Tuesday, 28 April 2009

a normal Christian life?

There is a certain strangeness to being on a sabbatical - it isn't normal life. Let's be honest it is a huge privilege - not many other walks of life get a three month paid opportunity to do things differently for a while. I mentioned this yesterday to Sue, who is an Anglican and a counsellor, and she immediately tried to convince me of their necessity. She had no worries there - I'm not going to be arguing to scrap something so precious, but even whilst I didn't disagree with her about their necessity, they do remain a privilege - and, therefore, should not be taken lightly. The sense of isolation I'm having during my daytimes (although I do have some connections with the outside world), has been highlighted the last two days by Tiscali who's present problems mean i cannot receive any e-mail, nor locate it from their server - weird. It's been a clear reminder how much connection takes place via e-mail for me these days - in such a few years as well. Now, the 'what is normal' question has led me to think about what is the normal Christian life again. I'm trying to write something down about cultivating missional DNA and so this is not an irrelevant thing to ponder. I even looked up Watchman Nee's Classic of the same title and that really got me wondering. Looking at his chapter headings they send a shiver of concern down my spine as I realise how far disconnected most of the lfie of most of churches has become from being an aid and encouragement to things such as personal holiness and 'sanctification' - so much of his book is concerned with individuals growing to be more like Jesus - and of course, the impact of that was beyond the walls of the Church. Hew as writing in the 1930's - a long time ago now, but his writing was a great stimulus to the persecuted church in China. Isn't it interesting how the church under persecution is more concerned about the degree to which they reflect Jesus? So, to what extent am I, or the average Minister, living the normal Christian life? In that sense, this sabbatical is fast becoming a time of trying to re-calibrate around Jesus and normality (OK whatever that is). For that to happen God has provided: 
other Christians - I don't see any hint in the NT of a suggestion we're to work this out in isolation (but how many full-time Christian workers enjoy genuine fellowship on a regular basis?)
other people - 21st Christianity is in danger of monopolising the exercise of 'gifts and  ministries' for their exclusive use within the church. Again, I don't see this in the NT - so I'm off to the camera club tomorrow and enjoyed my golf today!
the bible and spiritual disciplines which revolve around it - are we happy about the statistics in 'pulling out of the nose dive'? It seems in the 1930's your average Christian assumed it was their responsibility to dig into God's word, today we pay someone else to do it for us (too harsh?).

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

a question of balance...

‘What number one new sport can I follow?’ - Tom’s question after last night’s thrilling (if you were a neutral) 4-4 draw at Anfield between Arsenal and Liverpool. Having left home at 2.30pm and arriving back at 2.30 am you do have to ask some questions which involve words such as ‘madness’ and ‘stupidity’. If only it were that easy to walk away! Today I don’t like football.

Today I had my first golf lesson – could this be  a rival to football? It all looks so easy whenever you watch someone else, but it all sounds so complicated even talking about how to grip the club – still, good fun though.

What happened to the sabbatical? Aren’t sabbaticals supposed to be about doing something spiritual and productive? Well, Roy Searle, to quote again on this one, claims they should be about ‘holy pottering’ – basically DOING nothing. Whilst I warm very much to Roy’s sentiment here, I’m not sure I want to go that far, but this says more about me than anything else I realise. However, what I think sabbatical time is about (today, I may change my mind tomorrow) is balance. I’ve been thinking about Sabbath rest – mainly cos I need some. Isn’t there something I the way God designed the fact night follows day and each week is to have a break in it, which is about trying to ensure there’s a balance to life. My friend Geoff (wonder and wondering) will have something profound to offer about the place of silence in any piece of music I’m sure. Certainly, there is a time for everything as Ecclesiastes reminds us, but Christian ministry has a way of changing all that and some of the ordinary and normal can easily be pushed out. Of course, the consequences of this is a hard-working Minister, but one who is out of synch with the rest of the world and what is it not-yet Christian people need to encounter more than anything? OK apart from Jesus, what is it not-yet Christian people need to encounter? So, I’ve booked another golf lesson and I intend to get on the driving range before then. The real trick though is maintaining the balance after the sabbatical is over.

Monday, 20 April 2009

A Happy Nepali New Year!

Happy New Year – no, it's no mis-print - it’s just become 2066 in Nepal - I knew I was behind, but this is ridiculous!  Because we travelled home via Dubai, our last three nights sleep were in Asia, the Middle East and Europe- wow!

Now I’m home, the sabbatical begins properly! I’ve filled the Cafeteriere and am ready to go, but the same normal dilemma hits me – do I try and get through the post and e-mails, or ignore them? I’ve decided on a day-to-day plan to get them down over the next week – hey, my first major decision of the day, after which coffee shall I use?

I need to build in some decent time to ensure I don’t lose what I think I’ve gained from the States and Nepal – broadening your mind is one thing, but benefitting from it longer term is always an issue. For now I’m content to think a little and let some of the highlights percolate around some more:

A fascinating insight into Nepal.

A real time of blessing with the Bible School.

I whole host of new birds – haven’t even had a chance to count them yet.

Six eagles within vision at 2200m.

Trekking in the Himalayas was just fantastic – how can I get to do the 15 day Everest Base Camp trek?

Great to spend time with Ian & Cynthia, Justin & Lucy – as well as the team from Counterslip.

Pokhara was just wonderful.

46 new churches from 1 in 13 years – that’s pretty decent growth.

Saturday, 18 April 2009


This folks is Mount Everest! Yes, I realise there's a few other mountains in there as well, but that's the Himalaya's for you - miles and miles of rugged, beautiful mountains. Nuptse is on the left at 7855m and Lhotse on the right at 8516m. but Everest herself is there in the middle - a majestic 8848m high. What makes this photo so special is it's mine - it's not the best photo you'll ever see - I could blame the airplane window, I could blame the Nepalise inefficiency for not getting us off the ground on schedule at 6.30 am, but I don't really care so much about the quality of this one, I was there! I had some thoughts about blogging whilst in Nepal, but to be honest, it was all I could do to access the internet long enough to catch up with the football results - not only was I on holiday, but with powercuts typically running at 16 hours per day it wasn't the easiest of tasks. No doubt about it the early morning Everest flight was one of the highlights - it was absolutely awesome and one of those moments I expected to disappoint as I'd looked forward to it for years, but it was even better than anticipated.