While I was at this year’s Easter School in Durham, I have the chance to attend the book launch of a new book, which has several contributions from YMC tutors.
The book looks excellent, and is available now in paper and Kindle format from Amazon. Once I’ve read a bit more of it I’ll do a more detailed review.
Tue 1 March 2016
Prayer is the lifeblood of the church, and having discussed personal quiet times, it is worth thinking about corporate prayer – or prayer meetings. Sadly these can make the heart sink, at the thought of sitting in a cold, uncomfortable chair for 20 minutes in silence without 3 other people who are looking at their feet! However, there are many models of prayer that enable a group of people to pray in a way that is exciting, relevant, and powerful.
The nicknames of these models are not my own, they are how I have heard them referred to over the years.
I would say that the “ideal” prayer meeting blends together several of these different models, to keep things interesting, and would usually cover a variety of topics (even if there is a single theme for the meeting overall). An hour is a good starter – it sounds like a lot, but the time soon goes. You could run a schedule something like this:
- Welcome / Introduction (2 mins)
- Opening Worship (2 or 3 songs – 10 mins)
- Topic 1 – Introduction and Pray (6 mins)
- Topic 2 (6 mins)
- Worship Song (5 mins)
- Topic 3 (6 mins)
- Topic 4 (6 mins)
- Prayer Walk (10 mins)
- Worship Song (5 mins)
- Closing prayer (3 mins)
- Lord’s Prayer / Grace / Blessing (1 mins)
Topics can be specific items for your situation (Children’s work, local drug problems, upcoming mission event), bigger political issues (upcoming election, gay marriage), or global events/situations (e.g. Syria, persecuted Christians). It is good to have a mix of the global and local to help us remember we are part of a bigger body of believers.
I find that is always good to pray “for” something, rather than “against” it – so pray for peace and reconcilliation, rather than against war. Praying against has its place, particularly in the spiritual warfare domain, but we also want to foster an attitude of love and respect to those who are also made in God’s image.
Worship (by which I specifically mean singing worship songs to God) is a foundational part of prayer. Intercession and worship go very close together. Worship is a form of prayer, and if we are in tune with God’s spirit (which singing helps with), our praying is likely to be closer to his heart. I believe the first part in prayer is to seek God’s heart and agenda. I’m not sure how you can start interceding without first spending time focussing on and adoring God, although of course this doesn’t have to involve music – I just find it particularly helpful.
It is also worth mentioning that most of the songs we sing in church are extremely scriptural – in many cases entire passages set to music. The Word of God is an integral part of prayer, and singing it (or saying it, or reading it) can only be a good thing.
Best suited to a larger group of people, the principle is to split into two halves – one half of the room pray out loud together for a specific issue, the other half worship, usually to an up-tempo and “spiritual warfare” type song (“There’s a burning in my heart”, “We want to see Jesus lifted high”, “Lord you are calling (let your kingdom come)”.
After a couple of verses, the two halves swap, and the half that was singing start praying out loud, and vice versa. It helps if each half has a “leader” they are following, so they know if they should be singing or praying! This can just be someone at the front, facing everyone else, or the meeting leader can always pray and physically change sides.
As with all corporate prayer, there should be guidance from the leader as to what the topic of prayer is. To some extent, if you are all going to pray for different things you may as well be praying alone, and we know from the bible there is power in Christians standing together and agreeing with one another. It is also helpful if the topic is fairly specific, so everyone knows what they are praying for.
Also out loud means out LOUD – while not necessarily shouting, it is awesome when everyone prayers in a raised voice. Of course it depends on the topic, and quiet speaking may be more appropriate, but generally the louder the better.
There are two particularly good things about this model – Firstly, and this is a practical reason, it’s great for people who may not be very comfortable praying out loud. With half the room (and the band) belting out a song, no-one (except God) can hear what you’re saying! Secondly, the music really helps to keep things moving – you know you’ve only got a minute or two to pray for the given topic then you really get on with it, and don’t have to stress about running out of things to pray.
A variation on this model is to intersperse singing and praying, so every sings (perhaps the chorus), and then everyone prays out loud (perhaps while the band plays through a verse).
Similar to the above, except this time everyone is just praying out loud together. Again this is better suited to a larger group, otherwise it’s easy to get a bit self-concious. That said, to be honest by the time there’s 5 or 6 of you, and everyone’s talking loudly, it becomes a blur and you can’t tell what anyone else is praying.
You probably only want a 5 minute slot maximum for this per topic, probably with some singing or silence thrown in between topics.
If you believe that the gift of tongues is still a gift for today (and I do), people who exercise this gift may find it easier to pour out their heart to God using words from their spirit rather than from their mind.
There is a strange power to a large run of people joining together in absolute silence to pray in their hearts, together. This model is best suited to repentence or sorrowful/awful situations, when words aren’t enough.
Some people find it really helpful to actually do something physical while praying. Getting up and walking about is a great way of keeping focussed and awake, and if you are praying for a particular neighbourhood, what better way then to so do walking around it?
This can either be inside your building (if it’s big enough) – either just wander around (e.g. praying for the activities that happen in each space, or groups that meet there), or have stations up with items, pictures, news clippings, stations of the cross, etc.
As a variation on the above, it can also be helpful to have some sort of craft activity associated with the prayer.
If you get hold of a small branch (that looks a bit like a tree), and “plant” it in a pot so it’s upright, then prayers can be written on “leaves” (leaf shapes cut out of paper), and attached to the branches of the tree. Alternatives are post-it notes on a board, ribbons tied a large cross, stones built into a cairn. The imagary is being used to paint a picture of how our individual prayers join together into a corporate whole, as well as providing an way to pray for those who like to do something a bit more tangible. Holy Communion is not a million miles away from this sor of prayer activity!
Another variation is a confessional exercise, where sins can be written on a piece of paper. The bits of paper are then burnt or shredded, as a sign of God’s forgiveness.
Slightly different form of prayer, and better suited to a small group setting.
Each person takes it in turn to sit (or stand) in the middle, while everyone else gathers around, ideally lays on hands, and prayers over the person in the middle. This often has prophetic elements to it, as people pray out loud and share any words or pictures they may feel are from God. Probably 5 minutes a person is plenty.
It’s worth considering having someone as a “scribe” too, to jot down the encourages and words each person receives, for their individual journals.
Good for a youth group this one. The group sits in a circle, and the leader has a football (or cushion, or tennis ball, or …). The leader then throws the ball to a member of the group, who then prays a short prayer out loud, before throwing the ball on to someone else in the group.
If further guidance is needed, the “prayer on receipt” could be for
- An issue the recipient is facing
- General prayer for the sender
- General prayer for the next recipient
- A pre-determined topic
The psalms are an amazing collection of prayers, adoration, lament, confession, repentence, and worship – and they lend themselves very well to being spoken (as you’d expect).
In particular, they can be spoken corporately as an antiphon. For example, one half of the group could say the odd verses, and the other the even. Or if there’s a natural response, like in Psalm 136, the split can be done in this way – maybe changing sides at each stanza. As with YWAM, it helps to have a designated “leader” for each half to follow.
The splits could be demographic too – so male/female, or young/old.
Out of the hat
Another smaller group one – everyone writes a prayer request on a slip of paper (anonymously or otherwise), and puts it in a “hat”. Each person then draws a slip out of that hat, and prays for that issue for a couple of minutes. Then the slips can back in, and everyone takes another.
The slips could also be pre-determined topics, or areas of ministry, or specific people, or even streets in the parish.
The usual rules for prayer meetings apply – start on time and finish on time. Allow people to stay and pray/worship, but make it clear the meeting is over and everyone is free to go. It is always better to leave people wanting more – and however much they enjoyed it, if it over-runs then next time they will be more reticent about coming (“I really ebjoyed it, but it was a late night”).
Also try and end it well – saying the Lord’s Prayer together, or the Grace, or having a blessing, or even the Peace all bring the meeting to a natural conclusion.
Mon 1 February 2016
If you attended a Christian Union (or equivalent) as a schoolchild or student, you will already be familiar with the concept – if not always the practice – of “Quiet Times”.
What is it?
For those who aren’t familiar, the “Quiet Time” is a (ideally) daily exercise of taking some time out, and spending it intentionally with God. It usually involves elements such as worship, bible reading, prayer, journalling, meditation, and so on. Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer (or compline) are very structured way of doing this, required of all Church of England clergy as a part of their Daily Office. Compline is a particularly gentle way to end the day.
Less structured approaches include sitting in the study with a bible and a notebook and a cup of coffee, perhaps with a worship CD.
How to do it
It’s very simple – all you need is a bible (and sometimes not even that), and a little bit of quiet.
A really good tip is to have a bit of paper and a pen, to jot down those really important (but oh so distracting) thoughts that do pop into your head. “Ooo – I must remember to put butter on the shopping list” – fine, write down “butter” on your bit of paper, and then forget about until after your quiet time.
So, for a 10 minute “unstructured” quiet time, you could try the following:
- 1 minute in quiet settling down and clearing your mind. You could also use a worship song here.
- 2 minutes reading a short passage. A gospel or psalm chunks are good choices.
- 1 minute thinking about it – perhaps asking God if he wants to say anything, or just “being”
- 3 minutes praying to God. A good model is ACTS:
- A – Adoration. “God you’re great”
- C – Confession. “God, I did this, and I’m sorry. please forgive me.”
- T – Thanksgiving. “Thank you that I got on ok with a difficult colleague today”
- S – Supplication. “Please help the situation in Syria”
- 2 minutes writing down in your Journal anything that struck you about the passage, or particular prayers you prayed, or actions you need to take.
- 1 minute saying a short prayer of thanks, and ending.
Obviously any of these elements can be extended. You may be able to spend 10 or 15 minutes in worship if you have a CD that you particularly like. Or if you are halfway up a mountain you may spend much longer in the “being” phase, enjoying God’s wonderful creation.
The Daily Office liturgies mentioned above are a far formal setting (although can be done in 10 or 15 minutes), and broadly have this structure:
- Word of God (set readings from Psalms, OT and NT)
- Prayers (including set collect)
The advantage is that all the work is done for you, and the lectionary (set readings) cover the whole bible over time.
In between these two approaches are “daily devotionals”. These are typically booklets lasting between a month and a quarter that have a usually have a short reading, a reflection/commentary, and a prayer every day (usually dated, e.g. “1st March 2013”). There are also masses and masses of these (e.g. at Eden Christian bookshop), and you are more or less gauranteed to find a flavour that suits your palate. I can particularly recommend Topz for 7-11 year olds.
Finally, you might like to consider setting 12 months aside to read the Bible in a year. My Bible in a year has readings from the Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms every day, and in chronological (as opposed to canonical) order.
If you have a dated resource, you should decide in advance what you will do if you miss a day. You may decide to read every entry (and hence get “behind” – it’s pointless trying to catch up by doing 2 a day), or you may decide to always do “today’s” entry (and hence sometimes miss entries). I would generally recommend the latter, as it gets very disheartening to always be 2 weeks behind!
Why do it?
There is an awful lot of guilt about this practice, especially in evangelical circles, where it can sometimes seem like if you spend less than an hour in your QT each day then you’re somehow a failure. However my experience is that even 5 or 10 minutes makes a tangible difference to my mental state, attitudes, and holiness.
To misquote a famous saying, if I miss one quiet time then I notice, two and my family notices, three and the whole world notices.
If we are seriously about being followers of Jesus, and being transformed into his likeness, then we kind of need to know what he looks like!
Thu 7 January 2016
“If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – 1 John 1:9
At Spring Harvest 2014 I was struck by something the speaker (Ness Wilson) said in the context of the above verse at the main Bible reading. She said that at her church they use this verse as a sort of general confession, but that there was a danger here that we would never confess specific sins, and therefore not really confess them at all. In her words (as I remember them), you can’t disown something until you’ve first owned it. We also can’t experience the freedom of being forgiven our sins until we have confessed them to God.
Without wanting to get into the whole area of confession, I think the protestant/reformed church has lost something important in its rejection of regular confession to the priest.
The truth is that sin is powerful and addictive. The truth is also that we don’t face up to our sin, look it square in the eye, and “own up”, we can’t truly repent and turn from it, and “disown” it. And it can feel very humiliating and painful to own up to our sins, but I believe this is the what the bible calls us to.
Ness Wilson has a particularly approach that I think sounds good, and obviously works well for her – which is in her daily devotion she writes down in her journal the specific sins she has committed as an act of confession. The times she has failed to be the human being God has made her to be, or fallen short of his image.
For instance (and these are my words):
“I have been short-tempered with the children today”
“I promised a friend I’d ring, but was too tired and busy to fit in the call”
By writing them down, we own up to them, admit to ourselves and God that we have not made the mark, and from that position we can confess them, and truly know the fogiveness and freedom of God’s grace. There’s no justification, or excuses. We just admit to ourselves and to God that we did bad (if you excuse the English!).
The only thing I would add is I would say that on-going, addicive or deep rooted sin needs a firmer hand. If, every day, we write “I looked at pornographic websites again last night” (or whatever), this needs dealing with. This needs confessing to another person who you trust and can meet with regularly – perhaps a church leader – who will hold you to account, suggest external sources of help, and if necessary remove you from public ministry while you seek healing. While we all are sinners, and will continue to be until glory, no Christian should be a slave to sin.
Thu 31 December 2015
"2015 – A year of Tweets
As has become my custom, I like to pick my top tweets of the year. I’m including some of my favourite re-tweets this year too.
- Nothing like a spot of website maintenance to start the New Year. All links now working as they should, and information is up to date! (Thu Jan 01 08:21:35 +0000 2015)
- May the love of the Word made flesh enfold us,
his joy fill our lives,
his peace be in our hearts;
this night and always. #compline (Sat Jan 03 21:01:57 +0000 2015)
- Started my placement at Knaresborough today. Next 4 months joining in the worship over the Nidd. (Sun Jan 04 13:39:09 +0000 2015)
- Blowing the metaphorical dust off the lunchboxes. It all starts again this morning. (Mon Jan 05 07:41:02 +0000 2015)
- I wonder if I should have read up on the (n)etiquette of e-mailing a columnist in the newspaper out of the blue before doing so? (Mon Jan 05 21:10:15 +0000 2015)
- Newspaper in question being @churchtimes, so it’s not quite the same as dropping a line to @caitlinmoran about why Kermit was only number 3. (Mon Jan 05 21:11:56 +0000 2015)
- May the living waters of Christ cleanse us,
may the Spirit descend upon us,
and the blessing of God be with us
this night and always. (Tue Jan 06 20:48:09 +0000 2015)
- Overheard on the way to school:
“We’ve got RE today?!”
“Oh God” (Wed Jan 07 08:45:24 +0000 2015)
- Today’s main task is to make a minion birthday cake for No 1s birthday tomorrow. And prepare a presentation on ministry and leadership. (Fri Jan 09 10:30:56 +0000 2015)
- Car being mega buffeted in scout carpark! Hard to tell the difference between the road and the woods on the way here. #BitsOfTreeEverywhere (Fri Jan 09 20:56:32 +0000 2015)
- Pretty much a full house of weather warnings: Rain, wind, snow, and ice. #YorkshireWeather (Fri Jan 09 22:19:04 +0000 2015)
- I realise that I’m actually quite looking forward to the start of term at YMC. Really enjoyed last term, once I’d got into the groove. (Sun Jan 11 09:14:56 +0000 2015)
- Our loss is your gain #YMC. I only had 1 term and 1 module with Christine, but wow! @Steven_Croft @DioceseofSheff (Sun Jan 11 09:59:49 +0000 2015)
- RT @metoffice: AMBER warning for #UKSnow, YELLOW warnings for ice, rain & wind have been issued #WeatherAware (Tue Jan 13 12:50:13 +0000 2015)
- Another Mirfield weekend rolls in. Worship will be all from the Book of Common Prayer this time round, apparently. (Fri Jan 16 16:20:46 +0000 2015)
- Found out in this evenings Theology lecture that God doesn’t exist. Turns out there is a God, and it was a semantic exercise. #phew (Wed Jan 21 22:18:00 +0000 2015)
- @NessWilson @springharvest Hearing you speak at Skeggy a couple of years ago was a joy and a highlight – sad not be with you again. (Wed Jan 21 22:19:30 +0000 2015)
- PC has just given up. Hoping that its just the PSU which has blown (it was v hot when I looked in the case). Emergency trip to Maplin! (Fri Jan 23 11:13:07 +0000 2015)
- PC seems to be working again PTL. Nasty moment when wouldn’t POST, but the mighty Tom’s hardware helped me track down the schoolboy error! (Fri Jan 23 12:39:56 +0000 2015)
- Someone’s turned the scout hut car park into an ice rink!! (Fri Jan 30 21:00:52 +0000 2015)
- Quietly satisfied that I got full marks on the Harry Potter quiz in this week’s First News. (Never mind that it’s a newspaper for children.) (Sat Jan 31 22:10:45 +0000 2015)
- Wednesday is the one day I have to travel any significant distance. Another weather warning of snow for this week makes it 3 in a row!! (Mon Feb 02 21:42:32 +0000 2015)
- I used to wonder if hyperbole was the next series up from Superbowl. (Thu Feb 05 21:53:49 +0000 2015)
- Pikachu Pancake photo.eutony.net/365/2015-04-28 (Tue Feb 17 14:47:21 +0000 2015)
- Time for Penguins of Madagascar! First cinema outing for No. 2!! (Wed Feb 18 09:58:23 +0000 2015)
- Can’t believe someone is having Fireworks in this weather, but not sure what else it would be? #BigBangs #Harrogate (Mon Feb 23 20:16:27 +0000 2015)
- Fifteen years ago, the most wonderful person I know said “I will” to me, and me to her. Feels like yesterday. (Thu Feb 26 19:41:55 +0000 2015)
- RT @TheRealNimoy: Leonard Nimoy 1931-2015 (Sat Feb 28 06:33:30 +0000 2015)
- Thank you @TheRealNimoy for being such a major figure in my childhood! #TrekkieForvever #RestInPeace (Sat Feb 28 06:36:48 +0000 2015)
- Who’d have thought I would end up citing Richard Feynman in an essay on doctrine? #LifeOfAnOrdinand (Sat Feb 28 09:08:07 +0000 2015)
- I somehow seem to have agreed to plan and a lead a 6.20 sunrise service on Easter day. (Sat Mar 07 20:57:44 +0000 2015)
- Do you think that a mid-life crisis is when you reach the age when you realise there will be no deus ex machina? (Mon Mar 09 12:42:11 +0000 2015)
- Weird to be planning an Easter day service in the dark depths of Lent. #LifeOfAWannabeVicar (Fri Mar 13 12:45:26 +0000 2015)
- Right, signing off twitter for the weekend as I’m on silent retreat! Admittedly you may not notice any difference!! See you on Sunday. (Fri Mar 13 17:29:03 +0000 2015)
- Great weekend. Very quiet and peaceful. Was almost a shame to start talking again. Think getting home to a bouncy 4yo will be a shock!! (Sun Mar 15 14:50:58 +0000 2015)
- God is sort of the opposite of us – He remembers the good stuff forever and forgets the bad straight away. (Mon Mar 16 08:52:54 +0000 2015)
- Good to see @NYorksPrepared taking prayer seriously: “Having a BCP is about being prepared should disaster strike” 🙂 #BookOfCommonPrayer (Tue Mar 17 11:33:29 +0000 2015)
- The lord is risen. Alleluia!! (Sun Apr 05 06:22:08 +0000 2015)
- Led a sunrise service at 6.20, now on the train to Durham for a week of Easter School. #LifeOfAnOrdinand (Sun Apr 05 12:31:32 +0000 2015)
- Jesus is Lord – by his death and resurrection, God is saving the world in a way that can be received by everyone through faith. @MarkPowley1 (Fri Apr 10 13:09:21 +0000 2015)
- In a range of contexts, how do you communicate gospel values most effectively to young people? #BigQuestions #YMC @twurchordinand (Fri Apr 10 13:12:41 +0000 2015)
- Answers from panel to last tweet: “role model”, ” sharing life”, “Godly play.” (my paraphrase/brevity) (Fri Apr 10 13:53:55 +0000 2015)
- Suddenly have a load of (other) trainee vicars following me. Feeling I need tweet super spiritual tweets (as you can tell from this one!) (Fri Apr 10 20:40:02 +0000 2015)
- I don’t really like the idea of lining up a week’s worth of automated/scheduled tweets on a Monday morning tho. Misses the point for me. (Fri Apr 10 20:49:36 +0000 2015)
- … Bit like scheduling the year’s birthday e-cards on Jan 1. Practical, sure. Better than forgetting? Almost certainly. But feels soulless. (Fri Apr 10 20:51:35 +0000 2015)
- Lots of food for thought yesterday. Especially struck by church as authentic, changing, doubting, spiritual, community. (Sat Apr 11 06:37:23 +0000 2015)
- The challenge with authenticity is not making our character flaws into a virtue. (Sat Apr 11 08:14:34 +0000 2015)
- Survived my first YMC Easter School. Good stuff, but looking forward to seeing clan. Not so wild about normal life resuming in the morning! (Sun Apr 12 15:34:05 +0000 2015)
- I packed a huge wheely suitcase. The Brother who joined us from CR appears to only have a small backpack for the week! #TravellingLight (Sun Apr 12 15:36:32 +0000 2015)
- One high point was deciding not to suggest the actions to “allelu allelu” at morning prayer, only for everyone to rebel and do them anyway! (Sun Apr 12 15:40:58 +0000 2015)
- Today I learned the importance of listening carefully to one’s beloved’s questions:
“Did you have any trysts?”
#doghouse. (Sun Apr 12 22:01:04 +0000 2015)
- Just so we’re clear, I didn’t have any trysts! I thought it was a question about fallings out!! 🙂 (Sun Apr 12 22:04:28 +0000 2015)
- Sad news of fatality on railway near Harrogate. Thoughts and prayers with those involved and left behind. (Thu Apr 16 13:21:33 +0000 2015)
- USB wallsocket. Genius. photo.eutony.net/365/2015-04-19 (Fri Apr 17 13:36:14 +0000 2015)
- Just had my first, and quite probably last, Prestat hot chocolate. Not really my cup of tea (and not just because it’s not tea). (Fri Apr 17 20:43:57 +0000 2015)
- 4yo: “No no – I’m a hungry hungry cakeavor not an apricotavor’ (Sat Apr 18 09:26:53 +0000 2015)
- Can’t really believe my placement is nearly over. Going to be odd to be back at St Andrew’s! (Sat Apr 18 21:12:29 +0000 2015)
- RT @RevRichardColes: Silent Breakfast at Mirfield. One of the great gifts of western monasticism to the world. http://t.co/u67eUVg9E9 (Mon Apr 20 11:22:42 +0000 2015)
- Here’s an idea… How about we (a) all vote and (b) vote for the party we want, & ignore the “safe seat” “wasted vote” nonsense propaganda? (Mon Apr 20 21:11:30 +0000 2015)
- Probably happier than I should be that next Saturday’s day on Church History has been cancelled. #FamilyTime (Fri Apr 24 16:59:27 +0000 2015)
- Well that’s it – my placement at Knaresborough is over. Bit sad really… (Sun Apr 26 12:10:52 +0000 2015)
- Feel v sorry for the cyclist who thinks it’s ok to nearly knock down a 10 yo on the stray and then swear at them. Must have troubled life. (Sun Apr 26 15:00:18 +0000 2015)
- It’s 1 year since I said the last goodbye to my Mum. So glad that I was with her for her last few hours. Slightly subdued day ahead, but OK. (Mon Apr 27 06:40:51 +0000 2015)
- This is how my day is shaping up! #porrige #explosion photo.eutony.net/365/2015-04-29 (Mon Apr 27 06:50:51 +0000 2015)
- So I posted a bowl of porridge on Instagram. It’s been heart-ed by 2 Russian ladies who don’t seem to own many clothes. How does that work? (Mon Apr 27 21:06:23 +0000 2015)
- One of the great things about being a Dad is that the kids haven’t heard all your old jokes before, so you can inflict them all over again. (Mon May 04 18:11:27 +0000 2015)
- This mission model has been fascinating. I genuinely didn’t think the basis of mission was in Genesis! (Mon May 04 21:12:37 +0000 2015)
- I’m thinking that Carly-Rae is this generations Kylie. Irritating pop that you end up really really really really really really liking. (Thu May 07 06:39:49 +0000 2015)
- Oo – power cut in Harrogate. Only 30s or so. Computers won’t have enjoyed that. 🙁 (Sat May 09 17:30:07 +0000 2015)
- Hard to tell what’s really going on in London protest right now. Pinch of salt re Stuff on twitter, but why apparent media blackout? (Sat May 09 19:59:19 +0000 2015)
- Who’d have thought a Taylor Swift video would give a precis of modern dance genres? #ShakeItOff (Wed May 13 06:48:52 +0000 2015)
- I’m no expert on the fairer sex, but I don’t think I’d like a boyfriend to describe our relationship as “I’ve found myself a cheerleader.” (Fri May 15 06:38:43 +0000 2015)
- The gardens at Mirfield looking (and smelling) fab in the spring sunshine. photo.eutony.net/365/2015-05-17 (Sat May 16 12:35:58 +0000 2015)
- Really interesting discussions today about baptisms and funerals as ministry and mission. #FoodForThought #YMC (Sat May 16 21:08:07 +0000 2015)
- Also interesting to note that YMC is a nominee in the Yorkshire hospitality awards. Only in that instance the M is meatballs! (Sat May 16 21:10:01 +0000 2015)
- There would be a certain irony to being run over while walking along playing Crossy Road. #RememberToLookUp (Tue May 19 12:17:14 +0000 2015)
- I had to be filled with the Holy Spirit before my ‘Christianity’ was anything other than just words. I still do! #Pentecost (Sun May 24 05:58:02 +0000 2015)
- Putting off my lunch so I can hear @alexbcann play electric dreams. (Wed Jun 10 11:12:05 +0000 2015)
- Anyone else got dimming lights in Harrogate? Twice in 20 mins where i am. #BrownOut (Thu Jun 18 20:04:59 +0000 2015)
- It strikes me that ordination is the result of ministry, not the cause/source. Obvious I guess, but easy to think of it t’other way around. (Sat Jun 20 05:28:36 +0000 2015)
- My first weds evening off since I started ordination training, and I don’t know what to do with myself!! (That may be a slight exaggeration) (Wed Jun 24 19:38:14 +0000 2015)
- @alexbcann I guess you know when its a good one cos the crowd goes ho? (Thu Jun 25 10:46:49 +0000 2015)
- What’s with the KT Tunstall thing in the Lawson track? @StrayFM @alexbcann (Thu Jun 25 10:52:05 +0000 2015)
- Thunderbolts and lightning very very frightening. #harrogate @StrayFM (Wed Jul 01 13:10:24 +0000 2015)
- Things hotting up at the Great Yorkshire Showground! Except for the rain, that is… (Mon Jul 13 12:15:38 +0000 2015)
- The Divergent books are gripping – almost forgot to pick up my boy from scouts! #whoops #badparent #NoseInABook (Fri Jul 17 20:28:26 +0000 2015)
- Just spent 1.5hrs catching up on admin and emails. And a little bit of Facebook, if I’m honest. My ‘reward’ is a trip to IKEA. (Fri Aug 21 09:13:18 +0000 2015)
- Made it through IKEA in record time (45 mins) AND only bought 1 thing that wasn’t on the list! (Fri Aug 21 10:51:50 +0000 2015)
- My approach to hoovering (and ironing) is that any amount I do is an improvement on the pre-hoovered (or ironed) state. (Sat Aug 22 10:09:49 +0000 2015)
- I discovered one of the hidden dangers of scrabble last night, when I told my 11yo son he was ‘allowed to have sex’. (Fri Aug 28 18:30:55 +0000 2015)
- The depressing thing about fixing bugs is that you can work for hours, and have a single line of code to show for it! (Thu Sep 10 12:22:50 +0000 2015)
- First online shop of the term, and I now realise that I utterly failed to compensate for the fact both boys now have school dinners. (Fri Sep 11 10:03:21 +0000 2015)
- Starting to get the impression that community/fellowship is (particularly) on God’s heart right now. It keeps cropping up…. (Tue Sep 22 21:06:03 +0000 2015)
- Nothing like a good baking session. Flapjack for scouts to sell at firework display, Christmas cake in the oven (2.5 hrs still to go!) (Sat Nov 07 13:08:11 +0000 2015)
- Horrible journey home from Mirfield – cars at all angles on M621, then several lakes instead of roads through Leeds. (Wed Nov 18 22:16:37 +0000 2015)
- RT @FrizFrizzle: Leeds to the left of me,
Wakefield to the right,
Here I am,
Stuck on the M62. (Wed Nov 25 16:26:46 +0000 2015)
- I must remember to try and arrange my work Christmas day the evening before a liturgy construction assessment day again next year… #D- (Sat Dec 12 07:00:46 +0000 2015)
- In the end, the liturgy construction went quite well, aided by being allocated to a fanastic group of fellow ordinands. Plus lots of coffee. (Mon Dec 14 07:35:34 +0000 2015)
- Oooo – empty can rattling down the road on an otherwise quiet dark and misty night. Have I walked into a horror film? #GladItsNotElmStreet (Tue Dec 15 21:03:55 +0000 2015)
- Christmas cake! photo.eutony.net/365/2015-12-23 (Sun Dec 20 08:25:21 +0000 2015)
- Brass quartet playing “Let it go” outside M&S. #HarrogateLife (Tue Dec 22 13:31:26 +0000 2015)
- The wait is over – The king has been born, in a stable! Merry Christmas one and all – may it be peaceful and joyful. (Fri Dec 25 08:48:31 +0000 2015)
- Don’t want to be grumpy on Christmas Day, but I don’t like the arrangement of “Joy to the world” with minors/sevenths. Misses the point! (Fri Dec 25 15:53:47 +0000 2015)
- RT @metoffice: News Release: Red warning is issued for rain(Sat Dec 26 09:42:53 +0000 2015)
- Just been for a drive through Harrogate – town roads all fine, except for some deep standing water in usual places by stray. @alexbcann (Sat Dec 26 10:56:23 +0000 2015)
- Last of our Christmas guests on their way south again. Lovely time had by all, I think, house now feels a bit empty (even with 4). (Wed Dec 30 11:12:47 +0000 2015)
- Rains coming down again… Does Storm Frank mean we have to be particularly direct with one another? (Wed Dec 30 12:53:44 +0000 2015)
Tue 1 December 2015
Another activity that’s good for youth group, but also cell group meetings, is the progressive psalm. It requires no significant extra preparation, but is a nice act of corporate worship.
It’s a bit like the game “Consequences“, except that a poem of worship to God is built, instead of a silly story.
As with everything else on this site, this isn’t my idea, and I take no credit for it – it is an exercise I have taken part in that I found to be a source of blessing and enjoyment. I struggle to identify where I first came across it as well! The Fresh Expressions website has a good explanation, and a original credit.
It works best in a group of at least 5-8 people – if there’s more than this is it’s probably worth doing it in two groups. Each person will need a pen.
I think it’s always worth explaining to the group how the activity works – what the purpose is, what the steps are along the way (in overview), and what the result is.
Hand each person a sheet of A4 paper. These need to be divided into 8 horizontal sections, starting at the top – one way to do this is to hold the paper in portrait, then fold it in half taking the top to the bottom, and repeat twice. When unfolded again, there will be 8 sections separated by the creases.
- In the top section, each person writes write a short sentence of praise to God, e.g “Lord, I want to praise you”
- The paper is then folded backwards along the crease, so that what was written can’t be seen, and the paper passed to the person to the left.
- On their new piece of paper, each person writes something about God starting with ‘because’, e.g. “because you are holy beyond measure”
Fold and pass to the left again.
- Write something else about God’s character, begining with ‘and’, e.g “and you are worthy of all praise”. Fold and pass it on.
- Now write 2 things involving how wonderful God’s creation is. e.g. “Galaxies thousands of light years long are but a speck to you, you know the smallest ant by name” Fold and pass on.
- Next write something God does for you personally. e.g. “You fill me with your spirit.” Fold and pass.
- Last but one – write a personal message to Jesus with ‘because’ in the middle. e.g. “I thank you Jesus because you died for me”. Fold and pass.
- Finally, write a resolution – “therefore I give my life you every day.” Fold and pass last time
Now it’s the good bit – each person unfolds the bit of paper in front of them, and takes turns to read out loud their constructed psalm, while the rest of the groups listens, and hopefully worships and prays.
They can be collected at the end, and typed up to be e-mailed round the group, or individuals can just take them home.
Sat 31 October 2015
"All Hallow’s Eve
October 31st is an interesting day for the Church. How to engage positively with modern culture while still celebrating the Light? One approach is to subvert the festival to point in another direction altogether (i.e to Jesus).
One possibility is to run a Light Party – a celebration of all that is light, with music, games, and sweets. The idea being it’s even better than dressing up as a zombie and going trick or treating!
Another approach is to carve a ‘Christian’ pumpkin – as illustrated here. There is a little poem that goes with it that is a sort of prayer, but also explains the symbolism. I take no credit at all for this! (And apologies if your browser renders it in Comic Sans; I’ve just said “cursive”).
I am a Jack O’ Lantern my light will shine so bright
For I am a Christian pumpkin my symbols tell what’s right.
My nose is like the cross on which our Savior died
To set us free from sin we need no longer hide.
My mouth is like a fish the whole wide world to show
That Christians live in this house and love their Savior so!
The story starts at Christmas my eyes are like the star
That shone on Baby Jesus and wise men saw from far
My color it is orange just like the big bright sun
That rose on Easter Day along with Gods’ own Son.
And so on Halloween Let’s set our pumpkins out
And tell the trick or treaters What Gods’ love is all about!
Thu 8 October 2015
Virgin Media just keep on increasing their lowest tier of broadband, at least in this area. This time last year, we have 20Mbps, which was boosted to 50Mbps, and has just been bosted again to 75Mbps.
My LAN only runs at 100Mbps!
I’m a panelist for broadband speed monitoring, and I quite like the profile of the download and upload speeds over the last 12 months:
There’s clearly a bit of instability / variation in the download speeds, as one would expect, which is a shame as it masks the steps up a bit. Still, I like it.
Thu 1 October 2015
Journalling is, I think, one of the more misunderstood spiritual disciplines. There’s a sense that you have to be super spiritual to keep one, or write 5 sides of A4 a day. Certainly if you were to read the journals of spiritual “heavyweights”, it could be quite a daunting and demoralising experience.
It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece though, and the simple act of writing down your thoughts, and occasionally going back to reflect on them is extremely valuable, as well as being an interesting and enjoyable exercise. The first rule is to ditch the guilt. It doesn’t matter if you do it three times a day, once a week, or once a year at Easter (or whatever). That said, the more you use it, the more valuable it is, and I’d suggest that less than once a year is probably too infrequent to make it worthwhile. Of course life ebbs and flows, I’ve certainly gone for more than a year between entries once or twice over the 16 years I’ve been keeping one.
So what is a journal? Well, I would describe it as record of thoughts and feelings, particuarly of a spiritual nature. I also include significant events in my journal, as I believe we are holistic beings, and occurances like getting married, having a child, losing a parent, changing jobs, moving house, taking on or dropping responsibilities, and so on will affect us spiritually as well as emotionally and physically.
Personally, I use a filofax (I’m actually on my second now), because I find it useful to be able to write entries on loose-leaf filofax paper and insert them later if I’m away without my journal. Many people use a hardback notebook that’s solely for that purpose. Whatever you choose, it should be a book that is special in some way, and only used for journalling – it needs to hold up to decades of use. At its best, it’s an extremely personal, intimate, cherished thing, and a dog-eared A4 refill pad is unlikely to be helpful to the process!! I would encourage you not to use a computer in this instance – the enforced slowness and personalisation (and permanence) of hand-writing is valuable. You should use a pen that is, at the very least, comfortable and writes well (I don’t actually use a fountain pen, by the way.)
You should find a way that’s most the helpful the easiest for you to actually do. Here’s how I write mine; Firstly, I find a quiet spot, ideally with a cup of coffee. I open up to a new page, and write the date, and usually some form of heading. My headings are often where I physically am at that point in time (e.g. “Willersely Castle”) – although this is more a reflection of the fact I tend to write it more when I’m out and about than when I’m at home! They can also be an indication of whatever has prompted me to write an entry.
I then just write as little or as much as I feel like, or have time for. I have entries that are literally one or two words – often a picture or word that someone has had for me. Other times I will write at length about what’s going on with me – things that are great, things that aren’t so good, things that I’m confused about and trying to work out. I often find little thoughts pop in to my head about things I’d been intending to journal, but hadn’t got around to (e.g. “That reminds me – a few weeks ago in Church, there was a sermon all about that, and I’d never really thought before how Jesus did so and so and his disciples reacted by doing this and that!”).
I also usually try and intentionally finish an entry – even if it’s as simple as “That’s all for now.” Otherwise it can feel a bit disconcerting when you come back to reading them in the future, and an entry stops what feels like halfway through.
If you exercise spritual disciplines like Lectio Divino or the Awareness Examen, journalling is the ideal medium to make a note of it. Similarly if you worship in a more charistmatic/prophectic tradition, words and pictures should absolutely go in the journal.
In case it isn’t already clear, you should read it back to yourself from time to time! Maybe not the whole thing cover to cover, although I try and do this once a year – and of course when you’ve just started journalling it doesn’t take long to read it all back. I also find that when I’m writing an entry I will sometimes want to refer back to something I’ve written on the subject previously.
Finally, don’t let anyone else read it. By all means read passages out to someone if it’s appropriate – say a mentor or prayer partner – and perhaps even let them view a specific entry. But in general it has to be sacrosant and private, a place where you can write down the deepest and darkest truths. Somewhere you can admit to yourself your sin, struggles and fears; perhaps as a first step to admitting them to someone else. If you allow other people to read it, you will (subconciously or others) start write for them, or for your image, and not for you.
If you need further convincing, here are some of the benefits I’ve experienced over the years:
- The very act of stopping and writing reflectively has slowed me down and deepened me as a person.
- Having to actually put thoughts and feelings into words on paper crystalises them, and sometimes helps you realise that you don’t actually think what you thought you thought!
- It becomes a record of what God has done, over time, which builds faith and worship. Sometimes it is only years later that an answer to prayer can be recognised, but this is only really possible if the prayer has been recorded in the first place.
- It’s a key part of my decision making process. Both as a way to martial my thoughts, and also to reflect on any similarities with situations I’ve faced in the past.
- You can’t argue with pen and ink (or edit it) in 10 years time! It’s a “warts’n’all” record of what you were thinking and feeling at a point in time.
As to the spiritual “heavyweights”? Perhaps an analogy is helpful; If you visit a top-notch restaurant, and are served the most exquisite food, you don’t expect to be able to go home and re-create the dish the next day. It takes skill, equipment, experience, ingredients, and a whole lot of practice to create something that amazing. What you can do is cook something, and perhaps try and learn some of the techniques, keep improving as a chef. You may never create a meal as wonderful as the professional, but I can guarantee that you can make something delicious and unique.
Fri 18 September 2015
"Wages of Sin…
In Romans 6:23, Paul says:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Aside from the obvious quip (“That’s fine, thanks – I’ll sin on a voluntary basis”), I’ve been reflecting on this recently, and my own experience of sin and death. Sin, for the purposes of this post, is anything which is contrary to God’s will, plan, or nature. It must be kept that in mind that God, and Jesus’ sacrifice, are far greater than any sin we could conceieve of, or do – however bad we are (or feel we are), God always has the last word, and sees us as pure and sinless if we allow Him to.
Back to the verse; I’ve been wondering if this is a verse that operates on several levels (as a lot of them do), and it is referring to all three of literal/physical, metaphorical, and spiritual death?
The spiritual element is perhaps the most transparent reading, especially given the contrast with eternal life in Christ. If we reject God’s gift, we are choosing to spend eternity without God – separated from him by our own sin. Amazingly all we have to do is confess Christ as Lord, and repent of (i.e. say sorry, and turn from) our sin, and God’s gift is that He sees us just as if we’d never sinned. I think the spiritual means in the here and now also – in that sin robs of us the fullness of life. When we do stuff wrong, we feel guillty, grumpy, fed up, and of course separated from God. There is some overlap with what I describe as metaphorical death below – perhaps a better expression for that would be abstract or metaphysical. Not sure!
The physical/literal is an equally valid reading, in my opinion. If we (persistently) sin, our physical bodies pay the price here and now. This may be through the direct abuse of our bodies (drinking, smoking, drugs, driving when tired, not getting enough sleep, over/under eating, unfitness, suicide at the extreme). We’re told elsewhere in scripture that our bodies are temples or the Holy Spirit, and therefore anything we do which damages our body is out of kilter with God’s plan.
It might also be the direct effect of others’ sin. The obvious current example is the so-called IS. Their torture and murder is sin, but the consequential death is that of the victims. The refugees drowning are another group in this category – there can be no doubt that their plight is a direct result on sin on the part of others. Finally, physical death can be the direct effect of our corporate sin – whether that’s hubris (for example, arrogance around an unsinkable titantic, or building houses on fault-line/flood-plans, or tearing up mangroves), or our sin against creation – extreme weather, some forms of cancer.
But I think there is a third interpretation, which is metaphorical death. It’s probably easiest to explain this by example. If I sin against my wife (for example, by having an affair or using pornography), that will ultimately lead to the death of our marriage. It will lead to ‘little deaths’ in the short-term, as trust and intimacy is eroded, and long-term to the death of the relationship. Similarly, if I sin against my employer, by stealing from work, or not doing my job properly, this will lead to the death of my job (i.e. I get the sack), and possibly my career. If I sin against my children by being short-tempered, or abusive, that leads to the death of the relationship. If I am in a position of trust, and abuse that, it will lead to the death of that position.
Of course, there is death without sin. Bad stuff happens sometimes. But from what I see, sin always brings death, sooner or later, in one form or another.
All of the above said, Christians are also Easter people, and recognise that death isn’t the final word. Just as Jesus was resurrected, so is death ultimately beaten. This means even if (say) a relationship has died, there is still the hope of resurrection! As our physical bodies die, so is there hope (sure hope) of resurrection and eternal life with Jesus.
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