Friday, 14 December 2007
"My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it." - Clarence Budington Kelland
"Children and mothers never truly part -Bound in the beating of each other's heart."- Charlotte Gray
This is a picture of my parents.
I got an email from dad yesterday with a link to a little promo video for his church. It's pretty cool and I got a wee bit vaclamped(!) as I saw bits of footage of my folks on it. This is the first Christmas in thirty years when neither Mel nor I will be with our folks in Canada or them with us in the UK. We had an amazing few weeks in September/ October when they were over for both our weddings but the pennies couldn't really stretch to Christmas. It's gonna be tough.
On the other hand, this is my first Christmas with Andrea as my wife and I'm really looking forward to that. It's been so busy recently and we really can't wait to have some time off together.
I'm so blessed to have the most amazing parents I can think of. As the years go by, their courage, steadfast faith in God, forgiving heart, compassion for everyone and perseverance through the hard times (with joy) is mesmorizing. Only when I really started having a go at adulthood myself have I realised how truly amazing they are. The way that they have lovingly sacrificed their lives for Mel and I over the years, and still do, even when we were wee brats (and still are!) is such a reflection of God's all-consuming love for us.
It's always hard to be so far away from them both (they live in Canada) and never gets easier. Phone calls just aren't the same. If mum is reading this she is probably crying (ye big baby!) but I just wanted to big them up today through my blog.
I miss them loads and Christmas won't be the same without them. I'm just glad they're in my life.
Love you guys.
PS. See the cool promo of the fantastic church my dad pastors in Ontario. Dad's the one seen preaching with the snowy white hair :-) Seriously Gordo, a smile wouldn't hurt! Loving the cheesy north american voiceover!
Thursday, 13 December 2007
On Tuesday, a few of us were carolling and collecting at Morissons. We need to raise some funds for our kids and youth work so we struck a deal. Our local Morissons would let us collect for four days in December if we provided some Crimbo music while we were there.
We're not really a Sally Army with brass band players etc. so I contacted our headquarters and they kindly sent three officers with their instruments and one for me. Andrea and a friend played the flute when our lips couldn't function any longer!
I was a bit disappointed that I didn't see Lulu or Alan Hansen but I did meet two amazing people who have stayed in my mind all week:Person 1: While we made a good wee bit of money on Tuesday and many people were kind enough to stop and put some silver in our collecting box, lots of people passed us by with their big trolleys of goods.
During the last hour I noticed a little old woman come in by herself. She was hobbling slowly on a walking stick. You know the kind of woman. The one you see in your town that is usually on her own and seems to get forgotten about. Double-lensed glasses, wooly hat, not very fashionable. Seems quite poor and hard done by, but still smiles. Doesn't really fit into modern Britain. She probably has little plates in commemoration of royal family weddings and such.
You know the lady.
This particular one hobbled passed and I remember her really standing out from the crowd in my head. She looked so alone and I really felt for her. A few minutes later I saw her coming towards me. She didn't say a word to me but put a £20 note in my collecting box. Then she slowly walked away smiling as I said thank you to her. I watched her head into the cafe all by herself for a wee cup of tea.
Person 2: After three long hours of collecting and carolling, Andrea, Matt (our youth worker) and I decided it was time for one last carol. I was at the entrance collecting, Matt was by the display we made and Andrea started playing 'Away in a manger'. What happened next you just can't make up!
As Andrea played, a mum walked over with her young blind daughter and stopped in front of her. The little girl began to get really excited and started singing along to the carol at the top of her lungs 'bless all the dear children in thy tender care....' At the end of the carol she jumped up and down, clapped and cheered. Couldn't stop smiling.
Give me meeting those two people at Morissons over Lulu and Alan Hansen any day!
So I was getting my hair cut today.
You see, after about 7 weeks and no haircut I can easily resemble Michael Jackson circa the 1970s! It really was time! Observation: why when you ask the hairdresser to 'just take a little bit off' do they always completely scald you?
Anyway! Steph, the girl with the scissors, was cutting my hair and she was quite the chatter. We got around to talking about Christmas and she asked me what I was doing on Christmas day. I shared how before heading to London on Christmas night my wife and I were having a friend from N. Ireland, another close friend from London who just lost her parents this year (love ya stelle!) and a mum who always usually has to fend for herself and her five daughters every Christmas.
When I finished speaking she went, 'Wow. Salvation Army eh?!'.
Thing is, I hadn't told her that I worked for the Salvation Army. When I told her I actually belonged to the Army she almost cut my ear off with shock! We laughed our heads off and then she just went 'well there you go then- care and share!'
You know there are times when I wonder why I'm still in the Sally Army. I love my local expression of The Salvation Army but I find so much of the 'army world' quite irrelevant and odd. But boy do we have an amazing reputation with the public built up by generations of sacrificial living and giving, caring and sharing...and some reasonably good P.R!
Here was Steph, who when hearing how Andrea and I were 'caring and sharing' for our friends this Christmas (although they care and share with us just as much!), immediately connected that spirit- the spirit of Christ- with The Salvation Army.
Of all the organisations, denominations, religions and societies in the world it was the first to immediately come off her lips.
There's lots wrong with the movement I've given my life to but I sat in that chair as my afro was slowly fading away and had a little bit of godly pride for this strange little movement I'm a part of.
Monday, 26 November 2007
Came across a site called 'www.godtube.com'. It's a kind of replica of youtube and I'm sure there is a lot of dodgy stuff on there but I found a great speech given by Bono on it. He gave an address after receiving a humanitarian award recently in the US.
Here's the part that resonated with me.
'This is true religion. True religion will not let us fall asleep in the comfort of our freedom. 'Love thy neighbor' is not a piece of advice, it is a command. And that means a lot, that means a lot. That means, that in the global village, we have to start loving a whole lot more people, that's what that means. That's right. His truth is marching on...whatever thoughts we have about God, who He is, or even if God exists, most will agree that God has a special place for the poor. The poor are where God lives. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes, where the poor play house. God is where the opportunity is lost, and lives are shattered. God is with the mother who has infected her child with a virus that will take both their lives. God is under the rubble, in the cries we hear during war time. God, my friends, is with the poor, and God is with us, if we are with them!!! This is not a burden, this is an adventure!! And don't let anyone tell you it cannot be done! We can be the generation that ends extreme poverty!! Thank you!!"
Friday, 23 November 2007
Indeed...it's 3.27am in the morning and I can't sleep. It's been a crazy week and we had a mad (but awesome) night at The Bloc tonight which is our youth club for teenagers in the estate. Think I'm still winding down.
My poor wife has had a bad migraine all week and hasn't had much sleep so I thought I'd come downstairs and watch some TV rather than do the whole tossing and turning thing. Unfortunately I forgot that digital TV late at night consists of....wait a minute and I'll flick through and literally give you the programme titles...Quiz call, desperate housewives, late night shopping, street crime UK 4, Yankee Candles on QVC, More4 Preview, Animal Airport(?), Cambridge Folk Festival (I kid you not), Teleshopping, ITV Play, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Top Gear.
Not much on as you can see! So I thought I'd type a blog instead.
Andrea and I had a great chat tonight about all sorts of stuff. We've been so busy this week that it was so good to sit and just chat about anything and everything. I'm in a show next week in Barry and between rehearsals, youth clubs, church meetings, cell, appointments etc. we've kind of missed each other this week and our life has been about functioning together. You know the kind of thing... 'I'll do tea on Wednesday', 'I'll wash the car tomorrow afternoon', 'Can you pick up the parcel from the post office later?', 'I'm off to bed babe.', 'Nite!'. It's just been one of those crazy weeks.
Sometimes that's just life and you have to make sure at least that things still function. But if that's all a relationship is about it soon dries up. Just functioning. Even after just an hour and a half tonight of us having some time sharing together, uninteruppted, chatting about what's going on in our lives- all of a sudden we were much closer to each other again. Andrea shared a few tears as she told me how tired she is with work at the moment, I vented some of my frustrations about leading a young church (trying to anyway!). We had some chats about the ups and downs of being two months married (plenty more ups than downs I'm glad to say!!) and shared honestly with each other as to where we're at with our relationship with God.
There was no agenda, no itinerary, no structure.
We just spent time together.
We were so much closer afterwards.
Because we were more than just functioning in our relationship.
Made me think about my relationship with my church family over the last 18 months. It's become so functional. A lot of that is to do with the fact that our ministry is growing which is brilliant and exciting. But somewhere along the way its become about 'getting the job done'. Organising, having committees, planning events, meeting deadlines etc. However, if it's just functional stuff, the heart of these relationships slowly shrinks.
I was supposed to go for a run down the beach this afternoon. Instead I decided to 'elf' most of the guys from church. If you don't know what I'm on about go to http://www.elfyourself.com/. It's hilarious! Anyway, to create this little christmas video I had to go into all my photos over the last few years from get togethers with my guys from church. As I was looking at the pics I was struck by the tragedy of how little quality time I'd spent with different people recently. In terms of quantity, we spend a lot of time together. But it's all been business.
It's mostly been when we're 'functioning' as church.
I guess like Andrea and I tonight, I need to get back to what the heart of Christian community is all about- real relationships.
Jesus was so good with relationships. Hanging out getting to know good old Zac! Chillin' with Mary and Martha....well Mary. Even when he was a kid he was found by his mum and dad spending time with the teachers in the temple. In fact, I never noticed this before but they lost him for 3 DAYS! This wasn't your 'Can the parents of Jonny please come to the reception desk at Marks and Spencers' kind of lost kid thing! This was three days! It says in Luke 2 that his parents found him in the temple 'seated among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.' Jesus loved spending time with people. He was so good at investing in relationships.
Jesus is good at investing in relationships.
Which brings me to my last reflection. When did I last invest time in my relationship with God? When was the last time I found a place to rest and just spend time with God? Time in His presence. Time listening. No rushing. No agenda. No shopping list of petitions. Just talking and listening?
I know the whole discussion about how we're always spending time with God when we live for Him but you know what I mean. Quality time- reflecting, praying, meditating, in solitude.
If you're like me, I find this hard. I'm a driven person. I find it hard not to have an agenda with everything in life and that includes relationships, even my relationship with God!
And I also get distracted. Distracted by the burden to do things for God. I have a real concern that my generation loves to seek after justice for our God, transform the broken world for our God, do acts of mercy for our God but has very little discipline in spending time in communion and solitude with our God.
I could do so much for Andrea but I know eventually she would just burst out and say 'I just want to spend some time with you' and vice versa.
I remember taking a retreat day when I was living and working in London. I went to St. Paul's Cathedral for most of it with absolutely no agenda but to commune with God. I prayed simply that morning and told God that the day was His (like He needed reminded!) and that I wanted to spend it with Him, whatever that meant. I'll never forget it- in the midst of one of the world's busiest cities I carried a deep sense of peace throughout the day and a huge awareness of God's presence wherever I went, even as I travelled on the underground during rush hour.
I'd spent quality time with God. I allowed Him to speak to me, minister to me and gave Him space to renew and reform me. Unfortunately these times are unique rather than normal in my life.
Investing in our relationships, sharing, being real, working things out and giving undivided attention to them...they can only flourish.
Simple as that.
This Christmas, I will buy some pressies for friends and family (albeit with a tight post-wedding budget!) but I'm going to make a real commitment to give quality time to my relationships with my wife, family, friends, church and God.
It's the best gift I can give.
Glad I got that off my chest. Am ready for my bed now.
Monday, 22 October 2007
So it's blog number two and I'm afraid I think it might be a bit intense (surprise!).
It's been three weeks since Andrea and I got back from our wedding/honeymoon/sister's wedding/gran's funeral break! Married life has been great so far. My bachelor pad feels like a real home now. Although the downside is that I've had to give in and let Andy put up a couple of those bloomin' Willow Tree ornaments. One per room is the limit! Does anyone else get freaked out that they have no faces?!
As I was saying, life is good, aside these small sacrifices!! Long before we got married Andrea brought a lot of peace into my life and now she's brought it into our home. What a gal! And boy is it good to have peace in my home, especially where I live.
Since we've been back living in Gibbonsdown (a council estate in Barry, South Wales), I've been really hit by the pain and despair and all that isn't 'peace' around us here.
In just three weeks of being back I've witnessed:
- Two women trying to knock someone's front door in.
- A man using our back fence as a toilet then throwing his beer bottle on our path smashing it into hundreds of pieces of dangerous broken glass.
- Our local school continuing the struggle of managing hundreds of kids with learning difficulties and limited resources.
- A woman kicking her dog in the stomach repeatedly in our park.
- A teenager we love to bits confessing that she has started cutting again.
- A fifteen year old girl walk into our youth club completely bladdered.
- A young lad we've known since we came here, excluded from school, roam the streets morning, day and night with no purpose.
- An elderly woman enter her second year of being completely house bound with no family to help her.
Don't get me wrong. It's not all bad. There are so many great families, inspirational elderly people, lots of laughs, a growing community spirit, hard-working people and brilliant neighbours who are just trying to live a good and decent life for them and their family. However, there is just so much bleakness here.
Our estate hit the front page of the town's weekly a few months ago with the title 'It's hell here!' or something like that as a resident described the problems with drugs on the estate.
After all the great times with family and friends that Andrea and I have had, it was quite a shock to come back to this kind of world again.
And yet I have hope.
Last night some of our friends from church who all live in the estate gathered at ours for some mexican food (using the new denby!) and a competitive round of the Friends 'scene it' game (good times!). Over dinner we started sharing about what we thought God was up to in the estate and whether our little Christian community was having any real impact. I mean, in four years, we rarely get people coming to our sunday service and if that's all we went by, we wouldn't really be doing that well.
However, our discussion kept coming back to the small things that were making a difference not for an hour on a sunday but in the everyday. The mustard seeds, the small act of kindness, almost unseen but beginning to cause a gentle stir beneath the surface.
We realised that God was using us to bring His beauty back to the grey places. But what does that look like?
-how two team members looked after a 13 year old girl after youth club until the early hours of the morning because her mum and her partner got into a fight while at the pub and ended up at the police station.
-our youth worker faithfully heading out one afternoon a week, whatever the weather and kicking a ball about with the lads that have very few male role models in their life.
-visiting the elderly lady up the road who until one of our church members befriended her, had noone to talk to. Praying with her each time that she would know God's presence and never feel alone.
-comforting the mum who lost her 13 year old daughter to pneumonia.
-sitting on a local community board and making one positive contribution to what can often be a long and monotonous meeting where red tape takes over.
-praying for transformation when noone's looking.
-going into the local school to help at lunchtimes and during games club to give the teachers a break.
-the family from our church who don't always have a lot and yet open up their home for all the kids on their street to come to, hang out and be safe after school.
-a bunch of kids painting a dark and dreary tunnel bright colours so it's not so scary for mums and their kids to walk through.
-a middle-aged woman from our church babysitting for her neighbour so she can come to our cell group.
-delivering an annonymous card with argos vouchers in it to a single parent not knowing how she is going to buy presents for her kids a few weeks before Christmas.
I could go on and on....
It's about the small things of beauty that start to paint the picture of another, better world.
Marcus Felix wrote,
'Beauty of life causes strangers to join our ranks....we do not talk about great things, we live them'.
We realised last night, that living in such a way that reflects God's beauty, and helping others to see God's goodness around them begins to cause a revolution in a community like ours.
We really felt like we have been planting these small seeds over the last few years and that although they aren't that noticeable they are making a difference. Of course it begins with seeking God and His heart for our community and we need to do that more.
This isn't some humanist operation to make everyone feel a bit better about themselves. This isn't Oprah. It's about seeking the Kingdom of God and crying 'Thy Kingdom COME! Thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven.'
The great thing is that we can all, wherever we are, add to the Beauty.
That's why I have hope.
We come with beautiful secrets.
We come with purposes written on our hearts,
written on our souls.
We come to every new morning.
With possibilities only we can hold,
that only we can hold.
Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces.
Calling out the best of who we are.
And I want to add to the beauty,
To tell a better story.
I want to shine with the light
That's burning up inside.
It comes in small inspirations,
It brings redemption to life and work.
To our lives and our work.
It comes in loving community,
It comes in helping a soul find it's worth.
Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces.
Calling out the best of who we are.
This is grace, an invitation to be beautiful.
This is grace, an invitation.
And I want to add to the beauty,
To tell a better story.
I want to shine with the light,
That's burning up inside.
P.S. I PROMISE that my next blog will not be intense!
Thursday, 11 October 2007
With fear and trepidation I begin my first blog!
I've been considering setting one up for a while. I've enjoyed reading so many other blogs and thought it was finally time to take the plunge. I hope that the discipline of posting my thoughts will help me to process the many things that swirl around my head concerning life, faith, the world we live in and whether the TV show 'Heroes' really is worth all the hype it's getting (deep!). If you're like me, life can be one mad rush to the finishing line and I just don't do enough reflecting. A friend of mine once said that people go on about life experiences and how they're what shape and educate you. He went on to say that experiences don't transform you half as much as stopping and reflecting on these experiences in a positive way. I hope the blog helps me to do just that.
The title of my blog is 'WHATEVER IS...'. I thought of that great verse in the Bible from Phillipians (4:8) that says 'Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.' There is so much negative thinking today. Our media is full of negativity, always looking for the next person to bring down. I think this affects us all more than we realise. It's very easy to think negatively about ourselves, others and what's happening around us. I want to be someone that recognizes the reality of things good or bad, but is all the while hopeful. I want to excercise my mind by using this blog to consider and meditate on the things in this world that are true, noble, just, admirable, and the causes worth living and dying for. To discover God's beauty in our broken planet and figure out how I can add to it.
Anyway, welcome to my head! I promise to try and not be too intense but I am a Reynolds after all!
I'll leave you with another version of this passage from The Message paraphrase of the Bible(one of Bono's favourite books apparently!)