The Good, The Great, and the Even Greater

There is a sheet of paper on my desk in our church office. On it has the words of a truly wonderful Bible Verse taken from Ephesians 3.

20 Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.

I like this verse. I like it because it speaks of a God who can do more than we ask for or imagine. However do I truly 100% believe God can do this? Sometimes. But mostly not, if I am honest. I would like to though! I have often wondered what it would be like to see God do superabundantly more in our lives, cities and nations. I love this verse  because deep down it is my hearts deepest desire. I  truly long to see this verse play out in my life. Yesterday, Friday March 3rd 2017 was a day like no other.

We were heading to Glasgow to renew my wife’s VISA so she could extend her stay here in the UK. Just this past week I saw a news headline about a woman who was being deported having been in the UK for 27 years married, and with a family of her own. These news stories are not good for my heart so I choose to switch my attention away from them. They can create a false impression of those who work in positions of influence and power especially when in relation to immigration issues. I have learnt over recent months how important it is to not be consumed by negative news and articles on social media. They cause my heart to become worried and lose perspective.

So we set off for Glasgow and arrived there on a very quiet train from Carlisle at 1030. We then made our way via taxi to the immigration centre. I had quite the wrong impression of what it may be like on arrival. It turned out to be a cross between a Premier Inn reception area and my old school sixth form common room but much nicer!  We were greeted at the entrance by some friendly Scottish government officials and passed through airport style security. The officials were so kind and were loving on our son Levi. They treated us with great care, love and respect. Quite the departure from what I imagined. We then entered into the open plan ‘sixth form common room’ which was very full of other applicants and other families. We had another member of staff greet us and explain what would happen throughout the coming hours. We then relaxed in the comfortable sofas ready for what would take place.

During the three hour wait, Levi was entertained by a two year old girl called Sophie who shared her teddy bear with him, I changed Levi’s nappy in the very nice bathroom (which he chose to scream his head off in, causing everyone to hear!) but I also read from Luke 10. My reading was The Good Samaritan and in it Jesus describes what it looks like for us to love our neighbour. In the story that Jesus told, there is a Jewish man who is beaten and robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. Two religious men who should have stopped to help didn’t, and the hero of the story turns out to be a Good Samaritan who in the culture of the day would have been despised by the Jewish people.

33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion for him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

As I reflected on this story of Jesus I was thinking of how The Good Samaritan went above and beyond the call of duty. He did the SUPERABUNDUNTLY more. He could have left him at the inn. He didn’t. Every action was an action of ‘even more’ towards this badly hurt Jewish man.

At 3pm we were called to a desk where we met with one of the very kind gentlemen who greeted us on arrival. He handed back all of our paperwork and said that we were all good and had a successful application. We were able to engage in brief informal conversation and more staff members took an interest in Levi, loving on him. He really is a good looking boy! Our time at the immigration centre was three hours but in that time God had shattered all my preconceived and illogical notions that we would be met by stern figures with stern faces who may well have dismissed our application if one of us had only sneezed! Our time at the centre was so very enjoyable relaxing and surpassed all our expectations.

Our time In Glasgow was not yet over. We headed back into Glasgow by taxi where we found my favourite burger place in the whole world which is Five Guys. We just had to go in! I thought the day could not get any better after this. But it did.

It is fair to say that I am a complainer when it comes to the cost of train travel, the trains and their unreliability, and overcrowding in certain places. I certainly worried more about the trains being on time than the VISA process itself. I was being proved right I felt once more when on boarding our ON TIME 1740 train back to Carlisle the luggage racks were proving way too small for Levi’s buggy. Tired and weary, I resorted to propping it up against my seat and settling down for our short ride home. I didn’t want to think anymore!

At that moment the Train manager and a colleague came up to us and the manager said he would help us find more space on the train. He led me off the train towards the front  with me holding Levi. I had no idea where I was going. He stopped at the First Class coach, opened the door and said “I’m in charge. I can help whoever I choose. Please, come and sit in here”. I was stunned. Stephanie was still trying to catch up with all the other luggage and with the other Virgin Trains staff member. She arrived in First Class a few moments later and we just slumped into our seats overwhelmed and in amazement at our treatment. Everything was so First class! The seats, the food menu. I had always felt that those folk I see in First Class imagine themselves to be the best of the best. They are the successfully rich ones and we are, just the other ones. Before Stephanie and I could even utter a word to one another, the train manager came back with a load of food for us to enjoy. ” This is for you. I know what it is like travelling with small children”. That was enough to make Stephanie and myself overly emotional. It had been quite a day. We were so undeserving of this five star treatment and I wondered what the other family with children thought way back in the standard coach we left behind.

Stephanie, Levi and I happily spent the 1hour 20 minutes train ride back to Carlisle, so in awe of the many blessings we had received on the day. The  fact that the day just got better and better as it went along. The VISA was enough. That was all I asked God for. Nothing else. He came through for us and I felt like he was saying ” I am not even done blessing you today. I love you!”

As we left the train we got talking to the manager once again who spent the journey a few rows down in First Class, probably wanting to keep an eye on us(!). He told us he had a little daughter and understood how we felt. He wanted to help us. We thanked him once again. We walked home in the pouring rain from the station but that didn’t matter one bit. Friday 3rd March 2017 was a day when God took what I hoped that he would do for us as a family and made it so much better. I got home with a new understanding of God’s love for me and my family. To him we are deserving of First Class treatment. We are his children and he loves us so much. He wants to bless us more than we can imagine.

This verse on my desk at work took on new meaning on Friday March 3rd. This verse came to life and it became a living reality.  Looking back I hope that I am someone who can do the even more for someone else, but also that I will be more expectant of seeing God do more. I have seen it in my life with my church family funding my ministry role year on year. With a church family numbering just 10% of what my home church in Essex does, the generosity and provision is even more mind-blowing. I must now trust that God will show his love and generosity through me to those I meet more and more. I have experienced THE GOOD, THE GREAT AND THE EVEN GREATER of God and what he longs to do for me and he is not done yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fixing Me and Mending We

Out with the old. In with the New. That was the title of my first and only blog post of 2016 way back in January. 2016 has felt like a pendulum swinging back and forth between two main themes. Life and Death. If I am honest, the year so far has seemed like a bit of a blur but it is a blur that has been interrupted by moments that have forced me to think about how I live as a follower of Jesus in this deeply broken and at times chaotic world.

The year began with the death of a much loved church member John Robinson for whom we had a community fun day this past weekend in his memory. This was followed by my wife and I finding out that we were expecting our first child. Something that deserves a blog post on its own! In finding out my wife was pregnant my whole world started to change, how I saw my life, viewed the future and others. A few weeks after this, my Nanna passed away on Easter Sunday of all days(!) and her thanksgiving service was certainly an emotional affair for us all. She will be greatly missed by so many who knew and loved her. In between this, I was involved in a car accident with family which thankfully we have all recovered from. There has also been baby scans to attend and midwife appointments. Hearing how I was going to be a Dad to a Son was life changing and my mind wandered to all the things I would be able to teach him..not least how to play football!

2016 feels as if moments of sacredness have been a beautiful interruption to the normality of everyday life that I have been experiencing. The routine of work, coming home again, seeing friends on the weekends. Yet 2016 has been a year so far where history has been made both in the area of sports, politics and my personal life. It is the second of these historical moments which has caused much fallout, division and tension in a country where we are used to normalcy and being conservative by our nature. We are according to many post EU result, a nation that needs to be brought back together and reunited. FIXED.

FIXING ME.

The EU referendum result was a huge political event. It sent shock waves through the global community, amongst the political elites and the majority of the national media. I had been attending EU related events for both the in and out campaigns since October 2015 because I wanted to formulate my own views, understanding, and because I believe voting matters. The speakers on both sides of the debates I attended were hugely passionate, cared deeply about their views and expressed them accordingly. However when the campaigning started and the referendum was called things changed. Friendships between politicians became strained, lies were told to the British people from both sides live on TV, and it was all so disappointingly negative. Families were divided, social media exploded with instant reaction and much hostility was in evident amongst friends online.

I am not a daily user of Facebook, sometimes not even weekly. I shared a few comments expressing my views on the EU and the result, and I was genuinely surprised by the passion in which those I will always call my friends responded to me. We are all entitled to our views, I don’t enjoy debates, much less social media ones as they are so impersonal and you cant look the person in the eye or give them an affectionate hug at the end of it!

On the morning of the result my wife woke me at 3:45am to tell me with great suprise that we had voted to leave the EU. I spent the next few hours watching the news coverage with interest and with the mind that everything would change for us in the UK. At 7:30am I sat on the steps of a museum in Carlisle, facing the city’s castle yards away from the radio station HQ where I would share my views on the result live on air. Just yards from where I was seated was a plaque which read how the museum had been built with the help of EU money.

At 8:30am I was in the radio station’s HQ watching David Cameron PM give his resignation speech with the Carlisle Conservative MP John Stephenson. As David Cameron announced his resignation and his voice cracked with emotion it was in that moment that I realised and remembered that we are all fragile human beings, unable to fix this world and make it the way it should have been. The way in which it will one day be when God fixes it all again. After sharing my views on radio, and walking away from the studios it started to dawn on me just how much my own heart had been affected by all the EU coverage. Believing this idea that voting one way would change everything for the better and make it alright again. Absorbing all the coverage both intentionally and unintentionally has inadvertently meant that I tuned out of the truth that we as humans cant fix our country, our world, not even our own lives in the main.

The coverage of the result couldn’t be totally avoided but thankfully I had England V Iceland to look forward too in the Euros! That turned out just fine!

I realised that amongst the intense watching, reading and listening to the EU stuff my own heart had become numb to what I knew to be deeply true and life changing. That God will one day put this all right again, that in sending Jesus he provided the answer to our deepest need, to have our hearts transformed and renewed by his love. I NEEDED TO BE FIXED.

As I write this, Channel 4 are doing a show on Racist Britain post EU result. I chose not to watch it but it just shows the deep divisions within our country that now exist.

OUR COUNTRY NEEDS MENDING.

This will not come by any political party but through the transforming love of God with the church rising up and getting involved in serving and loving those who do not yet know him.

In trying to rediscover what is most important I think back to two interactions with people in the past few months. The first is with a member of staff in 02. In ringing up to find out whether my phone was back from being repaired after the car accident in April, I was met with the stressed, annoyed voice of a member of staff who clearly wanted to put the phone down asap. I was not happy. I knew who the member of staff was. I had dealt with her before. When the phone returned to the store a few days later, I headed for a Mcdonalds breakfast and spied the staff member in the store from across the road. I found myself having to choose my attitude. Will I go in, expecting to be served or will I go in with the attitude of seeing how I can bless her and encourage her.

I wondered what was going on in her life for her to sound hassled, annoyed. After sitting with her, I asked her about herself. I learnt that her home had been flooded out in the Christmas floods. She had lost so much. Upon leaving the store, the fact that my phone had come back unable to be fixed wasn’t a big deal. I remembered for the first time in a while that when I choose to invest in another persons life it can encourage them and change your heart. In giving of yourself you gain something in return.

Last month, the city of Carlisle basked in temperatures of 28 DEGREES for a week or two! The humidity particularly  was unexpected and unwelcome. Despite being hotter than Ibiza and living in one of the rainiest parts of the UK we still complain! Sitting outside on my porch one of my neighbours approached me to introduce herself. I learnt she had lived in her house for over forty years, seen many comings and goings. She spoke of her husband who had passed away a few years back of cancer but also of the joys that her grandchildren bring her. Life had been hard for her but she was still enjoying life. After listening to her for a while she asked me what I did for a job. I told her that I worked for a church with children and families and she then unexpectedly touched on the idea of heaven.

‘I don’t think I believe in all that stuff’.

She said these words with a sense of almost resignation maybe wishing that she could believe in heaven and all that. We said our goodbyes but I was left to remember and reflect on once again what is most important and most needed in a world. A real belief and hope that one day this whole world will be renewed and remade. Where MP’s wont be murdered doing their jobs, Where hostile relations between races wont lead to killing of civilians and police. Where nightclubs full of young people are not targeted for violence.

For me the Christian hope is not a nice idea or possibility. This is the Christian Hope which I fully hold to and I want it to drive me forward to make a difference for Jesus in this hurting world. Without this hope we are left with man made plans, policies and projects that cannot bring the deep and lasting change we need as individuals, a nation and a world.

God Bless

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out with the Old…In with the New

It’s hard to know how to start a blog at the beginning of a new year.

Many people look back on their year just gone with mixed emotions and they hope that the new year will bring a change of fortune or a new start in some way shape or form. You have people starting new diets for example, making resolutions all in the hope that they can control some element of their lives.

For me, two memories really stand out. The first, a highlight and that was getting to see my in laws in America and the wider family. To get to know members of the family more, to share in their joys and just spend precious time with loved ones. One thing I have learnt about families is that each member of a family brings something and offers something to the wider family unit. Families might not always agree on certain issues that arise within the family environment but the most important thing is to value and love one another. I met new family members and friends, who were at a different stage in life, with others, and with Jesus.

The second memory I have of 2015, will stay with me forever. I never thought I would experience up close and personal the damage that ‘Mother Nature’ can cause here in the UK. I witnessed first-hand the devastation that Hurricane Sandy left behind in New Jersey, USA in 2012. Being part of the relief effort, I got to step into one man’s life and home, or what was left of it and see the damage for myself. Never ever would I have thought that the city I live in and have grown to love would suffer similar devastation.
Carlisle is a beautiful, friendly and growing city. It’s had its setbacks over the years with severe flooding, but nothing like what occurred in December 2015. Waking up on a unusually mild December Sunday morning, having received notice that my usual Sunday morning church routine was being disrupted, I went to see the damage first-hand that Storm Desmond had left behind.
Walking into the city the destruction reported was not initially visible -until I got to the town centre. Floating debris, bins, shops ruined, boats going past to rescue residents, it was a surreal scene. It didn’t seem real and the reaction of those standing nearby confirmed this. People shaking their heads, some taking pictures, others standing in their pyjamas, just standing, staring.

A lot has been said, reported and discussed in the media and their truly has been a tremendous and incredible show of unity, love and generosity shown by the folk of Cumbria. My wife and I were able to provide a few items for those made homeless but it’s the feeling of helplessness wishing you could do more and the failure of not being able to make sense of why this has happened again to Carlisle and Cumbria.

It would have been easy to do a blog post immediately after the floods, but in all honesty there is not a lot that could be said. I guess, as a Christian, my faith feels fragile as there is no way we can understand such devastation. Human evil is the cause of much of what happens in this world, but not an event like this.

So Christmas 2015 sort of came and went. Driving through the Carlisle City Streets on the way to work after the floods before and after Christmas, seeing the skips piled high with people’s lives, physical memories and worldly goods brings it all into sharp focus. This world is fragile and people suffer.
For me this is why I so believe that there is a need for a Saviour and a hope for something more. Otherwise this is all just a waste of time. There is no need for the why suffering question unless one day all will be made new and restored.
People, Places, this whole world.
I don’t have all the answers to why things happen and I don’t want to try and intellectually understand – it doesn’t help a thing. The best and only response is to support and love those unconditionally who are suffering and in great need.
2015 was a year that Cumbria will be remembered for the worst floods. But it was also the year when people came together, to stand with one another and offer support and help and assistance. Where businesses and people of influence gave what they could. This was a glimpse into the way the world was always meant to be.

In with the New
People often say “Out with the Old In With the New” don’t they.
What do they mean by that? Out with what Old, and what does the new look like anyway?
2016 has begun already for our churches with a joy and a sorrow. The birth of beautiful baby boy called Seth for our vicar and his wife, but also the sudden and unexpected death of a much loved church member. A real gentle giant, John was a generous kind hearted man, who always had a smile on his face when I saw him. Although like all of us he had his own struggles he was one of the nice guys, and always willing to help.
I think the sudden death of a much loved friend, reminds me at the start of a New Year that life is so fragile, unpredictable. The Bible reminds us that our lives are short, that we can spend our lives chasing after certain dreams and desires but in the end all our lives come to an end at some stage.

For myself, what can I do to help make 2016 a different year to the last?

Meeting Martin
I have mentioned in previous blog posts, that I have the privilege and joy of going into three local primary schools each week and serving in different ways. On my walk which is all of three hundred yards from the church to the school gate at Warwick Bridge, I ask God to open my eyes and heart to the needs of others. It’s a simple prayer but one that God answers. This past week was no different.
I often get the chance to play with the children in their lunchtime games. TAG is one of the favourites that every child from every generation remembers I have no doubt. This last week though, whilst playing this game, a little boy standing in the playground caught my eye. He was watching our game and was sporting a striking blue, green and yellow winter coat, but also a wonderful smile.
I have never seen him before, so I went up to him and said: “Hello my name is James, are you new to the school”. This little boy, no older than six seemed to think about what I had asked and responded as best as he could with the English he knew. “Hello, my name. Martin, I been here three days”. Just seconds later, Martin was busy running, chasing, catching and most importantly and beautifully, smiling with us as he joined in our game.

I was later informed by a school dinner lady that Martin had come here from Latvia with his family. He was finding it hard to settle, but that playing with me was really good for him. I was thanked for including Martin in the game and as the bell rang for the end of lunch, I went to find Martyn, in his beautiful coat, wide eyes and incredible smile.
I held out my hand he did the same. We shook hands, and I said to him: “Goodbye Martin see you again”.
Upon hearing this, I could see the smile on his face grow wider and as I left the playground, the school and headed back to church I thanked God for giving me the chance to bless a child – to love another and for hopefully making a difference.

I believe what I learnt from my encounter with Martin was that God doesn’t want us to see the world as Christian or non-Christian, sacred or secular. God is at work in so many ways, places and situations and all he wants us to do is go where he leads us.
I never expected to meet Martin that day. Carlisle, unlike London, is not the immigration capital of the world, so meeting Martin from Latvia who probably in some way could recount his journey here to the UK, coming here with his family to find hope, safety and a bright future opened my heart and eyes afresh to the truth that every child matters, every person matters and God can use anything and anybody.

Even a little boy from Latvia called Martin.

I know that a lot of people make New Year’s resolutions each year. Perhaps give something up. This month is ‘Dry January’ where people give up alcohol for the month. I have never been one of those people who has really made New Year’s resolution, let alone stuck with them.

This year though, I would like not to give something up but take something up. Reading the last chapter of the book of John in the Bible, we find Jesus on the beach with his friend…Peter.Peter who had denied Jesus three times and ran away when Jesus most needed him.

Jesus, having lovingly restored Peter to his position as one of his closest friends earlier, is asked by Peter:

“Lord, what’s going to happen to him”?

Peter wants to know from Jesus what will happen to one of his other disciples, John. ‘What’s he going to do Jesus, is he going to die or remain alive’?
Jesus reply to Peter has really been staying with me:

“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me”.

I want to live 2016 as best as I can. To trust God as best as I can, to not worry about the things I can’t control. Instead, I want the words spoken to Peter by Jesus to by my New Year, my life long resolution.

AS FOR YOU FOLLOW ME

If I live like this who knows where it will take me? God Knows!

Blessings and Happy New Year

Beautiful People?

Back in the summer I went to visit my Nan in hospital and the following scene in front of me, in the opposite bed unfolded. A female nurse was attending to an elderly frail lady who didn’t seem to know who she was or what was happening around her. As the nurse greeted the elderly woman in the bed, she uttered the following words to the lady.

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.

The lady tried to sit up, craning her neck to hear the words spoken. She shouted to the nurse: “What did you say?” The nurse came a little closer to the woman and spoke the words.

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.

Again, the woman seemed to be confused and beckoned the nurse to come closer. For the third time, the nurse, with more excitement and affirmation in her voice said:

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!

With this, the frail woman started to become very agitated and unsettled. She shouted back:

NO I AM NOT BEAUTIFUL! NO I AM NOT.

Sitting watching this interaction reminded me of the world we live in. A world where in some ways, life is not seen as sacred. At times this seems to be a world in which anything seems to be acceptable. A world in which people struggle to be just themselves, they are quickly and brutally ridiculed, mocked and bullied by fellow human beings. The rise in the use of social media has made this ugly side of humanity more apparent. We can be quick to devalue and hurt our fellow human beings.

Our news and newspapers are full of people. We have seen the migrant crisis which is at a critical level. Human beings literally dying to get to Europe. Toddlers drowning and images of this, across the Internet. Seeing photos like this are hard to see and can and should act to reinforce the truth that every life matters. Every life is precious, invaluable and sacred.

HASHTAGS, BONO AND MINECRAFT

Most recently we have seen the rise of campaigns such as black lives matter, a movement that campaigns against violence towards black people. We have seen many similar hashtags in social media to remind the world that people’s lives matter.

Most recently headlines such as ‘Minecraft owner lonely and miserable’ caught my eye. One of the most richest men in the world is publicly expressing his own feelings – feelings that are incredible sad. Strip away all the riches and the fame, whats left? To me, it seems like a human being crying out to know love and be loved.

Bono, accused of being political by some media outlets for the following comments said the following at the start of one of his band’s (U2) concerts recently regarding the migrant crisis:

“What do you want? A Europe with its heart and borders closed to mercy? Or a Europe with its heart open?”

Finally this past week we saw an eighteen year old Australian woman release a video outlining how she had been addicted to social media and used it to find her self worth. Posting pictures daily, she hoped that they would get her enough attention and likes that would make her happy. She said:

“Culture creates validation and insecurity,” “I did everything in my power to prove to the world that ‘Hey, I’m important.'”

There have been many stories in the news recently regarding celebrities and famous people who have found that real lasting joy and satisfaction is not found in material things and in the culmination of gaining more ‘followers’.

Bono raised the issue of Europe opening its heart to migrants. I find myself asking the question ” Is my heart open to loving all people and do I seek to show an interest in them as a person and who they are?

I think that somewhere along the way we forgot that all life is precious and sacred. The rise in stories such as those mentioned provides an indication that something somewhere has gone wrong.

But how did we get to this point?

CANT PAY WE’LL TAKE IT AWAY

A few weeks ago, I was watching one of the shows which follows High Court enforcers travelling the length of the UK to retrieve outstanding debts from members of the public, from the young and old, rich and poor no one is untouchable. There were two cases on the TV show featuring two completely different people at different ends of society. One, was a woman who lived in a million pound house and had a drive full of cars worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. She refused to deal with her debt problem when confronted by the high court officers, and instead rather rudely told the men to ‘Speak to my Solicitor’. This woman was rich enough to hide behind other people and not deal with the problem herself.

The other case, involved a gentleman running a very small computer repair shop in one of the most poorest estates in Liverpool. He had a measly debt outstanding compared to the woman – of just a couple of thousand. This poor gentleman has no obvious way to repay the debt in full there and then. However as he was confronted by the high court officers, members of the local community came in obviously wanting to support their friend and became a little aggressive to the officers. I remember that in watching this, I thought:

” Oh dear there is going to be trouble, these guys are up to no good”.

I was making a judgement without allowing the whole situation to play out. Over the course of a few hours, the local community had rallied around to help this poor man pay most – if not all of his debt off. The folk who helped may have appeared suspicious, rough around the edges, but they showed care, love and support for their friend.

I will never forget the words of one of the people that lived in the community.

“Around here we look after our own”.

You find beautiful people in unlikely places. People and places that others may not care about. Places that are deemed too rough, people that are seen as potential troublemakers. We make judgements about our fellow human beings often without verbalising it. I know I do.

A CINEMA VISIT AND A CHANGING ROOM ENCOUNTER

This past summer, I had the chance to meet new people, people who lead very different lives to me and who choose different lifestyles to lead than I do. I believe I have been forced to rethink how I view and treat other people. Here are just two examples of encounters that I had that led me to reflect on what is written in this blog.

In September I went with my wife to visit her parents in the USA. In joining a queue of people at the cinema to hand my ticket over to the attendant one weekday morning, I was confused. I couldn’t see the attendant standing there taking the tickets. Where were they? As I got closer I got my answer.

SHAUN.

That was his name on his badge. There he was in his wheelchair, hardly able to move and when he did it was  painfully slow. As he slowly reached his arm out to receive my ticket, he gave me a friendly greeting. I reciprocated and said cheerfully in return: “Hi Shaun, thanks very much!”

His response was one I didn’t expect:

” Hey Man, you’re from England wow I love your accent!” His response threw me. He seemed so excited and happy. From my very few words to him it created in him a spark.

“Thanks Shaun, have a good day, you are great at accents!”.

I shuffled through the line and left him behind. It was incredible to see and meet Shaun and it was fantastic to see this cinema investing in people who do have disabilities, recognising the value of each individual human being.

My other encounter was with a female in the changing rooms of BHS in Essex. There I sat on the stool, outside the cubicle my wife was in, trying on jeans, trying not to look awkward, when I got talking to the store assistant, Marion.

Our conversation amazingly moved from the weather and the broken air conditioning, onto more serious things. Marion told me she was one of the many in the store who would be losing her jobs because of the store cutbacks. I expressed my sympathies and suddenly felt an urge to ask her about herself. She shared with me how, having lived in Greece for a number of years with her husband, she recently returned to the UK with him because he got sick. She went on to tell me how he had died quite suddenly and now she was on her own.

I could feel the pain behind her story. I didn’t really know what to say, and after the conversation moved back onto more unimportant things in light of what was just said, my wife soon returned armed with jeans and ready to go.

In my heart of hearts though I didn’t feel as if I wanted to leave. Something had taken place in my heart and I felt something for Marion and her situation.

Upon leaving the store my wife said to me: ” Why don’t you go and buy Marion some chocolates”?

“What?” I said in response. I had never done anything like this for anyone. It just kind of felt awkward. However I had nothing to lose. I would never see Marion again, so I went for it.

After buying some chocolates, I returned to BHS to the changing rooms to find Marion still there. I handed the chocolates to her, and the look on her face was something else. She didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or hug me, but the pat on the back that I was given from her was more than enough.

“Marion I just want to thank you for sharing your story with me. It meant a lot and I want to wish you all the best for the future”. That was it. Thats what I said and I meant it.

As I walked away I could hear Marion in the background explaining with excitement to others what had just happened. That day and that encounter I will never forget. By taking a step, opening my mouth and giving to someone in need my heart was softened. I felt a longing in my heart for the world that God wants, a world where no one was left alone, left out or left without hope. That day I gave something, but received much back. A softer heart for people and a reminder that this is what Christians are meant to be.

Bringers of love, hope and joy.

JESUS WAS A PEOPLE PERSON

Reading the Bible we see Jesus extending love and grace to all people. Rich and Poor, those considered the worst in society and the best. One particular encounter that Jesus had was with a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. Dragged out before Jesus, she was going to be stoned right there and then by those gathered. There are so many things that you could say about this story. This woman had broken the law. She really didn’t stand a chance. Until Jesus turned the situation on its head. Turning to her accusers he said:

“Who is without Sin can throw the first stone”.. Well, her accusers didn’t have a response. The only thing they could do was turn and leave. Knowing that they too were sinners.

Jesus treatment of the woman was incredible. Not only did he not condemn her, he fought for her. He stood in her corner. He treated her as a loved human being. He spoke with, and extended his love to her as if she was the most important person in the world.

TO JESUS. PEOPLE MATTER.

For me one of the most important things that I think I need to remember and relearn in some ways, is that people, ALL people matter. They matter and are loved by God. Every life is precious and sacred. Jesus is the FRIEND OF SINNERS and we see by how he lived on earth that all were and still are welcome into his family.

THAT HOSPITAL VISIT

That day I visited the hospital, I went to see my Nan whose health has deteriorated greatly these past few months to the point where she is know in a care home living with Alzheimer’s. Beginning to lose her memory of where she is, where she lived and who is who, is heartbreaking to think about. It is hard to think of my Nan this way.

When I think of my Nan I think of good memories, the fun and laughter, the news and the often mundane things that when looking back, were not that important to devote long conversations to.

When I look back I also want to look forward. As someone who loves God and is therefore commanded to love people, the question that I am faced with moving on in this journey of life, will be this:

WHAT DO I WANT PEOPLE TO REMEMBER ME FOR?

Make every day count. God Bless.

Some Reflections From This Rollercoaster Ride.

“You have got to be kidding me!…… ” This Man has got to be sacked now!”…..”They had this long, and this is what they could come up with?”.

A couple of weeks ago my beloved Norwich City FC did what most professional football clubs do.

They changed their kit design.

Every club changes their team shirt for the new season-its just for many Norwich fans this was a change too far.

The fans who don’t like the change wait for the second shirt to come out and they bank on this kit design being better. They hope it will be a more desirable and acceptable change. Except for Norwich City fans the second kit change was not much better. Nor was the clubs THIRD kit – for many fans it was getting beyond a joke.

I am not one of the fans who buys a new shirt every year. My current Norwich shirt is a few years old. I don’t buy into the hype of waiting for the new shirt coming out, besides the cost of one is enormous.

CHANGE

No matter who we are, we all face changes – Changes that bring joy and sorrows, ups and downs. Fears and Cheers. All changes are hard and take getting used to. Life is a rollercoaster of changes. All of us, no matter who we are, are on it.

Our TV shows are filled with this idea of change. Changing houses so they sell, changing bodies, changing partners.

Last month I got to go and see two local school leavers assemblies. These were schools I work in, where I have had the chance to get to know some of the year six students who are leaving. Leading up to the assemblies, the children were looking forward to what was ahead . They were busy preparing and rehearsing for their roles in the assembly. This change for them – leaving primary school didn’t seem to be pressing on their minds too much.

MEMORIES OF CHANGE

I cant remember much about my primary school leavers day eighteen years ago. I have mixed memories of my time there but I will always be remembered for scoring the best own goal in footballing history.

Having received the ball on the halfway line, I turned, swiveled and hammered a fantastic right foot shot past the biggest kid in the school, who literally, took up the whole of the goal.

I remember the deathly silence. Everything seemed to just stop. After what seemed like hours, I heard the sound of the school caretakers voice screaming at me with such force it could have knocked me to the ground.

That day I broke many of my teammates and school friends hearts. My school lost a game of football, and I had to face the change of feelings towards me from my school friends the next day and beyond. I wanted to hide away.

BACK TO THE LEAVERS ASSEMBLY

On the day of the leavers assembly this small rural school hall was jam packed with parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles, all gathered for this special day. The day where one journey ends and another begins. A big life change.

The assembly was superb. The year six children performed a very funny timeline from their years in school, but as the assembly started drawing to an end, the atmosphere changed. I could feel the emotions and hear the tears from staff, children and parents. I could feel my heart suddenly feel heavy.

By the end, all the children on stage were in tears. The boys hugged one another, the girls too. It felt to many in the room that something painful was happening. Although it was about looking back and to the future with celebration, it was the overwhelming realisation that nothing would be the same again that stayed with those who were gathered.

On the walk back to the church, I didn’t really say much to the Vicar. It brought home to me, how much change we face in life. Changes are hard but they can bring joy and blessing.

LOOKING BACK

Two years ago at St Paul’s Church Holme Eden, which is one of two churches I work for, we underwent a big change. A reordering of the church interior took place. Pews came out, chairs came in. Cold, tiled flooring went. Warm, soft carpets were brought in in its place.

This change was too much for some. Some of the church members wanted the asbestos removed and the church put back as it was. However, with the church interior over a hundred years old, looking tired and not being able to be used for much practically, the step of faith was taken to raise thousands of pounds so we could make the building a place where we could welcome people of all ages in a relaxed and informal way. For eight whole months, St Paul’s was an empty shell inside. Lifeless, Cold and gloomy.

LOOKING FORWARD

Fast forward to May 2014 and we opened our doors again. The newly reordered, warm and welcoming St Paul’s welcomed a huge number of people, many for the first time. We welcomed the young and old, able bodied and disabled. Seeing an elderly gentleman drive into church on his mobility scooter and head straight to the front of church reminded me how, because of the changes made, the church building was now accessible to all.

Since May 2014 we have seen God give us many new and exciting opportunities to welcome schools, mums and tots, host fun days and parties. The overall highlight for me has been our Holiday Clubs in 2014 and 2015. In August 2014 we welcomed twenty or so children into the church and throughout the three days of fun the children heard about God and his love for them.

Fast forward a year, and I felt in my heart that God wanted to suprise and change my understanding of what I expected he would do. For our Holiday Club this year our theme was Mega Makers – and as we learnt about God’s love for us the bigger and more incredible it is. On July 22nd 2015, we opened St Paul’s to over forty children – all eager to to have fun through games and activities, but also learn more about Jesus.

During Mega Makers there was a real sense of joy, love and laughter that I know bought a smile to God’s face. The children really listened, and shared was they thought about God by posting questions to Professor James in the Brainbox!

Some of the questions were incredibly deep and and hard to answer. Sometimes Professor James had to say, ” Sorry children, I just don’t know how to answer the question but I think this and this is why”.

On the Sunday service after the holiday club, thirty five children came back to share some if their highlights with the one hundred plus adults who gathered. I gave a brief talk on the changes God has and continues to bring about in my life.
When I think about the changes that have been happening in my life, especially over the past few years, I reflect on and share them with an honest heart. The changes in my life are daily, they are gradual. Sometimes I take one step forward and two back.

Being a Christian, for many of us doesn’t bring instant and miraculous changes. The Bible tells us that we are a work in progress. I know for me when I have faced challenges in my life, hard ones, often I have run away from God rather than to him. And when God has bought me through these challenges I often forget to thank him.

NOTHING AND EVERYTHING
Watching the Bible series on  has been enjoyable. I have found watching Jesus disciples, these ordinary men with their own faults and failings helpful and encouraging. In the most memorable and history changing event, which is seen in the Bible series, one of Jesus disciples (John) is seen entering the tomb where Jesus was laid. Standing outside the tomb is Peter. He is shouting at John: “John, what have you found?” John responds with:

I HAVE FOUND NOTHING….. AND EVERYTHING.

The Easter story is all about change. A big historical change occurred the moment Jesus died but rose again three days later. Millions of people all around the world live their lives believing that Jesus died and rose again. I am one of those who believes that Jesus resurrection has bought New life, New Beginnings and New Hope.

From the moment Jesus friends found the empty tomb, nothing would be the same. Everything changed. Jesus first friends started the church and to this day the church continues to grow hugely around the world. The family of God has been growing ever since that first Easter morning.

On this rollercoaster we call life there are always twists and turns, highs and lows. I think for me, I have cried, yelled, ignored and been frustrated with God at times. There are things that have happened in my life and continue to happen that I wont and don’t understand. However as I go through life and as I see God change me through the storms of life, I am learning to trust him more. I must confess that I don’t always thank God as much as I should for all he has done for me but I am thankful for the changes he has made in my life, even if they come  through painful circumstances.

Here are just three changes that have taken place in my life on this rollercoaster of change:

Joy – Knowing my sins are forgiven, that  I am a new creation and have been saved by and for Jesus, fills me with joy. I am learning to trust in the great truth that Jesus loves me and nothing, no changes will affect that. I don’t have to earn his forgiveness and love. Knowing Jesus has bought joy into my life.

Hope – The more I look at the world, the more I am deeply aware that people need to know of the God who loves them passionately. God wants to bring change and hope into the lives of others and one day he promises to make all things new and put everything right. But in the meantime, while we await Jesus return, we are to be the agents of change in the world. God asks that we give ourselves in service to him and to show others a glimpse of who he is.

Love – Knowing Jesus and how much he loves me, makes me in turn, want to love others. I read a quote this week which says: ” You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving”. Throughout my life I have found that loving others is so very hard. But the more I reflect on how much God loves me it brings a heart change and a longing in my heart to love others.

This particular rollercoaster is one we will never get off. There will always be things that change, challenge and shape us in life. I have learnt that through these times God reminds me that he is and always will be there. His lover never changes and his mercies are new everyday.

God cannot and will not stop loving us. In the fast and furious constant changes in life may you find the ever present and unchanging God.

Puzzles, Pain and The Need for Hope

Last weekend, my wife and I purchased a fifteen hundred piece puzzle from a local charity shop in Carlisle. I have never been a puzzle fan in the past. They require patience, willpower and commitment to keep going. These things I lack.

And you don’t burn calories whilst doing them.

On starting this mammoth puzzle mission I realised it wasn’t going to be easy. First of all it was a puzzle in the form of an ancient world map, many pieces looking the same. Things started slowly but once we stuck at it we started making progress. The puzzle border was finished and now as I write this things look a little clearer. Its been a week since we started and things have moved on a little…we are still a long way off completion!

Life can sometimes appear to be one giant puzzle. Things are not straightforward and you have to persevere through those times when you don’t feel you are making progress.

One of the TV shows I watch regularly is Homicide Hunter.Lt Joe Kenda, a retired detective for the Colorado Springs PD, recounts the murder cases he has solved in great detail. In a recent interview he made told a story that struck me:

“One day, my parents decided to take us to the Pittsburgh Zoo. This was a huge deal, for the family to go to the zoo.
We get to the zoo and we were approaching the primate house, and I see this sign. It says, “Around this corner, you will see the most dangerous animal on earth.” And I think, this I need to see. So I walked around the corner, and there was a mirror. A big mirror—floor to ceiling—reflecting the image all the people walking around the zoo. I stood and looked at that mirror for a long, long time. I stood there for so long, my mother started yelling that we needed to leave.
It was a moment of epiphany. I wondered if it were true, that humans could be so dangerous.

People are so complex and capable of anything. Despite the advances in technology, the changes to Laws in our Societies, The progress in Medical Science, people are still the same.

We are People, with the desperate need to be loved and to be made whole.

FAR AWAY

As I write, today has been one of those days where the state of our world has shaken me. Three terrorist attacks in Kuwait, France and Tunisia. I have had the pleasure of visiting both Tunisia and France on holiday with my family in years gone by.

All I can think about is the people.

The people whose lives have been shattered. Torn apart forever. The victims, the local people who live in these areas will never be the same. With what took place in Charleston, USA just a week or so ago it seems life is not sacred anymore. The people who have died in these and many more horrific events were Brothers, Sisters, Mums, Dads, Friends. Grandparents.

There are no words to describe these acts of evil.

CLOSE TO HOME

Life in Carlisle, Cumbria is predictable and slow. Nearly every day this past month has been one of doom and gloom weather wise. Finding that you need a winter coat in June is nothing to be excited about. Not much happens here.

Or did happen here.

Earlier this month, Carlisle found itself in the media spotlight, and the main headline on the main UK news websites. Less than a mile from where I live, a fourteen year old boy was found murdered in the grounds of a church.

Stabbed in the head multiple times. A young boy, with his whole life ahead of him with a Mum and a Dad, had been the victim of such evil and wickedness. How do you find the words? As a Christian, there are no words, no nice things you can say to make things better. The thought of such evil is sickening and heartbreaking.

Within a week two teenagers were arrested and charged with the murder.

In driving to work this week, a local news stand headline read.

JORDAN JUDGE WARNS CITY

Apparently the Judge in this murder trial, warned the general public over their behavior as protests had been held by angry Cumbrians as these local teenagers made their first court appearance. Anger is one feeling that has been very evident in the city since this event and it has reminded me that evil exists everywhere. Not even the remote place of Carlisle is immune.

There is so much pain and heartbreak running rampant across our world with no sign of slowing down anytime soon. As long as that desire to commit evil exists in the human heart nothing will ever change.

My work for two rural parish churches takes me into schools and youth groups and I have had the pleasure in getting to know many children and young people and their backgrounds. I have been been saddened as I hear them talk about their home life. Growing up in a less than ideal family structure, some where a parent has had an affair and left. I know we are not perfect as human beings, but my heart aches as I say:

“God, Surely it was never meant to be this way”?

For Christians we know it was never was meant to be this way. We go right back to Adam and Eve in the garden, who chose their own way rather than God’s.

I know for most people in our society today such stories are laughed at and not believed, but how can we explain the origin of evil and sin?  It has always existed from the very beginning of time. How do we explain the state of the world we live in?

Many times as a society generally, we want to sweep the word ‘Sin’ under the carpet, but everyday we have to live with the effects of it.

We live in a world in need of some hope.

From Somewhere.

MEETING BRIAN

Brian is a retired gentleman at one of the Parish Churches I work for. He now serves as a guide in Carlisle Cathedral and invited my wife and I for a tour of the place just a few weeks ago. The tour was great and Brian spoke very proudly of how he was involved in designing aspects of the Cathedral. In some ways, the tour was not as important as the person leading it.

Our tour concluded with a well earned  cup of coffee in the Cathedral Cafe. As Brian wrapped his hands around that hot cup, he shared his story with me. In a work accident many years ago, Brian fell through a ceiling, resulting in life changing injuries. His body carries the evidence. He has a piece of his skull missing which is evident by the fact that a part of his forehead has been ‘crushed inwards, (resembling something like a severe dent in a car). His hands bear deformed and twisted fingers.

I had met Brian on numerous occasions through church but it was Brian the Person that amazed me.

Brian’s life had changed dramatically since the accident many years ago. Over the years he had lost his marriage and relationships with his children. He had become alcohol dependent and suffers with ongoing pain. Yet here Brian sat, with a positive story to tell, yet tinged with regret and sadness. He spoke about his faith in God, and his desire to rebuild his relationships with his family members. He spoke largely from a place of hope and not despair. A place of looking forward and not looking back.

For me meeting Brian, was an encouragement, a blessing. To get to know him, his story, his struggles and to see him with a hope and a desire to keep on living and enjoying life was a joy.

For me this reminded me of Why I Continue to Trust in God.

I still believe that the Good News of Jesus is what’s needed to bring life change and transformation.

THE CHRISTIAN HOPE

The Gospel tells us we are loved. God created us, we are loved by him unconditionally. He made us in his image and for a relationship with him and others.

The Gospel tells us what has gone wrong. Our sin and our brokenness has meant that this world is a fragile place. We try and fix things ourselves by passing new laws, educating people better, bringing in specialists. The problem is these things are mostly done because there is a need to respond to something that has gone wrong, not to prevent something. Broken relationships is whats gone wrong. Man’s  desire to live his own way has made this world a fragile place to live.    I think of my own heart and the things I have done to hurt others.

The Gospel tells us that Hope exists in a person who experienced life on our broken planet. He lived he cried. He slept, he healed. He died, He rose again!

The Gospel tells us that Jesus came to bring new life. To bring forgiveness and new life to all people. Not to make us better or nice people  but to make us new people. It is this forgiveness that is freely available to us all.

The Gospel tells us that one day, Jesus will return to make all things new and one day we will be with him in a place of no more tears, pain and suffering.

When the Good news of Jesus is lived out it makes a powerful statement. I think of Brian, clinging to hope in Jesus, despite all he has been through, I think of those Church members in Charleston who stood before the TV cameras and forgave the teenage killer of their Mum.

I think of Jesus who on the cross as he hung there dying for the sins of the world, cried out:

” Father forgive them for they do now know what they are doing”.

For us God’s mercies are new everyday. Living in this broken world we find that our questions to the problem of pain don’t go away.

There is  and always will be a desperate need in this world for Hope. It is not in a place or a philosophy.

Its in a person.

His name is Jesus.

Nothing is ever as it seems: Benefits, Beards and The Boy in the Corner.

The Library.

The Place where as a Child there are thousands of books to be opened and read. Or in the case of  one particular sort of book just stared at. For a long time. As in…a very long time. These were the books known as The Magic Eye ( See Wikipedia for a proper definition!). These were books that upon turning each page were just full of random dots, but if you stared at each page long enough, your eyes would begin to see a 3D image. Most of the time I couldn’t see anything, but if I kept staring, sometimes I would begin to see the image appear. Was it worth the headache I then got from trying to concentrate for so long on just one page?

Probably Not.

I have come to learn that in life things are not often the way they first seem. You have to look closer, deeper and with purpose.

The General Election in the UK earlier this month threw up a complete surprise. Predicted to be the closest Election in history by everyone, it ended up being one of the least closest with the Conservatives winning out with a very surprising majority. All the polls taken prior to the election seemed to suggest one thing.

It turned out to be something completely different.

In my work amongst children in local schools, I see the best of children and also some of the worst. I have seen children verbally abuse others in lessons, and also seen others playing their games in the playground without a care in the world. I have caught glimpses of the world God had in mind right back at the beginning. A place of love, joy, peace and beautiful relationships with him and one another,  but the harsh realities of the broken world we live in come into sharp focus when I see and hear things that break my heart and God’s.

BRIEF ENCOUNTERS

Just last month whilst on playground duty, one of the year six children ( a girl who I knew could be challenging in class)  approached me  and asked me the simple question: ” James, where do you live”? I explained that I lived in Carlisle and then I asked her the same question.

This led to the girl explaining her story, enabling me see a glimpse into their world. She explained that she lived near the school with her disabled Mum. A Mum who spent the majority of her time in her house unable to do much at all. A Mum who had had many other children all grown up and now with families of their own. A Mum struggling and in need without much money to provide for her child. The child I had encountered explained that she had to do most of the things around the house to help her Mum. Here was an eleven year old whose world was entirely different to nearly all of the other children in her school.

The Conversation continued with me asking: ” Does your Mum tell you she is proud of you?” The child responded,  ” Yes she does”. I told her that what I thought she was doing was amazing and I was proud of her too. I then asked her what she wanted to do for a job.  She said, ” I want to be a lawyer so I can buy a car to visit my Mum and also buy her a really good wheelchair”.

This eleven year old in some ways has the weight of the world on her shoulders, having to grow up so fast. Yet she had ambitions and dreams. This is a child that on the surface just seemed to be one of the difficult ones. Didn’t seem to engage in lessons.

Things are not often the way they seem. I need to look and listen more closely.

BENEFITS STREET
I tuned into Benefits Street this past week. I have never seen it before but it has recieved lot of attention in the Media. This is a show that documents the lives of residents living on the same streets who all apparently live on Benefits. This past week the street in question was in Stockton in the North of England, with one of the highest unemployment rates in the UK. The programme documents the daily lives of these residents many of whom have nothing to do, with some engaging in dangerous, strange and sometimes illegal activities. It interviews the residents and aims to get a glimpse into their lives.

It was whilst watching the show (with all its bad language from many of the local residents) that one of the local residents was interviewed. She said ” If people want to address the issues that are happening around here, they need to start asking: Why are things the way they are?”

To me this spoke of a major problem. We only want to see and judge people and things from afar. Not get close up.

Another interview with a Resident was the one that hit me hard. A middle aged woman who just looked worn out, tired and battered by life’s hardship, had one boy who had been expelled from school multiple times. The cameras then filmed the Mother in her house, and entered a room, where her fifteen year old son Reagan lay, strapped to machines just to keep him alive. Wiping away tears, his mother explained that he had suffered a heart attack at just a few months old. All Reagan’s Mum could do each day was hold him. He couldn’t speak, eat, talk or do anything, he was completely paralysed.

Behind the door of this one house was a real, ‘Nothing is ever as it seems’ case. Watching this show challenged me on how I view people, situations and circumstances. Am I content just to take a quick look or do I care enough to look deeply into the heart of another human being willing to give of myself to serve them just as Jesus taught?

BEARDS

I read many books, mostly Christian books, but I fancied a change of scene and there was one book this past month that caught my eye. On the cover was the face of big bearded man. His Name? Tim Howard. He is the goalkeeper for Everton Football Club and is the USA National Soccer Team’s goalkeeper. He shot to fame most recently for some outstanding performances in last summers 2014 World Cup for his National Team. However, in this book was his story. His life. Raised by his Mum in New Jersey, he openly talks about living his life with Torettes Syndrome but also his divorce and being separated from his kids. He also discusses his faith in God.

This reminded me that things are not always what they seem. Tim Howard, earning millions of pounds a year has lost much and face struggles like all of us. Behind this bearded man is an ordinary human being who is willing to express and share the deepest and most personal issues in his life.

Things are not always as they seem.

THE BOY IN THE CORNER

Two weeks ago I was leading a church weekend away.

The Friday night was a church social so I had the chance to meet the children I would be working with. Complete with an evening of dancing, I thought this weekend was going to be great! The Saturday away, bought a new venue and with it new challenges. In a very small room with nearly thirty 4-11 year olds it was chaos at times! Trying to teach the children was a challenge and I came away from the Saturday feeling tired and drained.

The next day was a Sunday and we gathered in a local school, familiar to the children. Teaching the children from Ephesians 2v10 I was explaining how ‘We are Gods Masterpiece. Created new in Jesus to do the good things he planned for us long ago’.

The atmosphere was different but it was still a battle to engage the children in a conversation about what this verse meant. I could sense some of the children had lost interest and I was beginning to lose heart, but as I asked the question of the kids: ” What are some of the good things God wants us to do” a little boy, no more than six years old sitting at the back of the room spoke up saying,

” When I’m at school, one boy spits in my face and I walk away”.

Wow. I felt like time just stopped still as I was digesting what this little boy in the corner had just stated.

“Yes that is amazing, thats exactly what Jesus wants you to do and he is so proud of you for doing that”.

This was my response to this little boy.

Id mentally written off this session with the kids because of the chaos of the previous day. It reminded me that if you keep your eyes open and are willing to look closely at situations and circumstances you may find that things happen that you least expect.

CONCLUSION

The past few days I have been been thinking about the Christian Hope. This world isn’t our eternal home. This isn’t IT. I need to have that in mind. Charles Spurgeon in one of his sermons from Hebrews talks about how we should SEE things in the eternal light. That we should judge by eternity. He reminds us that we should not look at things in their bearings on today or tomorrow or the next few years. He says ‘we must look further than our foot’. I need to hear that. I need to see things from God’s perspective.

There are some ‘Things are never as they seem’ cases in the Bible. One of my favorites? The often forgotten mother of Ishmael, Abraham’s other son. Her name?

HAGAR.

A broken, distressed and isolated individual who could have easily identified with the Mother bringing up her disabled son Reagan on Benefits Street, runs away. Wanting to die, she is comforted by an Angel who promises that God will take care of her. Her response?

“You are the God who sees me”.

Nothing is ever as it seems. My hope and prayer is that everyday I live I would  take the time to stop and see people, circumstances and situations more clearly and more deeply, with Gods eyes.