I type this I am watching the closure of the Commonwealth Games. I’ve not watched most of the events but there has been some really good competition. What strikes me is all the effort that goes in in the background over many years to get to this point. Success is rarely an instant thing; virtually everything involves hidden blood, sweat and tears. Even competing is an achievement.
Last week my youngest daughter, Natalie, passed her driving test, 2nd time round. It was 35 minutes but many, many hours of preparation, of making mistakes and learning from them. Success comes from effort and often through getting up after failure.
Success should also be celebrated. It was great to see the joy of those who had won a medal. Thrilling to see Nat’s elation too.
Finally, it still remains challenging for persecuted Christians around the world. But they keep getting up and heading for that finishing line.
May you be inspired to keep going and striving for better.
Yes, folks after 2 years it’s my very last blog as my subscription runs out on Thursday. Thanks for being part of the journey.
I started the blog to record 60@60 and the 60 activities I did that year to raise money for persecuted Christians via Open Doors. Together with you we raised over £6 000. At the start, and many times over the year, it seemed like an impossible goal. But people were generous and God is faithful. As someone famously said “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Or as someone else said of the Christian faith “It’s a long obedience in the same direction”.
One reflection looking back is while you probably can’t do absolutely everything you want you can do a lot more than you think you can. So don’t let fear hold you back from trying something new; it’s worth stepping out of your comfort zone especially where you can make a difference in others lives.
Count your blessings too. Rejoice in them. Write them down; appreciate the simplest pleasure. I’m very much a learner in this. Smell a rose; feel the sun on your face. Life sometimes feels a toil that races past, stressing us with the mundane. We lose focus on what really matters. Yet, there is so much to be thankful for.
There is a season for everything under the sun (Ecclesiastes 3). I end this season with gratitude. Thanks for being part of my journey and for reading these posts. May you find God’s blessing in what you put your hand to.
Finally, a final link to Open Doors website. The needs remain great. Persecuted Christians have taught me much over the years about faith, courage, purpose, pain, perseverance and hope. They may be far away from me but our lives are intertwined, as mine has been in however small a way with you. It’s been a privilege 😌
Tonight there is no other thing I can write about but the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. For my 62 years she has always been there, even though I only saw her once and not very close. But in in a strange way it is quite emotional, as if a part of the background to life has gone.
Of course, the Queen was born to a life of great wealth and privilege. But she took her vows from her coronation to serve as a sacred duty. And that she did, faithfully, for 70 years.
I am challenged personally as to how much and how well I give of myself. Do I do the simple, even the mundane things, faithfully? Behind the scenes as well as upfront?
The Queen was always open in her Christmas broadcasts about how her faith was central to her life. Her rock as she called it. Now the long term Queen meets and bows before the King of Kings she sought to serve. God has saved the Queen. In the loss there is a great hope, like the rainbow 🌈 over Windsor Castle tonight.
Whatever the Queen meant to you, whether much or nothing, may you find example, hope and even thankfulness from and for her life. And as we move forward through these turbulent times, may we find hope and pray for the future of this nation.
I have had a four day weekend which has been great. On Thursday a piece of work I have been involved with for nearly four years got delayed yet again and it didn’t seem it had even been read. There must be reasons but it was feeling a little like “does what I do matter”?
I was away from Friday to Sunday at Ellel Glyndley Manor near Eastbourne looking at inner healing from a Christian perspective. I took these photos in the grounds: we did some creative art and these photos reminded me of the journey and how the ordinary can be transformed by light.
There was more digging into some of the pain from the past and present and how this is outworking. It was good to be reminded that I have intrinsic value to my creator and that I matter. He cares and looks after me (Psalm 23). Someone special sent me the attached song, I hope the words touch you like they did me. As a doer I have to grasp my belovedness is not related to productivity, which is rarely easy.
Pakistan needs our prayers and support at present with the devastating floods. Many have lost everything and have had little or no help. Christians are often last in the queue to receive.
I failed this year with my sunflower seeds. Planted, watered but nothing. Disappointing. But we have a bird feeder in the garden and the sparrows are very messy eaters. Sunflower 🌻 seeds were spread everywhere and they started growing in the cracks and everywhere.
I transplanted three and this is the result-small but lovely.
Sometimes what we have planned doesn’t materialise. We have to swallow our pride and look for different ways of doing things, to take what is already offered. Sometimes God works in mysterious ways and we have to be flexible to see what they are. Then enjoy and appreciate the results.
For many around the world, pre-prepared plans fail. Harvests are affected by drought. People have to look for whatever is on offer. For persecuted Christians it’s often a case of relying on help from unexpected sources. Help that often comes just in time. That makes a real difference..and you and I can help make that difference.
Earlier this year the girls brought a 1000 piece jigsaw (actually it was a 998 piece jigsaw…) It sat around on the table with the edge and a few bits done for a long time. Then I decided to move it on.
I discovered Jigsaws are both extremely addictive (just one more piece..) and very frustrating in equal measure. However I made some progress last weekend-see above- and by today it was complete (minus the missing pieces)
As I wrestled away, struggling to find the right pieces it taught me some important lessons, for work and life:
*Some things in life can’t be rushed and need patience
*Little wins are worth celebrating 🍾
*Everything has the right place
*How some things fit in isn’t immediately obvious
*Don’t force things that seem to fit but don’t. You’ll only have to redo it.
*Sometimes you need to come back to the problem later with fresh eyes
*Be organised but be willing to try different things
*Others see things you don’t
*If one piece is missing it makes an impact
*Always keep going back to the big picture
Personally, I’m glad God sees the big picture even when I don’t and life seems hard.
This is almost my last blog as my subscription runs out very soon. Thanks for reading this and previous offerings.
And the blog wouldn’t be complete without an Open Doors video clip. Persecution is awful from a worldly sense but it won’t destroy the Lord’s bigger plan.
This week has been tiring as I prepared for an interview. Cramming my head with knowledge about where I might be going but then not properly thinking about where I had been. To anyone doing an interview that would be my advice-think thoroughly about examples from your past career.
Anyway, the garden. Lots of weeding and pruning done. It’s amazing how they grow! And watering too has been really needed. Gardens, jobs, relationships all need lots of hard work putting in to get results out. But to paraphrase Monty Don from “Gardeners World”-enjoy your garden! Too often we get too busy to stop and just appreciate.
This afternoon I was preparing for a talk on forgiveness. A very hard thing to do and not replacing the need for healthy boundaries. But as Nelson Mandela said not forgiving is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. Heard today about a Christian in Iraq who had been internally displaced 3 times, losing everything. When asked about bitterness, etc his response was “If I don’t forgive, I don’t live”.
This week is an international Ministerial conference on Freedom of Belief hosted in London. An opportunity to bring home the stories of many to those who forgive to those who need to hear.
Yes, it’s been #TheGathering22 this weekend in a field near Swindon. 1 400 men gathered in a big top to sing, listen to talks and hear seminars on things as diverse as the workplace, creativity and mental health.
And there was lots of sport and other crazy activities. From zorb football to climbing walls; tug of war to wrestling. I did actually manage to get an axe 🪓 thrown and sticking to a board-harder than it looks. A lot of banter but also serious talk about Jesus. A weird cross between Top gear and Billy Graham. There was the surreal sight of many hundreds of men singing along to the ABBA tribute band “Gimme a man after minute” (it’s Queen next year) and at a different time nearly one hundred committing to follow Jesus for the first time.
Two of the learning points for me were that if a plane is just 1 degree off course leaving London it will around 100 miles off course by the time it reaches LA. Little things matter and cumulatively can wreck or make our lives. Also, I was challenged by question “Is it failure you’re afraid of or success?”
On a final note it was great to catch up with Elnur, originally from Azerbaijan but now doing great things in Christian ministry through the Turkic speaking world. One man passionate about Jesus and making a difference to many hundreds of people.
Tonight I watched a Council meeting on YouTube (some may call me sad..). Councillors at Castle Point in Essex voted to withdraw their Local Plan and start again from scratch. The big issue was new houses. In a sense what’s happened is not unusual as this will be the 5th attempt to produce a plan in the last 20 years. What was unusual was that this Plan had gone through all the consultation processes and statutory hoops and been found sound by an independent inspector. This is the first time I’m aware of nationally that a Plan has been withdrawn at such a late stage.
Change. We either relish it or hate it. It stirs up such passions. People may accept the reasons for change, but protest its not for them or it is fine somewhere else but not here. The immediate threat of change may be ameliorated but the underlying issue still remains. It can be like that in our own lifes-as someone said, we can often only change something in ourselves when we can no longer tolerate things as they are.
There are times when it right to stand up against something that is new but wrong. It can’t be change for change sake. But even then we must be very careful to understand our reasons for resistance.
Yet change is inevitable and often vital, even if hard. A caterpillar will only turn into a butterfly 🦋 if it goes through the chrysalis stage and the hard battle of getting out of the pupae. If we had not facilitated change in building techniques we would be still constructing beautiful but cold and dark buildings like Speke Hall for the very wealthy. And wearing lovely but impractical clothes.
Many forms of religious persecution often come from resistance to change too. In many middle eastern societies for an individual to change their faith is seen as an insult to the family. In rural India it is an insult to the majority faith. Change cannot be tolerated and in many places must be resisted, sometimes violently. Change has costs, but for those whose lifes are changed, they consider the cost of following Jesus worth it.
Change. To change or not change: each have consequences. How do you and I deal with it?
I’m writing this from Scargill House, a Christian retreat centre in the Yorkshire Dales near Kettlewell. It’s a beautiful place with a walled garden, 92 acres of woodland, a grade 2* Chapel and some lovely views.
I had been busy with work, Jubilee, Big Church Festival and visiting friends on the way up here. I thought yesterday that a walk would be really good. But up on the tops the signs disappeared, it was pretty bleak and I got lost, tired and frustrated. All my pent up angst came out and I was really irritated I couldn’t seem to relax properly.
Today was so much better. The speaker encouraged us to stop and really appreciate creation close up. It was also a delight to be reminded of God lavishing his love and choice on us, despite our messups. I wondered at the intricacy (and taste) of a mint leaf and pressed a petal. I also had a lovely walk up onto the tops this afternoon.
It made me realise that I can’t fully control when my body relaxes. Sometimes it takes time; really slowing down and appreciating what God has done for me.
For many in the world, the chance to take time out like this isn’t feasible. That’s not meant to induce guilt but to appreciate what we do have and to give of ourselves to support those who need it.