Sunday, 23 March 2014

Our problem is that we are far too easily pleased...

“Man cannot live without joy; therefore, when he is deprived of true spiritual joys it is necessary that he become addicted to carnal pleasures.”
Read more here.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

An International Comedian on the British

It's always fascinating to see what foreign comedians make of us.  Here is the "German Comedy Ambassador" Hemming Wehn making fun of the very people he is performing to! I can't work out if the laughs are comfortable or not - I certainly think he fires some home truth at us! Indeed, is the fact that they are laughing a peculiar British response?

Warning - contains some offensive language.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Lent: Preparing the Soil of the Heart for Fresh Seed and Rain

Whilst the 24/7 "always on" principle may work for certain types of businesses and services, it isn't one that is good for the soul as it can leave us feeling disconnected, distant and without any real sense of the passing of time.

Back in Genesis 1, on day four, God created the sun, moon and stars as signs to govern "days and seasons." There's nothing here about creation being the same 24/7 all year round - life is liturgical, it's about rhythm and repetition and growth. The word we have translated as "signs" (yowm) in Gen 1:14 is particularly related to sacred time / religious festivals. (e.g. yowm kippur - the day of atonement). Israel ran on a lunar calendar and God told them that they were to set their religious festivals by that lunar calendar "The Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month..." (Lev.23:5) etc.

This is why, for many centuries across the world, the church has observed Lent. Forty days of humbling and self denial. Like a farmer turning the soil, ready for the new plantings, Lent is a season for preparing the heart, with no obvious benefit, to receive again the message and the power of that first resurrection morning.  It's nothing to do with superstition or ritual, it's because God has made us rhythmic (liturgical) creatures.

Yesterday, many friends of mine ran the Reading half marathon. They went in to strict training, so that they would know the joy of crossing the finishing line and accomplishing something meaningful for them. There was no moral requirement for them to do it, but they chose endure the pain of training for the joy of victory in running. Those who watched from the sidelines will no doubt have felt a good vibe from the event, but spectating is nothing like taking part.

Lent is like this, there is no moral compulsion for us, but, if done with a right heart, then after the humbling and self-denial there is joy and gladness! Watching someone else do it, is nothing like taking part yourself. So some pointers...
  1. Give up something meaningful that creates time in your day e.g. social media, TV (maybe all  TV or just a particular programme e.g Eastenders), a sport that you do, a meal.
  2. Give up something that may have come to have more of a hold on you than is good. e.g. coffee, wine, beer, chocolate, cheese, meat etc
  3. Use the time / cravings created by what you have given up to drive you to bible meditation, prayer (a great resource is here if you want it) and serving others in all the spheres God has given you influence.
  4. Time with God costs you nothing financially, why not use any money saved from all that booze and those chocolate bars and mocha-choca-frappacino thingamajigs for blessing someone in need.
I am always humbled by small Muslim kids who will fast food and water for Ramadan especially when it takes place as it does, this year in July when the hours of daylight are LONG!! I have so much more to be thankful for - so much more to gain and yet so often I am so dull of heart to get going.

May God make us valiant and courageous, for indeed, these are strange days we live in.