'Greatness is determined by service'
Martin Luther King
A pal Tim who is a Vicar and a magician always says to me when we meet that I should write more and he's probably right. I realise I have not written much this year which is probably as it should be given this is our first year of marriage.
Today's piece of writing was inspired by my watching Oprah speak to Stanford University while in bed with a head cold feeling sorry for myself. Quite why I watched it I am not sure because I knew bits would annoy me, but it was more interesting than a Panorama about Bernie Ecclestone which was its competition.
We all need a life purpose, so says Oprah, and without it even having $ billion's is meaningless. She's right of course. As I pastor a little church, I realise most people are trying to work this out in some way or other. No one deliberately tries to cock life up and, be they Christians or not, are wondering whether their lives are on track or headed in the right direction and whether they will count for anything. Oprah annoys me with all her 'search for the hero inside yourself' platitudes but at the same time I do find her rag's to riches story inspiring. Someone came to me recently with a purpose dilemma and asked me about guidance. I recommended the excellent 'Just do something' as a good read to help them with all their questions. If you feel like you need a 'what should I do next' and your own personal commencement address then do read it.
Yesterday, I preached on Ananias and Sapphira in our series on The Ten Commandments- a nice cheery passage about money and possessions and dropping dead and it struck me many of us want 'a nice life' and are so fearful of having a vision focussed on eternal life and what this may require of us. If we are rooted in grace then we are freed to be risky, brave, generous, content and expectant. As Don Miller writes in 'A million miles' a life that reads 'I saved up for a volvo and then I parked it on the drive' doesn't make a very good or interesting read but it's the story most lives in our secular materialist culture are writing.
Keller's must-read book on suffering has deeply impacted someone in our church and another friend (a Vicar's wife and mother of three boys) recently completed listening to his 30 sermons on Galatians- at my recommendation. She has found them transformative and, as I have often written, I credit these talks with changing the course of my life- not bad for $67.50. I think risking discomfort and uncertainty is part of what following Jesus necessitates and it's what makes it such an adventure. My Bioy today and the story of George Masterson is a case in point. Another pal, an elder in a local church who I pray weekly with, is about to give up the comforts of West London to go and live with his family in Hong Kong as a missionary with Jackie Pullinger (who happens to be his Aunt). It's the most thrilling thing I have heard in ages and reminded me of this stunning sermon on missions.
At the end of the address Oprah gives all the students two books (which must have cost her a bob or two but clearly she can afford it). One is by Daniel Pink but the other by Tolle seems to be one of Oprah's new age nonsense books that she's so terribly keen on. She put them under the seats and it got me wondering what two books I would stick under the seats of a stadium full of students.
Today I would choose 'The Reason for God' and 'Chasing the Dragon'. Ask me tomorrow and it may be something different.
What would your two be?