Why me?

“Why me?”   Good question. We often ask it when life falls apart in some way. Life’s like that. Usually there is no easy answer to the question, and we don’t always like or want the harder answers. Sometimes there is no real answer at all, just the pain of it. Everyone knows this experience.

We could ask the same “why me?” question when good things happen- and the answer-choice would be much the same.

For over 45 years I have been given the enormous privilege of talking about (and on behalf of) God. Starting in Boys’ Brigade bible classes, doing school assemblies, youth clubs, and then as a pastor-preacher in churches.

This morning I spoke at a church near Portsmouth. They said nice things to me afterwards (which is always encouraging!).

A year ago I retired from full-time work as a pastor. I still do a bit of speaking, perhaps 8 times in this last year. Although I’ve been doing this for so long, I am still amazed that I have been given the privilege. It is an awesome responsibility to speak to others about God. Why me? There are many worthier and more capable people God could have sent. Why me? Answers on a postcard please!

I’m not alone in feeling like this. Most if not all preachers have times when they would willingly give up. Does my life match up to my words? Do I speak out of love and compassion? Do I know what I’m on about? Do I know God, or just know stuff about Him?

Paul the apostle wrote about this: Ephesians 3:8 (Message)
“When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God’s way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities. And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ.”

Today I simply want to thank the churches, schools, community groups and individuals who have been kind enough and patient enough to listen. Then I need to say a reverent “thank You” to God who has been willing to accept me, love me, and save me; then give me a purpose for living and speaking and writing. I still think “Why me?” but I appreciate the opportunities to see heavenly Love transform people’s lives- including my own. I’m not perfect, and won’t be in this lifetime. Jesus IS perfect and can even use an ordinary man or woman to do stuff that matters for eternity.

Can I ask for one thing? Pray for preachers, pastors, and the people in churches who dare to speak and serve in the Name of Jesus. Pray for them, appreciate them, encourage them, (and sometimes forgive them because they are human too). They may be feeling “yuk” OR “wow”…. or could be struggling with life and the “why me” moments. They speak because God has put a responsibility on their shoulders, and a fire in their heart. Please fan the flame. You will benefit too!

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Feed me!

Performing for food- is it limited to the zoo and Sea Life?

Imagine you are standing at the front of a church. Everybody is looking at you and expecting a brilliant, brief, barnstorming message that will equip and excite them- until next time. Fancy that for pressure?

Jesus fed thousands with bread and a few fish – a miracle. He also taught listeners with loving and challenging words – and some lives changed. Another miracle.

What do seals and sea-lions have to do with Christians?

Sea-mammals are meant to catch their own food in the wild. Performing in captivity is not the best life purpose, even if it may be the most appropriate circumstance for some animals.  I don’t know how to write the noise sea-lions make. “Arf! Urf! Woofff!” maybe?

The cry “Feed me!” can be heard loud and long from the church’s big mouth, and the “keeper” has to dig down deep to find enough fish fillet to fill it. Funnily enough, Christians are also supposed to feed themselves. Jesus described himself as the Bread of Life. The Bible is complimented as having a sweet taste. Coming to church is not a performance for preacher or congregation. Worship is a gift, a sacrifice we offer to God; and it is the way of learning together how we can best love God and follow in His ways.

When I became a pastor & preacher, I didn’t volunteer to keep a zoo. I followed a call to teach, train and equip the saints for service. And I thank God for the many marvellous saints I’ve met, and for the quirky ones, the normal ones, and even the awkward squad who have helped me grow up (sometimes the hard way). It’s been a GOOD life.

I am preaching on Sunday about being Hope-phil and Thought-phil ( from a chunk of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, hence the -phil bit).  Hope-philly people will come eager to be fed by God, not expecting the preacher to do it all for them- for then we will truly worship together. I’ll do my bit in preparing, hope-philly God will feed my soul so there is “food on the table” to share. Just don’t be fish-ious if you don’t like the dinner.

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“Oi! Bung us a fish!”

Question: if you find yourself saying “Feed me!” or “I don’t get fed in this church” will you go and take a long, hard look in the mirror? There you will see the person who is responsible for your feeding, growing, and growing up. God is on our side. Church is there to help. Preachers try their hardest. Bibles are most helpful when open and read. God even gives us His Spirit to re-make from the inside out.  “Feed me!” is something we should say to the Lord Himself… and probably a bit more politely.

How hungry are you? What are YOU going to do about it? May God feed us all so we’re fit for purpose and can get on with our jobs.

 

 

Filling a Vacuum

“Nature abhors a vacuum.” This saying is traced back to the ancient Greek philosophers, probably Aristotle. It has become a statement of fact and observation. Whenever a vacuum exists, it seems that “nature” insists on filling it with something, even it is only air (a colourless, odourless, invisible mixture of gases).

My schoolboy physics is pretty limited but I have seen this in action. On a field trip, my Thermos flask knocked against a tree branch. As the glass inner vacuum tube shattered, air rushed in, chasing the coffee out and making a right mess. Now I have a stainless steel vacuum flask, and that works perfectly.

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Adult life sees more proof in the existence of Hoovers (other brands of vacuum cleaners are available). They suck up the dirt so well. Didn’t Mr Hoover do well to nick the name- even when using a Dyson we say we’re doing the hoovering.

I’ve been thinking about “vacuum” because life-changes make vacuums. I used to have certain obligations and responsibilities at work. Paper round- must deliver. Digging graves for the council as a summer job- they have to be a set size and shape, and in those days it was done with a pickaxe and a spade. Office work… college course… Christian ministry… There were always expectations, timetables, diaries, accountability.

Now I am “retired” and my time is my own (mostly… Juliet has some ideas!).

I’ve started to notice there is a pressure. How will that time be filled? Horror of horrors- if not used profitably, there is daytime television to leach away the will to live… Honestly, I don’t need a funeral plan, I won’t borrow at 1,295%, and I’ve seen those shows before… Save me!

There is time to explore new possibilities. There are many things I could do; and many others that I have had to give up. I’m writing this as part of my response, to find useful ways of using gifts and energy.  I love words, I love pictures. Rather than watch “Homes under the Hammer” I am using this blog as a kind of journal, exploring me-in-my-new-world and hoping somebody else may find common interest.

To leave my life as a vacuum is dangerous. Unless I choose what to fill myself with, something else will take up the space.  “We put forth our best effort to defeat our worst habits. But every attempt to get rid of unclean thoughts, attitudes, and desires is destined to fail because getting rid of one creates a vacuum in our souls. As soon as we empty ourselves of one vice, others move in to take its place, and we end up just as bad or worse than when we started.” – Julie Ackerman, Daily Bread

I need help to fill my vacuum. Writing this is a way of building a structure that can contain the wealth of grace that is available if I make time for God and choose to focus on Christ-like attitudes and actions. Writing helps me think and therefore to pray. Balancing writing with silence and contemplation, and allowing time to seek Presence in Creation and beauty… that will fill the vacuum with what is good, holy, and true.

My photo today was taken down at the beach as a storm was clearing away. A sky full of rain emptied… and sunlight turned it into a double rainbow. A sign of Hope, of Promise, and of Presence. May the Light shine in me; may I be filled with Christ-Light.

Ephesians 3:14-19 (NLT)  When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.