Friday, 22 April 2011


Didn't realise what a hotbed of celebrity Carlisle was. From the sad to the surreal in one week. We had the funeral of Edward Stobart in the Cathedral at the start of the week, then we saw Peter Capaldi (Malcolm Tucker 'The Thick of it') and small entourage walking from the station in the direction of Nando's. Finally, my personal highlight, Brian Blessed doing a TV interview in the centre of town. Using his celebrity to influence people to be compassionate - towards 'feline friends'. Well, he was in 'Cats'....

Strange thing celebrity... fame in one area of life seems to endue the individual with a credibility in every other area. 'You've been in a soap, please tell me your views on the situation in Libya'. 'You're a famous actor, of course I'll listen to your views on cats', 'You're a rock star with a very questionable lifestyle, please tell me what I should think about God'.....

It extends into religious life as well - we can all list the top ten Christian celebrities... the famous Spring Harvest / New Wine speakers, the international celebs on tour - Rob Bell, the anointed God Channel ministers.... Nothing new of course... 'some follow Paul, others Apollos...'

And apparently, we are all due 5 minutes of fame. Already had mine from my starring appearance in TV bowls competitions 30 odd years ago - what is there to look forward to now?

Ridiculous isn't it? How we alter our behaviour around the famous! Articulate people tongue tied 'love your work' we stutter. We long to get close so some of the magic might rub off on us. 'Guess who I saw today, who I sat next to, whose autograph I got...' How good we feel if someone famous greets us -Us! He noticed me! And if, by some chance they actually know us, call us by name - in front of our friends! Our life is complete, the famous one lifted me up to their exalted height...

"Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war.  His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: 

King of all kings and Lord of all lords."

That's celebrity, that's fame.

And He looks at you and says “Come! Gather together for the great banquet God has prepared"

So here's the real deal. You are known by the King of Kings. He knows you, loves you, values you. He sets a banquet in your honour. In front not just of your friends, but of those who accused you, mocked you, doubted you, He serves you, he says 'look on, see my friend, see my honoured guest'. He loves you so much that he has thought up a perfect new name for you. A name that describes the fulness of your potential, the hopes and dreams that he has for you. More than that, he doesn't just give you a passing glance, a brief acknowledgement, he gives you his full attention, all the time.

This is no 'feet of clay' celebrity in whom we will one day be disappointed. This is no five minutes of fame, this is eternal life.

Lift your head high. Stand tall. You are known and loved by God.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Met two guys...

Met a couple of guys on the way back up to Carlisle on Sunday. Well, didn't actually meet them - kind of encountered them at the services.

First there's Chris - I lke Chris. He wants to be helpful, he said he wanted everything to be as we wanted it - even gave us his phone number so we could ask him. Generous is what that is. And actually, now you mention it, there are a few things that I wasn't happy with right then. For a start, I'd still got this chest infection. Thought about calling Chris, but decided it was a bit selfish. I mean, I'd just read about the extension of the exclusion zone in Japan. Decided I should write a list - no point in bothering Chris with more than one call - he's bound to be a busy guy with that kind of offer... Here's where I've got to - if you want to add yours, feel free to comment, I reckon I'll probably call him on Thursday....

Nuclear plant in Japan made safe
All bodies recovered so grieving can happen
Lybian rebels to oust Gadaffi and replace his regime with something more open
An end to tyrants in general
NASA to announce a mission to Mars
My chest infection to go

Then there was Desmond.

Des reckons that he 'lives for good coffee and good conversation". Really? There was no number this time, but Des, if you're reading this, piece of advice. Get a life! Are you seriously saying that's what you live for - the point of your existence is a recreational drug and a bit of a chat with your mates?

Des, you are one sad dude.

Now, Janet's just read this and pointed out that Chris is only referring to the Stafford Services. Turns out his - and I say this kindly - definition of 'everything' is a bit smaller than mine.... And as for Des, well, probably he hates coffee, but they chose him cos someone thought he was attractive. Too smug by half if you ask me....

But it just struck me how easy it is to be parochial. To define 'everything' as meaning that which interests me or connects with the people I like. Or to be very narrow in our definition of life.  We live for a good cup of coffee, the next episode of Corrie, the next holiday.

So come on, lift your eyes Chris, think bigger Des. We've got a kingdom to build and eternity to enjoy.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Mould us

Take me, mould me Lord

In the last post I made the point that no matter how mis-shaped we feel we are or have become, God has a unique place for us in his wall! Our presence in that place makes the whole wall sturdier, more effective, no matter how useless we have been made to feel.

But of course we're not finsihed yet! This isn't our final shape - if we continue in faith we will one day be like Jesus. So I've been thinking about the process of moulding, refining, transforming. God is good and does a great job directly, through his word, through his Holy Spirit. But I've learned a lot recently about the joy of allowing others to help as well. I've found that God loves to involve others in this process. The Paintings have been kind of God Parents to me (I reckon adults can have God parents too :)), encouraging, helping me battle, speaking truth, helping my life become more balanced. They have been honest enough to share with me difficult stuff, challenge me on things that I just took as normal and true, and I am very grateful. They have protected, always hoped for the best, and been great friends. They have helped me see Gods love in deeper ways, not tried to get me to do things like them, but encouraged me to learn who I am, to take risks, knowing I am loved by God.

At the same time I have had choices to make - choices to keep stepping with God, choices to battle and fight, choices to hand things over, choices to keep working on things. The choices have not been easy, they have required realigning with God. Its not just been a case of detatching and saying what I thought I should say, nor what I think God would want me to say. But rather being thoroughly honest, recognising where I was really at. And loving friendships can really help in getting to that point. They can look beyond the immediate, see the wood for the trees, the roots not the symptoms. And as that mutual trust grows it provides a platform for honesty, saying where I felt things were, what I really believed about God. Turns out to be a lot like the psalms - David railing against God and his circumstances, but out of that learning the truth about himself and his God.

God is Good, he transforms broken things into beautiful masterpieces.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Dry Stone walls and bridges

Spent some time in Carlisle recently...was blessed with some cold, but good weather. We took a walk up to aira force and on the way, walked along by a dry stone wall.

Was looking at the wall thinking how incredible it is that lots of stones all in different shapes without mortar make very strong walls if the stones are fitted together right. If one stone is out of place though, they end up wobbly and not strong at all. The blocks used are not rigid like bricks straight off a production line, held together with Mortar, but rather unique, crafted by the wind, rain, temperature. The builder skilfully builds them, ensuring the stones fit together.

Its easy to see following God more as a production line thing, go through these courses, say the right prayers, attend the church building at the right times on the right days. But thankfully God, doesn't work with us like objects on a production line, like homogenous bricks. No, we are all uniquely made, like the stones in the dry stone wall.

It made me realise this. All those storms I've been through, the ones that wore me down, all those bits that got knocked off me when I was hurt, all those ragged bits that aren't yet holy... Yes these aren't what God wanted for me, of course he will and can bring healing and reshaping. But you know what? There's a place in the wall that perfectly fits me now. I don't have to wait. None of us do. Whatever your background, no matter how wounded, no matter how the world values you, there is  a space that only you can fill-and without you the whole wall will be weaker.

So come on, shake off your shame, shake off the lies that you aren't valuable, shake off those old thoughts that you cannot contribute until you are somehow better. Let's allow the master craftsman to place us in the place uniquely suited to vour shape!