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Posts Tagged ‘Reflection’

Reflection – Enjoy Today ….

September 13, 2015 1 comment

Like so many of us, I’m guilty of living way too much in the future – planning, thinking, dreaming, hurrying – and today somehow can seem far less significant. This attitude can be like; let’s just get through today as, in our heads, it’s already past, and move urgently onto the next thing!

Living like this means I have almost certainly missed some of the key events in the life of our family, something I now regret. Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, ‘Yesterday has gone, tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today’. 

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This is what the Bible has to say in James 4:

‘Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’.

It’s ‘WHO’ you are today that counts. It’s ‘WHAT’ you do today that matters.

Do enjoy TODAY.

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Leicester – Visiting the City of the English King, Richard III

March 17, 2015 Leave a comment

I travelled to Leicester on business in August last year. With a couple of hours on my hands between trains, I headed for the Cathedral. St Martin’s church has been on this site for over 1,000 years but has only been a Cathedral since 1927. Named after the early Christian soldier and saint, St Martin of Tours, the church has been in the news recently due to the controversy following the historic exhumation of the remains of the English King, Richard III, from underneath a local car park. After a protracted legal tussle between the cities of York and Leicester, Richard III is to be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral in 2015 on Thursday 26th March.

040 Richard III statue

King Richard III died at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485. Aged 32, he had been King for only two years, and was the last in the line of Plantagenet royalty. St Martin’s has been the place of Richard’s memorial since 1980. This is seen locally as a great honour for the city, as only one memorial stone is permitted for each English monarch. All of this history has placed Leicester firmly in the national and indeed, international spotlight.

On the day of my visit, a large area surrounding the Cathedral was swarming with builders, machinery and workmen. Even the sacred interior of the Cathedral itself was not immune from the noise and bustle as the new tomb and its surrounding ambulatory is readied (at a cost of £1.5m) in time for this year’s high profile ceremony.

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What was striking was how, right on 1pm, the builders’ hubbub and the clanging of scaffolding poles subsided, giving way to the quietness and peace of the lunchtime Eucharist. I decided to stay. Incongruously, the service took place in St George’s Chapel, with its strident memorials and brass plaques of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment. It was packed. The priest delivered a thoughtful homily, having first read Bible passages from Ezekiel and Matthew.

Sitting under the flags of past empire; the draped colours of the ‘Tigers’ reflecting the power and dominance of Victorian England, the incumbent spoke of society’s ‘need to align with the values of the Kingdom’. He drew attention to the original manner of the disposal of Richard III’s mortal remains as being so undignified, but that this was the way of all human life returning as we all do, regardless of status, to the dust of the earth.

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Interestingly for librarians and booksellers, Richard III whilst King, passed a law protecting the English book trade, enabling education to be pursued. In 1484, at the only Parliament of his reign, Richard devised the first piece of legislation for the ‘protection and fostering of the art of printing and the dissemination of learning by books’, which, as far as I’m concerned, puts Leicester right up there as a ‘notable book-trade site’!

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Reflection – Iraq, ISIS, Islam and Saint Francis

September 27, 2014 3 comments

Spirituality writer, Richard Rohr’s books are always eagerly awaited. In this new hardback, Rohr, himself a Franciscan friar, looks closely at ‘the alternative way’ of St Francis of Assisi, one of the Christian church’s most popular saints. All in all, this is an attractive package with a stunning cover.

10 to Watch - Eager to Love

Hodder Faith recently sent a reading copy of Richard Rohr’s latest book, Eager to Love. In fact, I selected it as one of my ’10 to Watch’ titles in the September/October issue of Together magazine.

Eager to Love is not a difficult book, but it’s far from an easy read. Words tend to pop up and shout, and phrases seem to have specific resonance for a given situation.

I read this during the massacres and genocide of Christian and other religious minorities across the Middle East and was stopped in my tracks by one very short 4-page chapter, ‘Entering the world of another’, a timely cameo of St Francis of Assisi and his two-week visit to the Muslim Saladin in Egypt.

The record of this extraordinary encounter in 1219 between the apparently powerless Christian monk and the all-powerful Islamic ruler sends a clear echo down through the centuries of just how costly it is to ‘love your enemies’.

Parallels between the nine Crusades and now in our own day, ISIS, are plain.

Reading Rohr’s words, it seems a case of ‘plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose’. He writes of how Saint Francis spoke at great personal cost against the Crusades, telling the Christian soldiers that ‘this was not of God’. Rohr comments on how the Sultan honoured Francis for his courage, sending him away with his protection and a gift of a prayer horn, which to this day is kept in Assisi.

St Francis’s view of how the Christian Church, in supporting the Crusades, actually caused the greater sin of damage to the wider principles of the Kingdom of God is one for us to ponder again for ourselves.

Today, in returning violence with violence, do we once again negate the values of the Kingdom? Good writing has the ability to challenge our assumptions and make us more thoughtful people.

Hodder and Stoughton – 9781473604018  – Published 14-Aug-2014 

Reflection – After the Call

August 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Many Christians are familiar with the veracity of a ‘Call of God’, and although this idea may be interpreted sometimes differently by the various wings of the church, most groupings would view it as a bona-fide spiritual experience; albeit one that requires further checks by wise and mature confidantes. I myself would say that I have experienced such a phenomenon.

What’s harder to deal with is the prospect of failure when following such a call. Fear can so often remain as a continuing reality. It feels that there is still the possibility of being laid low or being set aside.

Yet we remain open to God. He is the Lord. He is committed to His call. So too must we be. We continue to be confident in God even when our path seems blocked. Sometimes we receive glimpses of the way ahead, only to be frustrated and cast down again.

The solution in such times is a resolute trust in God.

Chiesa di San Francesco, Alghero, Sardinia - window

Jeremiah 17:7-8 and Psalm 43: 3-5 are key to this:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.

Send out your light and your truth;

    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.

 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God. (ESV)

There is always the danger of looking other than to God for our solutions. It’s quite a natural reaction – and therein lies the problem and the point. It’s natural, not spiritual. True trust occurs deep within our spirit: ‘Has God said?’ We can soulfully answer, ‘emphatically yes’. Such clear and certain knowledge is crucial to our ‘resting’ in His sovereign call. If God is for me, who can be against me? (Note my emphases).

Sometimes the call of God is to oblivion in the eyes of the world. Even the Church aspires to the cult of personality and lifts its heroes high – pastors, musicians, evangelists, music leaders, organisations et al. It wrongly equates calling and vocation with worldly success and influence. These are not Kingdom values but just more of the world inside the church. Care needs to be exercised as such occurrences can be insidious and appear perfectly fine at the time. They are not – and they will be found sadly wanting in due course. Even very recent church history shows us this quite clearly.

Those of us blessed with a sense of a divine calling must show great care. Ours is a holy calling and one not to be taken lightly, even when the way ahead seems dark, confused and unclear to us. I’m reminded that Romans 11:29 says,

’For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable’

And in I Corinthians 1: 25-27,

‘For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong’.

This Scripture is quite clear – to give it Richard Rohr’s expression – ‘the upside-downness’ of the spiritual life and its values. The juxtaposition seems contrary to everything we aspire to and is very hard for us to accept, let alone practise – but live it this way we must.

Reflection: Thoughts on Faith, Trust – and Worry

April 23, 2013 Leave a comment

God often turns up unexpectedly. The God of surprises delights us by turning events in our favour. If God is for me, who can be against me?

Relax, listen, pray, breathe. Security and planning are the antithesis of faith and trust. Put yourself in God’s hands – and be surprised.

Santorini, Greece

In life, faith is required – and trust. It’s possible to ‘secure’ God out of your life. If you do this, you may miss His quiet intervention.

Today – live just for today. Worry can be all consuming and is ultimately pointless. Not for nothing does the Bible tell us not to worry.

Faith and trust can result in surprises. These would not be possible if you are constantly worrying – and leaving God out of the picture.

Trust in God’s word – not in the word of those in the world. I’d far rather rely on the Divine certainty than on human plans and promises.

Looking back, I regret not listening more frequently to God – and less to people. But it’s never too late and I’m catching up. You can too!

Get to the end of yourself and your plans. Allow God to intervene. He will surprise you. He intervenes when it seems we have nothing left.

If you keep everything beyond the risk of requiring faith, you may never experience His intervention. God will come to you in the moment.

These thoughts were originally written and posted on Twitter during April 2013.

Reflection – on the life of Daniel

December 22, 2012 Leave a comment

The Old Testament account of Daniel’s life is remarkable and instructive. Dig deeper and you quickly realise that here was a man – a godly man – who served four ruthless and despotic rulers for around 60 years at the highest level in government of the two major empires of the day. Yet apparently he did so without either moral compromise or personal failure, remaining true to God throughout. How was this possible?

Ruling approx. 600 years before Christ, Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar (the Babylonian empire) and Darius and Cyrus (the Medo-Persian empire) were today’s equivalent of Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gaddafi or President Assad. They all did some pretty wicked things to maintain power. So how did Daniel cope and indeed, thrive in such a violent culture?

One reason for his survival was almost certainly that he demonstrated the gift of true prophecy which made him seemingly untouchable and in some strange way, revered by those he served. This clear prophetic gift was centred in Daniel’s unwavering devotional life.

The more you think about his rise to power, the more extraordinary it seems. Did Daniel ever succumb to the insidious pressures of his position? It would seem not.  Daniel exemplifies the clear validity of a calling to high political office. Our liberal, secular culture finds it hard, if not impossible, to believe that anyone can live at such towering levels of integrity. Surely he had to have skeletons in the cupboard somewhere? Well, with Daniel it would seem not. In fact, we are clearly told in Daniel chapter 9 that he was ‘highly esteemed’ by God or as other Bible versions put it ‘greatly loved’.

Daniel reminds us of the ongoing tension that always exists between God’s word and the reality of current events – which are we to believe? Ultimately God is sovereign over human affairs and the teaching here is that He uses ungodly, despotic empires to fulfill his promises. Daniel stood against the godless arrogance of these human empires. He demonstrated the importance of a personal devotional life – and of combining the word of God with prayer. Above all, Daniel teaches us that no ultimate harm can come to us when we are living in God’s plan – why fear death when God is clearly for us?

Daniel assists us in an understanding of how to practise faith in a secular, pluralistic society – in his case it was a pagan and hostile world. John’s Gospel requires Christians to be ‘in the world, but not of it’. What does this mean in reality when absolutist claims of Christianity are no longer tolerated by our own supposedly tolerant society?

My own take on what sustained Daniel throughout his life is the importance and significance of the Word of God. It informed all he did. Daniel was gripped by the written promises of God – and he believed them. Chapter 9:2 – 3 ‘I Daniel, understood from the Scriptures … I pleaded with God in prayer’. His reading of the parchments led to his prayer and in verse 23, Gabriel appears to him (the same angel as later came to speak to Mary!) and said ‘As soon as you began to pray an answer was given … for you are highly esteemed’. 

Daniel received the endorsement of God, the highest possible authority! In my book, nothing else much matters in life. No doubt, he had faced criticism and accusations about his motives for being in high office but here was God endorsing all that Daniel stood for by answering his prayer in quite a dramatic fashion. A lesson here for us. When we are misunderstood or criticised, what really matters is are we following the voice and direction of God because if so, that’s all that really counts. The accolade of Almighty God should be enough for anyone.

Daniel 9: 18f: ‘We do not make requests of you because we are righteous but because of your great mercy.  Lord, listen. Lord, forgive, Lord, hear and act. For your sake my God, do not delay’.

Christian Book Trade Meditation: Be encouraged today

March 9, 2012 3 comments

Be encouraged – even when it seems tough.

Christian Bookshops can sometimes be lonely places in which to work. Lots to be cheerful about but occasionally we can get disheartened. I’d like to encourage you in your work today. That book or card or piece of music you’ve just sold has the most amazing potential – with the power of the Holy Spirit – to change someone’s life. You have no idea!

Be encouraged.

Recently, I’ve been amazed – and myself encouraged – to read and hear so many accounts of people being helped, turned around, challenged and faced with the truth of the Gospel by a particular Christian book or Daily Reading booklet. Sometimes its surprising which title is involved but this only goes to remind me that this is God’s work, not ours.

Multiplied many times over – all around the world today – the same is happening with so many items of Christian material. You are part of an incredible and powerful worldwide ministry. None of us can ever know this side of eternity the eternal impact our work will have for the Kingdom of God.

Be encouraged.

As you read this, let me pray for you right now:

‘May God through His Holy Spirit anoint your work today and bless you in all that you do for Him’.

The Bible provides this compelling perspective of the purpose of our work:

‘But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name’. John 20:31.

Be encouraged in God today.

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