I had to go out for a walk in the rain with the girls this week, and so our youngest was desperate to go out in her wellies – which she did. She walked through each puddle and watched the water rise up around her toes. As she jumped and splashed her smile was oen of those smiles that beam with joy from cheek to cheek.
Seeing her joy at what before that moment had been to me a mundane and slightly frustrating task – having to go out in the rain – brought me up short. She found joy were I had seen only wet, grey and mundane. But in that moment, through her joyful splashing in puddles, I had been splashed with joy too.
What we do, and how we live impacts others. It’s the way God made us, it is our human nature to be relational, connected beings.
But God has also made each of us unique, and it is through that uniqueness that I believe God has place in each of us a uniqueness and blessing that only we can bring to the world.
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with yourfaith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Romans 12:6-8, NIVUK
So whoever you are, whatever your gifts and passions and skills, use them, and splash with them – because through you, God will bless others too.
I wanted to share these snowdrops with you. Over the few days more and more of these beauties have been appearing.
I always look out for them each new year. My Grandparents would always look for the first snowdrops of the year, and as a farmer who was always out first thing every morning Gramps would usually spot them first and pick a few to bring into the farmhouse to show Gran as evidence that spring was on the way.
What I find most intriguing about snowdrops is how fragile they look. How easily they can be trampled, how vulnerable their drooping blooms appear.
Yet, they are among the first flowers of the year and despite their fragile appearance, on the inside they are strong and able to withstand the cold weather and harsh winds of winter.
In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul has been writing to the Church in Corinth about his ‘thorn in the flesh’, something that is tormenting Paul, and makes him feel weak.
We don’t know what – probably not an actual thorn, maybe some sort of health issue, or something about his character he doesn’t like.
Whatever it is, Paul has pleaded with God to have rid of this thorn. Yet God says:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” 1 Cor 12:
2 Corinthians 12:9
Paul discovers that in weakness, God’s power and strength are made perfect.
I would quite like God to get rid of the thorn that is coronavirus. I’m wearied by the constant challenge of living within restrictions, the sometimes heavy burden of responsibility I feel and bear with others, the vulnerability and fragility of life that this virus takes advantage of.
Yet through these snowdrops God has reminded me that things are not always as they appear. While things make appear fragile and weak and vulnerable, inside God’s power and strength is made perfect.
While the darkness of this winter may still bear heavily upon us, spring is coming, and hope is with us – because through acceptance of our vulnerability, God’s power and strength is made perfect.
May you know the hope and strength of God in your life today.
What do you find is a thorn in your flesh?
Where do you feel weak or vulnerable today?
Pray, and ask God to help you know his strength and power being made perfect in you.
If you’re reading this blog post, you’re privileged. You’ve got an internet connection.
If you’ve food in a fridge, freezer or kitchen cupboard for the next few days, that’s privilege.
If you’ve got money in the bank, a pension or stable income, that’s privilege.
If you’re white, heterosexual or from an ethnic majority, you’ve got privilege.
This week we’ve been reminded yet again of injustice in our society, driven by inequality and division. Digital poverty is having a massive impact on schooling and the learning of young people at home.
Community larders and Foodbanks continue to see increasing demand. Some supermarkets have been reporting shortages of some food due to bulk buying , leaving others without.
In America we saw what’s been described by many media outlets as an attempted coup by white extremists. Many have rightly pointed out that only months ago black protestors in America were met with extreme force on their demonstrations – yet these extremists easily overcame the small group of officers on duty to maintain order.
All these, and many other injustices are present in our communities and societies and all to easily can be ignored or taken for granted. The pandemic has, helpfully, made these injustices and positions of privilege more obvious – if we’re willing to notice them.
But to do we notice? Do we even recognise our privilege? And more importantly, do we step out of our glass houses to stand with and alongside those without that privilege?
The prophet Amos was probably a farm hand, sent by God to call for social justice, and condemns those who’s power and privilege comes at the cost of others. The call is to step out of the glass house, and work for justice.
“I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.
Amos 5:21-24, The Message
Oceans of Justice. that’s what I want.
Where there is water, life can be sustained. Where there are oceans of justice, life is sustained. Togetherness, community, equity and love grow and flourish.
Are you privileged? Are you suffering injustice? How can you work for justice?
The Joint Public Issues Team is a multi-denominational team who offer excellent analysis of current social issues and ways we can act at local, national and international level to use our privilege to stand for justice.
Looking back on the interruption of 2020, and the interruption that the season on Advent encourages us to look towards.
What has given you peace this year? What is giving you peace today? Comment below, I’d love to hear your experiences.
Lydia, my youngest daughter, is 4 and an early riser – it’s unusual if she wakes up after 6am, usually, around 5:30 in the morning we’re awoke to Lydia coming into our bedroom asking ‘is it morning’, ‘can I have a cuddle’, ‘can you help me put my tights on’, or ‘wake up’!
Louise, my wife and I often respond with something of a grunt, a groan, or a go and play in your bedroom, but Lydia has none of it, she’s wide awake and she wants our attention.
During Advent, Christians often read some of the story of John the Baptist, an older cousin of Jesus who was himself called by God to tell people of the coming one, who would bring signs of the kingdom of God.
Right at the beginning of Marks gospel we read some words that we also find in the Old Testament – which point to John the Baptist as a messenger preparing the way for the Lord – the coming one.
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”
The message at the start of Mark’s gospel is – ‘wake up – make space for the coming one!’ Pay attention to the signs of the coming kingdom.
The use of the words that are also in the Old Testament make a link with the words we find there. Some of them come from Isaiah 40, which is a chapter that begins with the words:
Comfort, O comfort my people, says God.
They are reassuring words, because they remind us that God cares for us, loves us and wants to comfort us. That in making space for God in our lives, the turmoil of life is interrupted by the coming one who came to bring peace to the world.
There’s a myth that God is sat on a golden throne looking down on use little humans wagging his finger in judgement, saying we are awful people who deserve to be punished. There’s even been Christian leaders suggesting that COVID-19 is God’s punishment on us. That’s codswallop.
God doesn’t sit on high, at a distance, judging us. God is among us and with us.
God knows the mess that the world is in, knows we, the human beings God made, are not always the best at looking after the world and one another.
But God knows we try our best and doesn’t focus all effort on punishing us. God loves us and wants our living together to be interrupted by peace, that we might live in peace with one another.
We’ve seen that interruption this year as we sacrifice our own wants and desires, to limit our activity and care for one another through pandemic.
Christmas reminds us that God came to live among us and show us signs of the kingdom of God now. One day Jesus will return and establish an even greater kingdom where all is well, and filled with peace.
But as we journey towards Christmas and hear the message wake up, make space for the coming one – we discover that the coming one, Jesus, has come to make God’s love and care for us more real for us today. The kingdom is now.
So while we know the world isn’t perfect, We know we’re not perfect – perfection isn’t want God is asking of us right now. What God is asking of us is to wake up and be open to be interrupted with peace, to let God’s peace flow into our lives, and flow out into our relationships with one another.
May your life be interrupted… by peace.
All shall be well in his kingdom of peace; freedom shall flourish and wisdom increase; justice and truth from his sceptre shall spring; wrong shall be ended when Jesus is King:
Sing we the King who is coming to reign, verse 2, by Charles Silvester Horne
In this advent season, waiting & watching, Known & unknown, Certainty & uncertainty, Hopeful & hopeless, Stability & instability, in the now & yet to be, We pray for peace & love, Grace & wisdom, Justice & hope, For all those who make decisions now, which impact what will be.
Originally written on 12th December 2018, in light of the Brexit ‘meaningful vote’
Rev Dan shares a prayer form Remembrance Sunday, as we stand together in remembrance of our past and seek God’s hope for our future.
Life-giving God, Who breathed life into this world, and breathed the beauty of our diversity into humanity.
On this day of remembrance, we remember today, the perils of prejudice and violence, and the cost of war and conflict.
Peace-giving God, we remember Jesus, Who lived a life of peace and justice. Help us to live our lives as a reflection of the character of Jesus.
Hope-giving God, Help us learn from humanity’s past, Stir us to action to stand against injustice, to boldly strive for peace in our communities and our world. And show infinite love towards our neighbour. As we strive towards a world overflowing with justice, hope, peace and love.
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Alternatively you can access our Terms and Conditions through our website by finding the link somewhere on our homepage – usually in pretty small grey font, but it depends if you’re viewing our website on computer, tablet of mobile device.
Ok, so it’s not always that hard to find them, but they’re not always easy to make sense of are them. Terms and Conditions are often long, full of legal jargon, and it’s not unusual that I’m still not sure what they really mean after I’ve read them. In fact, I confess I sometimes just tick the box to say I’ve read them and move on.
Terms and Conditions are part of 21st Century life, every social media account, every purchase we make, every contract we sign comes with some sort of conditions. Rules, guidelines, commitments, legal requirements – from the provider, but also from me the receiver.
I’ve heard lots of times people saying things like ‘God doesn’t love me, I’m not good enough’. Every time it fills me with sadness because somehow the world thinks God has a long list of complicated, undecipherable terms and conditions that mean no one can ever live up to them.
But it’s just not true, this misconception.
In the Bible there’s a letter that Paul writes where he talks about this sense of being cut off from God. I’m putting into my own words here – you can look it up for yourself if you want, it’s Colossians 1:21-22.
once you were cut off from God because of your evil deeds, but now you are reconciled because of Jesus, made holy and blameless and no longer cut off.
In the gospel of John we read Jesus saying:
“anyone who comes to me I will never drive away”
A relationship with God doesn’t need to start with terms and conditions of us being perfect or thinking we’re good enough. There are no legal requirements.
Relationship with God starts with accepting the wonderful, amazing fact that God loves us for who we are and will drive no one away.
If you haven’t already, start a relationship with God today – he’s ready and waiting to hear from you, and accept you with open, loving arms.
A few years ago we were on a motorway journey and pulled in at a service station. We’d been driving for some time so I was sure in need of a coffee – so got into the Starbucks queue.
I placed my order and, as they often do in coffee shops, the guy behind the counter asked my name and proceeded to scribe it onto the cup in bold black sharpie. I got my coffee and went to sit with the family.
About half an hour or so later, Louise wanted a hot chocolate so off I went back to the Starbucks queue. I placed my order, but this time he didn’t ask my name, he said – ‘it’s Dan isn’t it?’
I was amazing, in a busy service station coffee shop, amongst the busyness of his day, I wasn’t just another customer to process through the coffee conveyor – he’d remembered my name – I felt valued for who I was.
When I began leading services, about 14 years ago now! – there was one verse from the Bible that played a massive part in my accepting that this was what God was calling me to.
It comes from Isaiah 43…
“Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
When I began to feel God was asking me to serve him by preaching, I didn’t think I was good enough. I thought I was too young, naive, full of faults and would just fail God.
But God’s words to me were that I was redeemed – that despite my own fears and feelings I wasn’t good enough, God would compensate for them & overcome them.
That those things about me that I thought meant I wouldn’t be good enough, were not a problem at all because God had called me by name. My name, no one else’s, I was the one God was calling.
I believe God is calling you too.
God created you with a unique set of skills, personality and passions – and that unique combination is what makes you you.
God is calling by name, because God wants you to know him, to hear him, to be the person you are and God made you to be.