Whilst I was ruminating on Jesus being The Good Shepherd I found myself thinking about how people shepherd animals. It may also have had something to do with the fact that before I flew up to Scotland I came across an episode of Top Gear on the television. It was one where the trio of hapless presenters were trying to shepherd sheep using motorbikes. They failed miserably. A lack of communication and skill was their undoing on this occasion.
Silly as Top Gear can be the presenter’s chosen method wasn’t unusual. Motorbikes and helicopters are often used to herd sheep and cattle in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. It’s quite a sight to behold. But it’s the good old sheep dog that comes to most of our minds.
You may remember watching One Man and His Dog. There was something captivating and fascinating about watching the shepherds and their dogs at work. No matter how hard I tried I never could whistle like the shepherds.
With different inflections in their whistle each shepherd communicated instructions to the dog who listened, heard and put into action and gently cajoled the sheep into moving in the right direction. The sheep either didn’t know or want to go where the shepherd knew they would be safe, so it was never simple for the shepherd and sheepdog to get the sheep to go the right way – they had to work together and repeatedly nudge the sheep until they were safe.
Jesus suggests that we are like sheep but also need to be like sheepdogs. Continue reading
Crying with Belgium
Life never stops, even when it does.
In the midst of my commute on Tuesday 22nd March 2016 a terrorist attack ended the commute of others in Brussels. As I began another normal working day others were beginning a nightmare. Terrorism was once more brought from the war zones of foreign fields to the pavements of Europe.
At times such as this it can be hard to know how to respond. All I could do was to pray.
Have you ever noticed how Jesus often manages to do the expected and the unexpected at the same time?
Those on the look out for the messiah 2,000 years ago would have expected Him to have arrived in Jerusalem on a donkey, yet when he did few expected it.
Jesus was what went for a celebrity in His day. There was no Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Periscope to spread a message or get your fix of news and entertainment. Jesus’s social media was old-school word-of-mouth. Those that saw, heard or were healed by Jesus told their friends and family about it, who told their friends and family, who told… you get it.
So word got out that Jesus was coming into Jerusalem. Most people wouldn’t have known what Jesus looked like but it wouldn’t have taken them long to have figured it out: a man upon a donkey encircled and led by an entourage would have drawn people’s curiosity at the very least.
Crowds gathered. Some were desperate to get some of the healing they had heard about. Some were curious to see this person they had heard about and some would have been annoyed that He and the crowds he was drawing were disrupting their Passover celebrations. Some in Jerusalem would have been suspicious, fearful and even angry.
Here He was, a saviour and a threat, being celebrated, cheered and sneered, a celebrity being welcomed. Continue reading
My excitement worries me
If there is doubt, a maybe or simply a curiosity about something it is always worth at least a precursory exploration of the issue rattling around within your thoughts. That exploration may quickly dispel the ‘what if’ and enable it to be forgotten, but it may expand and take you to new places and opportunities that you would have missed had the thought been left unexplored.
That is how the exploration of ordination began for me, and it has both transformed me and served up opportunities I may otherwise have missed. Continue reading
If I chose to hide you away, it is for a reason.
I have brought you to this place. Drink in the silence. Seek solitude.
Listen to the silence.
It will teach you. It will build strength.
Let others share it with you.
It is little to be found elsewhere.
Silence will speak more to you in a day than the world of voices can teach you in a lifetime.
Find silence. Find solitude, and having discovered her riches, bind her to your heart.
Frances J. Roberts
Via The Northumbria Community
Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart,
and try to love the questions themselves
as if they were locked rooms
or books written in a very foreign language.
Do not search for the answers, which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
you will gradually,
without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
I had found as much peace with being rejected for ordination training as was possible. Questions remained over what had happened before, during and after my rejection but the answers remained stubbornly on the horizon. They hung in front of me like an elusive carrot on a stick and for all my efforts to reach them they remained out of reach.
Was the Bishop’s Advisory Panel (BAP) and the preceding period a stand alone lesson to teach and transform me into the person God wanted me to be for the next stage of our journey together? Or was it part a series of lessons, and if it was what was the next one? Was it to attend a second BAP ? Did I even want to go to another? Was it to be ordained? Do I even want to go to a second BAP ? Linked yet separate questions with fathomable way of being answered.
Knock-backs and rejections had robbed me of confidence in myself and my abilities. My doubts and confusion clouded my judgement so it was no wonder that trying to discern what God was trying to teach me in this period did not bring the clarity I needed.
Pursuing answers had become fruitless. To find the answers I had to stop searching for them. Continue reading
If like me you seem on an endless quest to discern where God wants you to go, or what He wants you to do, you may find this prayer by Thomas Merton helpful. As others have probably said: the purpose is in the journey, not the destination.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following Your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please You.
And I hope that I have that desire
in all that I am doing.
And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road
although I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust You always,
though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death,
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
and will never leave me
to face my perils alone.
Find out more about Thomas Merton here.
Gardening with God
Perhaps you have noticed how when a tree’s branches are exposed at this time of year they look like upside down lungs. That’s just what God’s designed them to be: our lungs suck the oxygen out of the air and feed it into our bodies; trees suck in the carbon dioxide we breath out, use it and give us back the oxygen we need.
Like a tree takes the waste from our lungs, Jesus takes our rubbish, our sin, and transforms it into food to enrich us and the rest of the vine. Like a tree connects each leaf, twig and branch to each other by virtue of it’s relationship with the trunk, Jesus does likewise with us.
God started with my head
It’s been a while.
As I enter into a new season it seemed sensible to bring this blog up-to-date with a review of time past, present and future.
Whatever your view on marriage, whether you hold to the traditional man and woman model or a gender-blind union, the case of Ashers Backing Company vs Gareth Lee mirrors troubling characteristics of our society: a misunderstanding of tolerance and a gladiatorial approach to deciding what’s acceptable. Continue reading