Sunday Afternoon

Hello Sunday afternoon. We meet again.
Exhaustion, questions, reflections, gratitude, regret.
I sit at the piano and sing in the now alone church.
It is quiet again.
The black dog nips at my heels.
I relax and trust. And trust. And hope.
“What can I give back to God for all the blessings?”
Hello Sunday afternoon. We meet again.

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Like an Arrow

I’m with a fantastic bunch of church leaders in Auckland at the third Arrow retreat. And it is Shrove Tuesday.

We take turns to share some of our stories for ten minutes and tonight was my turn.

At one level I feel I have nothing to say
Leadership has not had a terrible toll on me (yet)
I am still in one piece.

God has been remarkably faithful
And for that I am so grateful.

 

But yet there have been experiences that have shaped me.
Perhaps not big in any scale of life
But they are mine and I own them.

Some have hurt. Some have caused me to doubt myself. Some bring me shame.
God has been present throughout.

 

And so tonight, as I lie
Tummy full of pancakes and pistachios
Aching feet hanging over the end of this bed
I reflect
And I am grateful
And I dream of what has been
And I dream of what can be
And I long for more.

Please.

A reflection on Isaiah 30:15-18

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Calm down.
Quietly trust me.

Are you anxious about the future?
About ministry and partnership and vision and longevity?

Calm down.
Remain close.
Quietly trust.

Breathe.

Do you not think that’s am concerned about these things?
Do you not realise that I know what you need.

Calm down.
Remain close.
Quietly trust.

Breathe some more,

I will keep you safe.
Turn back to me.
The Lord always does right
And blesses those who trust him.

You know what happens when you try to go it alone?
To amass the numbers?
To embrace safety?

Failure. Vivid, lonely, spectacular failure.

Calm down.
Remain close.
Quietly trust.

Breathe deeply.

It will be ok.

The refrain continues to echo

Trust and obey
There’s no better way
To be happy in Jesus
Than to trust and obey

The gift that sustains

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A few weeks ago, as I prayed God’s blessing on the baptism waters in a special service in Eketahuna, I commented that with the dry summer we have had, we are even more aware of the extent to which water is a gift. People knew what I was talking about. They were living it.

Water is a gift that sustains, refreshes and cleanses all life.

As the drought has gone on the words of Psalm 63 have resounded close:

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Ps 61:1-3)

The thirst for rainfall in this community has shown itself on the faces of those I talk to.

The desperation
the waking and looking to the skies
the longing
the waiting
the hoping.

I thirst.

The gift of rain today has been a blessing. For 24 hours we had little more than a gentle soaking. Tonight I drove home through torrential rain and a thunderstorm. There may be nothing more for a while, but we are grateful.

I heard one man at the blood donor centre today refer to the “miserable weather”
I wanted to jump out of my chair and shake him.
“This is a gift! This is the blessing! This is life!”
This is the answer to many desperate prayers.

And yet I thirst.
As farmers look to the skies
my soul thirsts for God
for more
for reality,
fullness.

Rain down.

Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well. He said “whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.”
I want that. I need that. Have I missed out on the real thing?

I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. (Ph 3:10-14)

Singleness

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Been thinking about singleness.

The thought triggered as I trimmed my hair this evening…
(How come I keep finding myself trimming my hair at 11pm?)

It went like this (and this indeed sounds crazy)

“If I had a ‘special someone’ then they would be able to check the back of my hair
To let me know if I’ve missed a bit.”

You see, there are some bits that you can’t see yourself.
Even with the help of an iPhone camera.

Perhaps the problem itself is that I’m a 35 year old man
who cuts his own hair at 11pm in his bathroom.

My friends, who have it all together, who have this relationships thing sorted out, who are all grown up, don’t do this, do they?

So what do I make of the fact that I am a 35 year old single man?

A well-intentioned friend encouraged me recently that church leaders really ought to be married.
That somehow that step is essential.

I’ve always tried to have a ‘content rather than contempt’ approach to my singleness.
I don’t want to be that ‘desperate single guy’. Arwkard. Difficult. Doesn’t fit.

So why am I single?

I dunno.

Perhaps I am broken
unlovable
difficult
immature
too closed.

Perhaps I missed the class as a teenager
where they told me what to do.
Others just seem to get it.

Perhaps it’s my fault.

Perhaps this is just the will of God.

Perhaps I need to try harder.

In the meantime I continue to be content.
I cling to my contentedness.
And to trust.
And to hope.
And to not worry.

I’m sure the hair at the back isn’t too bad…

Sound and Vision

This new video from Beck has excited me this week in a way little music has excited me recently.

To start with, the arrangement from David Campbell (Beck’s dad) is a stunning piece of musicianship. Eclectic musical styles come together into something beautiful and cohesive.

I love the setting of the piece. The stage in the round, the performers surrounding. The rotating platforms (the audience doesn’t move, everyone else does.) The blurred line between performers and audience.

Technically, it is beautiful. Lighting, video, sound (yes, it is a lovely listen in surround sound).

But I think that more than the sound, setting or visuals, I think this is a video that speaks to me about the church. Something about the bringing together of such differing expressions (“Remember that time the yodeller and electric guitars game in? Awesome.”), the cooperation, the creativity, the participation, and the conducting.

It is glorious and beautiful and complex.
I long to see a eucharist table in the middle of that setting…

Day 12,785

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Birthdays.
Just another day, but not just another day.
What a special day. A treat.

All day has been a stream of well wishes,
and I feel very lucky.

What a privilege to have so many friends.

 

I am go grateful to God
for my life
for this world
for love
for the beauty and creativity that surrounds us
for friends old and new, present and future.

Yet again, on Valentines day I am a single man
but I am surrounded and loved.