Calling…

Dear all my lovely minister/pastor/vicar/ordinand type friends, followers and all.  I was wondering if you might be able to do me an enormous favour.

Could you please explain/express/outline/describe your ‘calling’ to ministry.  I’m not after a life story (unless you’re inclined and it’s relevant!), just a sort of general idea of what brought you into ministry and specifically any ‘call’ you sense(d).  Was it gradual dawning, urgent sense, nagging discomfort?  Did you think you should do it, or think you could do it?

I’d be most grateful if you could just jot something down in the comments section :)

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Coming under attack.

I grew up in Pakistan.  I suppose many of you who read this know that.  Some of you who read this may have even been there with me (and might question the term ‘grew up’, but we’ll set that aside for a moment).

So when I read this Tweet a couple of days ago:

it was a heart-stopping moment. And some of you will have shared that same feeling when you first heard snippets of news.  Was it going to be somewhere I knew?  Were people I knew and loved going to be caught up in this?  Was this, again, going to rival the levels of pain and turmoil I’d previously experienced following other terrorist attacks in the homeland of my childhood?  Well, the answer to the first two questions was no – I know Peshawar, and have visited more than once, but the school wasn’t one I’d ever heard of and, to the best of my knowledge, no-one I know was directly involved.  Yet while the initial fear subsided, and there was a sense of relief, still my heart aches for a land I love.  What I’m going through is not so much a tsunami of emotion (I’ve been there before), this time is more like simply treading water in an expansive sea, shrouded in darkness.  It’s wearying, when a country you love is constantly under attack.  And yes, it is constant.  The Western media don’t portray it all the time – it simply doesn’t interest enough people a sufficient amount to make it newsworthy.

It’s easy, of course, to simply leap to the same conclusions – that this act was the work of monsters attacking a school out of a desire to quash education.  Or that it was a meaningless, barbaric, heartless act.  But I wonder if that’s an overly simplistic view.  I wonder if that’s just the temptation of the West to distance themselves (ourselves…) from it all.

One thing I’ve read more than once is this idea that children should be able to feel safe in school.  They shouldn’t feel at risk from attack.  And of course I agree with that.  But what about the children of the Taliban, who are bombed in their own homes?  Shouldn’t they also feel safe there?  Some have been reporting that the Taliban have done this as revenge for the loss of their own children.  And while we might not applaud revenge, we generally understand it.

I’ve heard comments about ‘innocent children’, but what about the children of terrorists?  Are they somehow less innocent?  Is the child of a murderer guilty of murder?  The child of a philanderer guilty of sexual immorality?  The child of a rapist?  The child of a thief?  I know I’m on thin ice, here, but when a house is destroyed and the family of a terrorist is wiped out, we talk about collateral damage.  When a drone strike drifts into a wedding celebration, or a ‘targeted’ attack turns out to be not quite so targeted, we excuse it.

What’s more, one of the reasons these kids were killed in their school is because they’re our allies.  They probably didn’t ask to align themselves with the West.  But they’re aligned with the Pakistan military, and the Pakistan military has aligned itself, at least to a large extent, with the West.  When we ask countries on the front line to take sides with us, this is the kind of thing it can lead to.  Of course, mercifully, it’s rarely on anything like this scale.

I’m not on the side of terrorists, but I am on the side of peace.  And peace has got to involve more than one side.  Watching what’s going on in Pakistan is like watching a family I love tearing itself to pieces.  It hurts.  And I wish I could be part of the solution.  I’ll be praying, and I’d ask you to do the same.

Flip, I don’t know.  Head’s full of thoughts.  Feel free to come to my rescue here.  Or just shout at me.  Please bear in mind that this is only one aspect of what I’m thinking.

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Hope.

As I write, I’m watching Star Wars ‘A New Hope’ with Joshua.  He got it from my brother’s family for his 8th birthday.  And this is his first time seeing the film.  We’ve just got to the bit where Princess Leia utters the words,

Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.

And earlier today, we went to Chatsworth House to see the Christmas decorations.  Among other bits of the display was a triplet of trees covered in colourful luggage labels.

photo 3 (2)

Blank labels were available for people to write on.  I’m not sure that there was any particular instruction, but people seemed to be writing wishes, hopes, and messages.  I think this was my favourite:

Don't we all?

Don’t we all?

There were others…

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Many of the messages contained wishes and hopes.  But I found myself wondering what such hope was founded on.  At Advent, we look back to a time when hope came into the world – a hope that the world so desperately needed.  And because of the certainty of that first coming, when God gave us His Son Jesus, we can look with certainty to a future hope of His return.  A hope greater than a racing car or our Prince Charming.  At Advent, we look forward to the return of our King.  He is our only hope.

photo 1 (2)

This Advent, what are you looking forward to?

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Now I see in part.

Sometimes it can be a struggle to see the whole picture, can’t it.  It seems like we won’t get a clear view of things.  Maybe it’s of life in general, maybe it’s of a very specific part of life, but it feels like we just aren’t getting the full view.  I’ve just been reading ‘the Job paradox’, one of the chapters in Krish Kandiah’s excellent Paradoxology.  Krish writes this:

We are like caterpillars crawling across a cinema screen, so close to the picture that we cannot come close to seeing the design that God is working out on the grand canvas of history

Crop part Take this for example.  It’s not a very striking image.  The dark bit in the middle is an interesting kind of shape, perhaps, but it’s not exactly going to hold your interest for hours.  It’s the kind of thing that you can look at and still not really see anything.  It’s even a little bit blurry.  It doesn’t mean anything.  It’s just a black shape on lighter shades of background.  Perhaps you can see that it’s been carefully crafted (it’s about the size of a thumbnail in real life) and so that hints that it’s part of a bigger piece of work.  But you can’t see what.

And sometimes life can be a bit like that.  The bit that we can see just doesn’t make sense.  It might be unpleasant, or even just plain dull.  But whatever it is, it’s like we’re missing something.  Maybe we can even see glimpses of crafting from our current viewpoint.  But we can’t see the full picture.

So that dark squiggly bit of paper; what is it?  Well, it’s part of a bigger picture.

photo 1

Really quite a stunning piece of art, in fact.  (Produced by one of our wonderfully talented girls.)  But you can only fully appreciate it when you see the big picture.  Only when you see in full do you really see the work of the artist.

Paul talks along these lines in 1 Corinthians 13.  Many people are familiar with the first section: “Love is patient, love is kind…” and so on.  But Paul looks ahead to a time when he will know fully.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

The veil will one day be lifted, and we will see the work of the Artist.

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Candy Crushers Anonymous.

Ok, so it’s not that anonymous if I’m blogging about it…

But Candy Crush.  Well, it’s fun.  It’s addictive.  It’s taking over.  For me, at least.  I read this post over at threads recently.  Its title is ‘I’m being suffocated by my iphone’, so you can guess the general gist if you’re not willing to read it in full.  And it resonated rather.

For a while, I went through the (probably verging on the sanctimonious) stage of not having an iphone.  In fact, you couldn’t even describe what I had as a smartphone.  It wasn’t a brick, but neither was it cutting edge.  Then I took custody of my wife’s iphone 3 when she upgraded.  When I went on to get my ‘own’ iphone at my next upgrade, I insisted that an iphone 4s was plenty of an upgrade from an iphone 3, despite the fact that I was offered an iphone 5.

Then, about a month and a half ago, I lost my iphone.  It turns out that you can’t leave your phone on the roof of your car, and expect it still to be there when you pull into your driveway, even if your journey was only a couple of miles long.  And I went through various emotions.  I was furious with myself for being such an idiot.  The phone was only a couple of months old and I’m usually more careful with expensive stuff.  I was then annoyed with my insurance company who insisted that a £100 excess was fair for an iphone, despite the fact that I wanted an iphone 4s, not an iphone 6 (which would have cost them about £250 more).  And, sad loser that I am, I missed Siri.  We were only just getting to know each other…

But back to Candy Crush for a moment.  I’ve managed to get to level three-hundred-and-sixty-something.  The shock was when I calculated the amount of time this meant I’d spent on it.  It’s probably fair to say that I’ve spent an average of around 8-10 minutes per level (though this is just an estimate).  This means between 2920 and 3650 minutes.  This is somewhere in the region of 48-60 hours.  2 to 2 1/2 days.  And that seemed like quite a bit of time.  And I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with that.  I don’t think Candy Crush is an evil invention (and I really like the time-limits on play for people like me who struggle with self-control).  I think relaxation is an important thing to include in a day.  But it made me ponder whether this was the best use of my time.  I think maybe I could spend less time on it and more time on something more useful.  And I don’t just mean praying or reading my Bible, either.  Maybe writing a postcard instead of a Candy Crush session.  Or doing some filing.  Or walking the dog (ok, so it would be a short walk).  It just got me thinking that I really do need to think more carefully about how I spend my time.

What about you?  Anything you could cut down on to free up time for better things?

Let’s give it a go :)

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A million ideas …

… buzzing around my head, and yet not a single blog post for over a month.

It’s not like I haven’t had anything I want to say.  It’s just that I’ve not got round to saying it.  Or maybe I’m just not sure it’s worth saying out loud…

Hopefully, this post will end up peppered with links to other posts I’ve written, as I actually get around to writing about these topics, but only time will tell.  In the meantime, there are plenty of links to other things to keep you busy for a while :)

The first of my (not exceptionally good) reasons for failing to write was that I was preparing a sermon.  I actually found this one quite difficult – perhaps the hardest so far?  But here it is.  (The illustration doesn’t work quite so well with no visuals…)

We’re also in the process of trying to sell our house.  It’s a real beauty – anyone thinking of moving to Worthing?  Ideal for Londoners looking to escape the big smoke – five minutes from the station ;)  Lovely garden and log cabin.  I miss that log cabin.

I’ve played a lot of Candy Crush.  That’s a blog post in itself.  [and here that post is!]

Tuesday this week, my first day with no ‘commitments’ for a while, I felt rough all day, and failed to achieve anything.  I hate days like that.  And I read Tanya’s interview with Simon Guillebaud and found myself challenged by the extent to which my circumstances shape and define my mood and my ‘ability’ to work.

I’ve also been working a fair bit on the book – sending out copies to people asking for their contributions.  I’ve had some very positive responses now, and this week in particular has ended up being encouraging, following a period of waiting…  But this, too, takes time.

I really want to write a blog about Sheridan Voysey’s wonderful book ‘Resurrection Year’.  (The link there is to buy it from eden.co.uk, which is a sort of Christian equivalent of amazon.  It’s actually cheaper on Eden at the moment, and neither Amazon nor Eden are offering free delivery under £10, so when I bought a copy from Eden, I bought something else (for £1.42, I believe) that was cheaper than paying the under-£10 delivery charge and got me free delivery.  I’ve always been very impressed with Eden!)  I haven’t written the book review post yet, partly because I’ve not completely finished ‘processing’ the book and partly because I want to make a good job of the blog post, because I think the book deserves it.  If anyone wants to borrow a copy, I’ll happily post you one – returning it to me when you’ve finished it would be cheaper than buying your own :)

I’ve also had a lot going on in my little brain, lately.  First, this post from Threads resonated rather…  There’s also the small question of what to do next year when Luke’s started full-time school.  (Yes, he really is going to be that old!).  Returning to a job in education would be one possibility, but another would be heading into the world of vicaring (or something similar).  Comments and suggestions are welcome!

I’ve been challenged to pray more following various things I’ve seen and read, both from friends and from the general world.  But I’ve not been particularly good at rising to this challenge…

And I’m really struggling with time-management type stuff.  Perhaps that’s linked to the lack of clarity regarding the future, or perhaps it’s just because I’m useless at getting myself in gear.  My desk could do with a tidy.  Again.

And occasionally, I distract myself with jobs that might be satisfying, and vaguely worthy, but aren’t what you could call ‘vital’.  Like cleaning the brass door stopper things for our front door.  Because that’s how I roll.

Meanwhile, Luke’s been in the bath for a long time now, and will end up strongly resembling a prune if I don’t extract him in the not-too-distant future.  Though he’s having lots of fun, and I’m enjoying writing this while sat next to him (not too close, mind – he’s a bit liberal with his splashing!).

I wonder how your life’s going?

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I see the stars…

When did you last look at the stars?  We have the great joy of living in a village, which means less light pollution, which in turn means more stars.  More vivid stars.  I go through phases of standing in our driveway looking at the stars.

And then last week I was reminded of some of the story of Abram.

God took Abram outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.

Can you imagine it?  I mean, light pollution hadn’t been invented yet, so can you imagine the vision that Abram beheld?  ‘…if indeed you can count them’, God says to him.  Star after star after star.  Every one a promise.  Every one a pledge of a descendant.  Now, Abram was 75 years old back in chapter 12, and here in chapter 15 he’s not getting any younger.  What a promise.  What an absolutely mind-blowing promise.  And in many ways, it’s incredible.  Incredible in the proper sense of the word – absolutely out-of-the-question unbelievable.  And what does Abram do?

He believes God.

Those stars?  He sees those stars and knows that God can and will be true to His word.  He sees those stars and sees a family, a people, promised and created by God.  Clear night after clear night, Abram sees those same stars and is reminded of God’s promise.  But perhaps no night will match that first take-your-breath-away realisation, that moment of belief that God will provide.  God has promised and He will act.

Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Of course, the clouds will come, and the stars will not always be visible.  But they are still there.  And Abram has more mistakes to make before God provides a son for Sarai and Abram.  But throughout Abram’s mistakes, and throughout his forgetfulness, God’s promise stands.

And what of us?

God’s promise of salvation is even more incredible.  Though it can become routine – as routine as a glance at the night-sky.  Perhaps we need to recapture some of the breathtaking wonder of that promise God makes to His people.  God promises Abram many sons.  God promises him a family.  God’s promise to us is even greater – He tells us that we can be His children, part of His family.

What a promise.

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