Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Parable of the Runner

A man set off to run 8miles. On Monday he started off too fast and ran out of energy after 3miles.  On Wednesday he deliberately ran much slower and ran 10miles.

Is this story about you?

Saturday, 26 January 2013

A prayer for 2013...

I haven't been in the mood or had the inspiration to blog for quite some time, but I'd like to share one of my prayers for 2013 with you.  Perhaps something might help or resonate within your soul.

"Lord, all year long You'll prove Your promises & capacity to keep us from falling.

Though we may falter on the journey, the grasp of Your grace is steady & secure.

When we waver in our adoration of You, You will remain committed & fully engaged with us.

Even when you must discipline us this year, it will be in love, never in disgust or regret that You had adopted us.

We praise You for being the perfect Father to Your daughters & sons."

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The blessings & curse of social media

I've been doing a bit of pondering on Social Media recently; I can't quite condense it into 140 characters, but perhaps this will spark a few of your own thoughts as to how you use it...

Social Media is here to stay... Facebook & Twitter may come & go, but engaging with each other in this way will be around for a long time.

Whilst I did know (& enjoy) life without it, most UK teenagers have grown up with "liking" "sharing" "tweeting" "following" "blogging" as part of their everyday life experience.

In itself Social Media is neutral.  It's only one means of communication; a tool to help people interact.  Like a hammer can be used to build a homeless shelter or smash someones' brains out, so Social Media is a tool which can be used positively or negatively, to build up or destroy.  And how this tool is used reveals a lot about the user.

Some challenges arising from Social Media:

  • It can feed the monsters of self-obsession, self-promotion & image management, which lurk inside us all (as opposed to the Christian virtues of self-forgetfulness, humility & authenticity). 
  • It can be a big waste of time.
  • It gets in the way of helpful habits of stillness & solitude.
  • It can hinder the building of community (constant phone fidgeting & status checking can kill the blessing of face-to-face interaction; plus I don't get birthday cards in the post anymore, which sucks!)
  • Some research indicates that it makes you more stupid (reducing curiosity, attentive listening, memory retention & understanding context). 

Some blessings of Social Media:

  •  It's great to enter into someone's cyber world & share their laughter, joy & tears (last Sunday it felt like I had 20 friends in the room as we shared silly/grumpy comments on the Olympic closing ceremony). 
  • It enables a "presence" with people who live beyond our geographical reach.     
  • It can be a blessed waste of time.
  • It can be a community builder; enabling us to share messages, photos & banter and understanding each other a bit deeper.  It also helps me to remember birthdays (so I can send a 140 character birthday greeting).

Some questions (which according to the research mentioned above you won't be bothered to think about):

If we follow Jesus, the heart of His Gospel (Good News) is relationship - love God, love others, love self.  How does your usage of Social Media hinder or advance these relationships?

What are your boundaries? How often do you check your status updates?  What does this reveal about you?  What are you NOT doing when you are digitally connected?

Master or Slave: is Social Media a tool to serve you or are you serving it?

Right I'm off to upload this to Facebook...


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

An open message to my heroes - teenagers!

To all the young people who I have the pleasure to spend time with,
Thank you!  

At the moment I am journeying through the toughest & darkest periods of my life - after mum died so suddenly two weeks ago - but your messages & prayers mean so much to me.  Not only is God carrying me through them, but it is so encouraging for me to see that He is at work in your lives.

Most of you won't have met my mum, but she is a legend.  She was always dependable, reliable, thinking of others & got about life in a very quiet way - never wanting to make a fuss, but always working away in the background to help others.  I honestly can't remember her speaking badly of anyone; always giving people the benefit of the doubt.  

She had an active faith in Jesus & was heavily involved in our family church in Dundonald.  In fact, she was on her way to Sunday School to teach her P6 class when she collapsed.  The message she was preparing to give to them was Jesus promise in John 14:3 "And if I go to prepare a place for you (in heaven), I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."  I like to think this was the last thought that passed through her mind.

I'm really going to miss Mum.  Her quiet presence, her quirks and the way she loved her grandchildren so deeply and how they lit up her life in the last few years.  Most of all I'm going to miss Mum's smile and laughter; she really was so full of life and most of my grieving is for the years of fun & joy (especially with the kids) which we feel she has been robbed off.   

Yet in the mess of emotions and heartache, there is definitely some other-worldly presence of God bringing us peace, through the prayers of others & through God's Word to us.  Let me share some of them with you now...

"The Lord is close to the broken-hearted;
and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for You God are with me." Psalm 23:4

"God will cover you with His feathers,
and under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield."  Psalm 91:1-2, 4

"We do not want you to grieve like others who have no hope." 1 Thessalonians 4:13 

Yes we grieve, but we also share in hope that Jesus who conquered the grave will return to defeat death forever & make us all perfect again - better & more alive than ever before.  As leaders of the Vibe, our dream is that you would know Jesus personally & share in this hope too.

Thank you for walking with me through my pain; I hope to see you all soon.


Friday, 16 March 2012

Some tips for reading your Bible...

Ok Vibers,

Thanks for clicking on this link... a few of you have got new Youth Bibles & are now wondering; "where do you start with this?" Others haven't read your Bible in a while & are just looking for a kick start. Here's a few pointers to get you going. I can provide more thoughts/answer questions if you like or just ask a Vibe leader for some help.

1) If you want to get to know God better (who He is, what He says, what He does), the Bible is always the best place to start as that's the main way that God decided to let us know about Him & Jesus' rescue plan.

2) Our world is quite noisy & we're easily distracted, so best to set aside some time when you turn off mobiles/computers & get some space in your house, so that you can tune into God's voice speaking to you through the Bible (even Jesus needed space to connect with God!!!)

3) You might find it helpful to start with a short, honest prayer. For example, "God, I'm not really sure if you exist or how to read this Bible; so if you're real, please help me." or "Lord, help me to think about you during this time."

4) Some people begin with the first book "Genesis", but if you're new to this my advice is to use "the Word 4U 2Day" notes we give out at The Vibe or start reading through one of the stories about Jesus (the one written by "Mark" is a good one to start with).

5) Don't try to read too much in one go; unless it's going really well. As you read ask, "what's going on in this story?" "what are you doing God?" "what do you want to teach me God about who you are or what you want me to do?"

6) It's often helpful to keep a wee notebook beside you. Write down your favourite verses that stand out (or highlight them in your Bible)... write down a prayer (just be honest)... draw a picture or write a song if that helps you... take a note of questions (and ask a leader about them).

7) Go to a church service or join a youth group (like RED!!!) where you can ask questions & get more help from others in how to understand the Bible.

Try to relax. When you give time to seeking God & getting to know Him - He is always pleased!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Spring is in the air...

I planted these with my 2 year old son last November and promised him that if we looked after them, showed them some love & watered them a little - a flower would appear.

Three months later there was no sign & I was starting to panic. Had I planted them correctly? Had I missed a vital ingredient? Would our son lose faith in his dad if no bloom would come out?

So it was with great relief that we discovered two daffodils this week (Jacob's is of course the bigger one).

It got my brain mulling over how often we are powerless to make things happen. We planted it, we watered it, we sang to it, but ultimately we had no control over whether it would grow or not.

In Christian leadership & church ministry it is similar. We are to love others, living out our faith with actions & words to those around us, but we cannot make anyone change or respond to God by our own efforts. As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:5-7,

"Apollos & I are merely servants who helped you to have faith. It was the Lord who made it all happen. I planted the seeds, Apollos watered them, but God made them sprout & grow. What matters isn't those who planted or watered, but God who made the plants grow."

So if you're involved in leadership or ministry this weekend, do the job you've been given with passion & determination, and trust God to bring new life & growth in the proper season.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Henri Nouwen on Unconditional Love

Henri Nouwen has been stimulating my brain juices recently. Here's a quote to bat around & hold onto...

“We often confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. God loves us without conditions but does not approve of every human behavior. God doesn’t approve of betrayal, violence, hatred, suspicion, and all other expressions of evil, because they all contradict the love God wants to instill in the human heart. Evil is the absence of God’s love. Evil does not belong to God.

God’s unconditional love means that God continues to love us even when we say or think evil things. God continues to wait for us as a loving parent waits for the return of a lost child. It is important for us to hold on to the truth that God never gives up loving us even when God is saddened by what we do. That truth will help us to return to God’s ever-present love.” - Henri Nouwen