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  • Word and Pictures...

    BUGB have recently appointed a new staff member as a "Communications Enabler" who has passion for pairing words and pictures (mostly his own photos).  If I remember correctly, as a student he did a project matching photos to Bible verses, to which I contributed one or two offerings.  He was also minister at a church I used to belong to in the 1980s... the  Baptist world is everso small.

    The photos are available to download for use by local churches.  Many are responses to national and global events, some are reflective, some, like this one from Rio draw on the wisdom beyond us to give us pause for thought.  What if we really could transform the world like this...

  • The Number of Our Days...

    Psalm 90:10 says

    The days of our life are seventy years,
       or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
    even then their span is only toil and trouble;
       they are soon gone, and we fly away.


    On Monday I spent a happy day visiting my Mum on her 80th birthday.  When I arrived she was having her hair done and had already received a card and gift from the home; a birthday cake was organised, to which we were able to add some of my sister's finest home baking.

    Sitting in her room, she opened her assorted cards and gifts, savouring each moment, before we went out to a local pub for lunch.

    It was a "good day" for her.  She seemed relaxed and content, accepting of her circumstances, grateful for the spacious room, good care and friendly staff. I think she had a happy birthday.

    The words from the Psalm are not exactly cheery... even if we are fit and strong, even if we live to a ripe old age, life is characterised by struggle, suffering, pain, loss...

    Certainly my Mum has experienced her share of sorrow, loss, pain, struggle, but she has also enjoyed her life, has precious memories that age has yet to steal (and reminders in place for when it does).

    When we are young, I think we aspire to be old one day, not understanding what that actually means.  To be 80 is to have already said farewell to many friends and relatives, to have confronted one's limitations and, all too often, to have surrendered at least a degree of independence (smaller, easier to care for homes, or adaptations, medical aids... the list is long).  It is to have experienced disappointment as well as delight, to have learned unexpected lessons, to have loved and laughed.

    I am pleased for my Mum that she reached this milestone - six years ago no-one could have predicted that she would.  I am glad that she had a good day.  I hope - and I pray - that however many more birthdays there may be, that "toil and trouble" will minimal, and love conquer all.

  • Seven Summer Sundays

    This morning I started work on the service for a week on Sunday - hymns/songs now selected and slotted into the outline order of service.

    For me, at least, the summer has flown by - I can't believe that there is only one more week of "Summer Madness" or "Summer Bonkersness", as it might be termed, to go.

    Summer is a strange time, when a lot of regular worshippers are away, and congregations can be smaller than average.  It is also for us, because of where we are located, a time when every week there will be some visitors - one week I reckoned visitors accounted for 25% of those present!

    It's a time when, rightly, we give a bit of a break to those who faithfully serve the rest of the year, which means that the feel is very different, at least for me in leading.  Time to experiment a little, certainly, but also a time when it's important to maintain a steady rhythm for those who aren't able to get away.

    The seven "I AM" sayings have proved to be a rich resource for exploration, and I have enjoyed working with them, even if as I near the final week, and a topic I've preached on many times, I am struggling to find a new 'angle'.

    The return to 'normal' will seem a little strange for me - no colouring sheets to print, no puzzles to find or create, real twenty minute sermons (actually this week's isn't far off!), an overtly 'grown up' feel to services.  At the same time, it's a good thing.  The summer pattern wouldn't be sustainable, or at least not without a big team of people to share it.  But also because autumn and winter have a different feel overall, and what works in summer possibly wouldn't in the cold, damp, dank, dark days of the close of the year.

    It has been a very busy summer, in fact it's been a very busy time since I  returned to work at the end of March, but it has been good.

  • Events in London...

    Three years ago, as part of my sabbatical leave, I spent a few days in central London visiting Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church. Each day the walk from my digs to the church took me through Russell Square, an oasis of green in the midst of the buzz and vibe of that area. I sat on benches and watched the world go by, strolled with a friend, drank tea from the cafe and generally enjoyed the gift that is life.

    Last week I spent a few days in south London with some other friends.  Just before going our  separate ways, we drank tea in the outdoor cafe at the British Library on Euston Road, not far far from Russell Square.  In Euston railway station, people of all races, colours, creeds milled around peacefully (if such a thing is possible), munched snacks, ran for trains, laughed, chatted, igonored and above all coexisted.

    So my thoughts today are very much with those affected directly and indirectly by events last night. I know that my friends at Bloomsbury will be doing what they do every day, as will people of other traditions, faiths and none.

    Love is stronger than hate
    Goodness is stronger than evil
    Life is stronger than death



    The image is one I stumbled across yesterday when researching John 14 "many mansions".

  • Even dogs...

    Today's PAYG was the story of the woman whom Jesus compared to a dog...

    Her response is pretty amazing - she doesn't show anger because she has been insulted; she doesn't go and check her list of words that hint at xenophobia; she doesn't slink away and sulk.  No, she says, fine, if I 'm a dog treat me like a dog.

    Which made me think.  Because it is really easy for me to absorb insults - deliberate or otherwise.  So easy to become what it is I think I am being accused of.  So easy to escalate a careless word into an attitude against which I am permitted to rage.

    Even dogs lick up the crumbs... if you consider me a dog, treat me as you would treat a dog...

    That's actually pretty subversive, possibly wrong-footing Jesus, certainly provoking a response from him.

    So my lesson for today is, when I hear something as insulting or hurtful, not to react angrily but to turn it around into a potentially positive alternative... even [insert word] are treated thus...

    That doesn't mean that all words can be subverted, all insults redeemed, all carelessness excused, but at least for me at a personal level, I suspect that most of them can.