once and for all time the strength of foolishness. And as He breaths his last, the query of defeat on everyone's lips, a sound is heard, a ripping sound. The temple curtain is torn in two from top to bottom. A sign of hope? Or something to be remembered after Sunday has come. We are left holding our breaths, waiting in the dark.

"Behold the man upon the cross
My sin upon his shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out amongst the scoffers
It was my sin that held him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished."

"We worship at your feet, where wrath and mercy meet, and a guilty world is washed by loves pure stream.
For us he was made sin, O help me take it in, deep wounds of love cry out, Father forgive.
I worship, I worship, the lamb who was slain."

"But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all."

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Thursday. The night Jesus was betrayed. The night he entered into the age old feast of the Passover and turned the remembrance of one night, generations ago, and breathed new meaning into it. The night of the new covenant. The night when all creation held it's breath to see what would unfold. The night of a cup waiting to be drunk. The night of agony. A man sweating blood. The night of explanation to his friends, of helping them see what good could come after such darkness. A night of prayer and sleeping. A night of betrayal, denial and pain. A night to remember.

The first communion. The first call to remember and proclaim. The bedrock of our lives. The one story we are all drawn into and the one man who unites us together in recognition of our brokenness and need. The bread and wine. Eternal symbols of the reality of our lives. Our lives revolve around this story. The constant reminder that this is what we need more than anything. The cross calls us in, to lay down our lives, to admit that we cannot make it home on our own, to admit that there is more than the world in front of our eyes, and to admit that we are wrong. We need this defining moment in history. We need to stop on this dark night. To feel the agony, to hear the desperate cries of a man who knows the horror that awaits him and to hear his obedience, his counting of the joy to come and to know that in the darkness real meaning, hope and light would be born.

The old hymns are the best expressions of all that happened on that first Thursday night.

"I cannot tell how silently he suffered
As with his peace he graced this place of tears
Or how his heart upon the cross was broken
The crown of pain to three and thirty years
But this I know, He heals the broken-hearted
And stays our sin and calms our lurking fear
And lifts the burden from the heavy laden
For yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world is here."

"And when I think, that God his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin."

"Guilty vile and helpless we, spotless lamb of God was he
Full atonement, can it be?
Halleujah, what a Saviour!"

The cross says everything. Tonight I went to church and was reminded that this is all I need. The bread and the wine. The body of Jesus broken for me and for you. The deep symbolism that reminds me that I have a way back to God. That I stand forgiven and accepted. That nothing else will work, none of my good deeds, none of my worst moments can change anything at the Lord's table. I simply come, empty, broken, full of sin. It is because of these things that I can come. All I do is hold out my hands and receive. It is all I can ever do. And the wondrous thing is that it is enough. His love compels us to come, to throw away our own efforts at righteousness and accept that 2000 years ago one man changed the world forever, that he bore our sin, that he took on our death, that he bore the wrath that should have been ours. We proclaim this until he comes.

"We do not presume
to come to this your table, merciful Lord,
trusting in our own righteousness,
but in your manifold and great mercies.
We are not worthy
so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table.
But you are the same Lord
whose nature is always to have mercy.
Grant us therefore, gracious Lord,
so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ
and to drink his blood,
that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body
and our souls washed through his most precious blood,
and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.

The Guildford stage of travels.

My parents have broadband. What a good thing. And so after a week and a half away from the internet I return to the world of procrastination and random thoughts. Which is fine because I'm on holiday and allowed to procrastinate all I like. Ha. Word Alive was brilliant, lots and lots and lots of Jesus. Uber amounts of food for the soul and many random chats with old friends. Mainly the question burning on my heart as I left was, "Do I love Jesus?". I think I do, but I want to love him more. We were looking at Colossians and the phrase that jumped out and hit me over the head was... "Christ, who is your life." It seems like a bit of a throw away comment, but sums up everything I forget. Christ is my life. I have nothing, am nothing, can do nothing without Him. When I read that I think it's a bit extreme. But it's not. It's reality. Reality of the deepest kind.

The Lake District as ever worked it's magic air on my soul. The Lakes look like this, and as you can tell I am very happy in my silly hat. Hoorah for holidays and the wonder of being in a created world and knowing the creator.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

And so it is...

As well as being the first line in the excellent Damien Rice's 'Blowers Daughter', it's also an apt phrase for the next few weeks in my life. It's a blustery Sunday afternoon in Hove, the clouds are racing across the blue sky and in the distance the sun is sparkling on the dancing waves. Pathetic fallacy never seemed so real (for the ill informed amongst you pathetic fallacy is a literary device, oft used by Dickens and Hardy, of having the weather in the story reflect the general mood of the story. Now you know why it's always raining in Dickens and Hardy's work...)

And so it is that I come to wrap up the term just gone, place my clothes and stuff in bags and head off around the country for three weeks. There is a long to do list on my desk which clearly explains the need to procrastinate here before I run around like a headless chicken for the evening.

First up is the annual pilgrimage to Skegness.

A place I've been almost every year at this time for the last 12 years. Oh dear. Word Alive is calling me again. And more importantly the beach at Skegness is calling, a beach I've ranted and raved at God on, made silly decisions about my future on, run along, had deep chats on and generally enjoyed encountering God on. It's become a ritual in my life. A routine which reminds me of where I have come from and who is going with me when I leave. So many transforming times have happened in Skegness, a fact I find deliciously ironic. Preparing for Word Alive has changed over the years. In the early times, when a mere youth, I would at this point be compiling compilation tapes for the car. These were works of painstaking care. I always aimed to ensure that there would be enough parent friendly songs for them to get played in the car, but also with songs I loved thrown in. Now I'm just plonking songs on the ipod, and thinking through what I can put on seminar handouts to make them interesting. How weirdly times change. Still, it's good to return to places of deep memory.

Talking of which, the next stop on the journey is my favorite of all places.

The Lakes are welcoming me back. And soon I'll be back in my world; peace the order of the day, friends to climb mountains with, valleys to gawp at in wonder and a general feeling of being small and loved to be enjoyed. Rest of the best kind. From there I head to Guildford for family times over Easter and then off to the Yorkshire Dales with work mates. *sigh*.

I think I'm ready to go. Much as I love routine, the view from my window and talking about God as a job, I'm also looking forward to seeing lots of old friends, getting some rest for my soul and walking around with a stupid grin on my face because the maker of the world knows me and knows that I am his.