Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday musing

Yesterday was a long day but a good one. It started with some Jillian and then a cheery sermon on murder. A great lunch planning some new things for the autumn, a good time of prayer with a small crowd and then a trip to HTB with a few folk.

We listened to Nicky Lee speak from Colossians 3 on forging good relationships. It was really excellent and grounded teaching which I will 'For the pod' when it is posted.

HTB are planting in Bournemouth and in East London. Do get in touch with Tim or Phil if you know folk who you think might like to be involved or live close.

I enjoyed reading 'The 4 Marks of Discipleship'

Talking of discipleship, someone on our Alpha team gave a guest 'Crazy love' to read -start radical I say! (Tim Challies shares his thoughts on it in his 'Bestsellers' series).

David Stroud spoke last week at an event HT Barnes attended (without me as I was on MoM) and he quoted a stat that on Sunday 50% of the churches in the UK will have no teenagers attending their services. Does anyone know where the data comes from?

My copy of 'If God then what?' has arrived.

Ru who is part of our merry band here is putting on Reboot- a youth apologetics event. If you have teenagers in your church then do recommend it to them (and their friends)

Here is an update from the Bishops on human sexuality who are also in a bit of soup about Wonga. If we think Wonga is wrong then the clergy should surely take it on the chin and have even less of a minuscule pension. At least it will be rather more ethically sound minuscule pension?

I enjoyed Ben Armett's thoughts on the internet.

Do scan these 30 Leadership Tweets- one may catch your eye and heart and help you lead better.

Watching Borgen is a good lesson in not putting your work before your marriage. Great series.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Seven men

'The society of the spectacle creates passivity among its citizens, a reluctance to initiate, to lead. Instead we are encouraged to view, to consume. We fear committing, worrying that by doing so we will reduce our freedom, cut ourselves off from a myriad of choices that constantly entice us.'

Mark Sayers, Page 60

I have just returned from Men on Mountains.

We think it's been going 15 years but our middle-aged memories are a little hazy.  The quote above suggests 'we fear committing' in today's culture, which may well be true, but this is something all seven of us have committed to until we drop.

Incidentally, one of my books of the last 18 months was 'Seven Men: And the Secret of their Greatness'.

We have a few more creaky knees and aches and pains but we still managed to scale two impressive peaks and all stay in a one room camping barn on the floor. The words 'Bed and Breakfast' are still not being entertained. 

My job always seems to be capturing a few thoughts and recommendations from us all so here they are.

Three of us listened to Simon's two talks in the car on the way home. I am reflecting on the fact that his father reads the Bible through 4 times a year, except when he's busy when he just manages the once. 

TV and Film

We watched a variety of things this year. Happy Valley, Broadchurch, Boston LegalSuits, The Good Wife, Borgen and House of Cards

On the film front, Calvary was the strongest recommendation. One of our number thought potential ordinands should simply be required to watch this and then write an essay on why they want to be a priest. An interesting idea, given the reasons some have shared with me down the years about the 'why' of their vocation. I shared with the lads that I heard of a Bishop in Singapore who will not even consider someone for ordination unless they can demonstrate they have lead at least five people to the Lord.

The other film that got everyone enthusing was 'Seaching for Sugarman' which clearly completely passed me by.


'Mountains of the mind' (this is now the set text for MoM and we are all going to try and read it for next year)

One of our number reviews books for Premier and his current favourite is Alister McGraths 'Deep Magic, Dragons and Talking Mice'

'If Mayors ruled the world' is a good read about the importance of cities. 

'Falling upward: A spirituality for the two halves of life' is apparently a great read for any in the midst of a mid-lie crisis.

'If God then what?' by Andrew Wilson is by all accounts a 'Mere Christianity' for our time. Andrew Wilson is the chap who debated Steve Chalke on 'Have we misread the Bible?. This is a wonderful book to add to your list of 'Give to friend with questions about God'. It's destined to become a classic.

'Lowside of the Road' was the recommendation from the muso of our gang. He's loving it. He also enjoyed Pinker's 'The Better Angels of our Nature' and do check out the conference he's pulled together. 

Michael Sandel's 'What money can't buy' prompted one of our many discussions up the mountain about the economy and ethics.

One of us if he were recommending one book he would give you to read opted for St Francis by G K Chesterton


We did enjoy singing along to Stevie Wonder: The Collection at the end of our long day. The new music recommendation was Audrey Assad

Food and Drink

One of us stayed in a Cistercian Monastery and told us about 'terce' which is prayer that happens at 3am in the morning [N B my pal read this and apologised for misinforming me - Terce is in fact post- 9am and Vigil is the horrifically early one as, of course, the word implies]. He went to Vigil. I am sure I should have known about terce but it was all news to me. I did do a placement a Vicar Factory at Burford Priory but somehow missed 'terce'. As an aside, the monastery my pal stayed in makes the world's best beer. By all accounts, its near impossible to get hold of- unless you do Terce and Vigil :)

We all enjoyed a glass of Tamdu which is a nice drop.

A crisp flavour that was new to me


We meet to hold our lives account and once each of us have told the story of our years we get cross-examined.

Questions like: 'Tell us about your sin?'

I confessed to my new fitness regime :)

New questions this year:

"If your wife was here what would she want you to tell us?"

"Where in your life are you experiencing most freedom?"

"How can we best support you over the next year?"

We spoke a lot about raising children and I spotted this new book about growing up as a pastors kid which might be on the reading list for next year.

I told all the chaps they should read 'Finishing Strong' at some point.

Prayer and Scripture

'Enrich Lord

heart, hands, mouth in me with faith, hope and charity that

I may run, rise and rest in thee'

George Herbert

The text of the year was Psalm 131 and was the springboard for much prayer and conversation. One said of it

'It's the text I have tried to fashion my heart on'

Word of the Year

'Juridical' used by one of us which apparently means 'pertaining to the justice system'


Reflections for daily prayer

Finally, I've been pondering on one quote from someone who when they shared the gospel got the response

'Christianity is for people who can't cope'


Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday thoughts

I spent the morning in a 2 Michelin star kitchen this week and will shortly post on what I learnt about discipleship through it. I washed the potatoes which, though I say it myself, I did quite a good job on.

I listened to the testimony of Mark Stevens who came to speak at our joint churches prayer meeting. He used to be in Neighbours back in the day when I used to watch such things. Apparently he was adopted into the Robinson family.

Talking of watching things Pastor John is not a fan of Game of Thrones.

I am really enjoying Facing Leviathan.

Love this story simply called 'My shepherd'.

I spent the morning with a crowd of pastors from Kingsgate and was much encouraged and blessed. They are a South African pentecostal church plant in Kingston and are brimming with passion and youthful energy. An inspiring and truly refreshing time.

Two people have spoken of how much they are enjoying reading 'In a pit with a lion on a snowy day' which I recommended here a few years ago.

I have convinced Mrs C to try watching a Danish political drama called Borgen (she is put off by the thought of both the Danish and the political bits of this idea but happily is quite enjoying it so far)

I have started a new fitness regime but I am not yet ready to reveal to blog readers what it is. It does involve using two tins of baked beans as hand weights because I am too mean to buy any.

This weekend I am preaching about adultery.

Week five of the prayer course was on hearing God and was brilliant.

Nicky's been hanging out with the Pope.

Toby preached to us last Sunday and you can listen to his excellent sermon here.

The film Belle is on Mrs C's radar, it being a costume period drama n'all, and she has not been put off by my pointing her to its poor review in the Spectator.

A number of pals are doing Guess my age? I am 42. Hilariously, my wife has come out as 47 which she is most disturbed by given that in real years she is a decade younger than I!

Men on Mountains is coming around again.

Monday, June 16, 2014

One word that assists significance

The author of Hebrews readily admits that discipline is painful (Heb 10:11). But He also assures us it is profitable. It produces a "harvest of righteousness and peace". The purpose of God's discipline is not to punish us but to transform us. He has already meted out punishment for our sins on Jesus at Calvary: "The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him" (Isaiah 53:5). But we must be transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ. That is the purpose of discipline.

Trusting God, Jerry Bridges, P 121

I chatted with a pal who was welcoming folk into our church yesterday about box sets. He told me they have completely redefined our viewing habits which must be rather frustrating if you are an advertiser. My pal told me that the phenomena of immersion is now very common with people disappearing for hours and even days on end into the fantasy world that the box set opens before us. No more the long wait for next weeks instalment in between which real life is lived- now escape can be imbibed intravenously. I am sure this is true of gaming too, although I have have never really caught the vision nor understood the bug for such things. I am sure 'Grand-theft auto' addicts feel equally mystified by my passion for fly-fishing.

One word seems terribly important if we are to live lives of significance. That word is discipline which I was reminded about today. Discipline requires what M. Scott Peck called in 'The Road less Travelled'' delayed gratification. The phenomena that every good thing seems to require a level of costliness or sacrifice in order to bring it into being. Most of us dislike this idea. Especially we dislike the delay part. I bought a bunch of flowers on Saturday and the florist told me as we chatted that almost every one she ever serves says this to her 'Just so you know- I am in a hurry'. As my florist tritely and humorously told me "It takes ten minutes to wrap and prepare these flowers whether on not they are in a hurry"

In order to build up a canon of work, or turn a creative idea into a reality or simply to read a book from cover to cover each of these things requires discipline.  Discipline too is required to if you want to get in shape or lose weight as I am currently and painfully discovering. Two books come time mind when I think of discipline in a Christian sense. One is 'Celebration of Discipline' which made me see how little I had and the other is 'Ordering your private world' which revealed my inner world to be like a cupboard under the stairs that I had been meaning to tidy. In contrast, when we think of grace we tend not to think of discipline but seemingly the two do go together. Learning 'the discipline of grace' and its rhythms is for me seemingly a life-long thing but one I am slowly but surely starting to comprehend a little better.

For more on this random Monday musing you might like to check out Philip Yancey being interviewed about both grace and suffering.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Four runs

Yesterday, I went on my annual pilgrimage to Lords. My pal is an MCC member (about to celebrate his 50th year which apparently gets you a special tie) and we chatted, drank a glass, watched a century from Root and caught up on life and God and friendship. Joyous.

I came home for the Prayer Course which we are running in our home and we all grappled with the question of unanswered prayer. If you struggle with this -so many have recommended 'God on Mute' to me.

A friend said to check out this talk and it's possibly one if you have a conflict or a relationship that seems to have gone sour and needs reconciling.

Another friend sent me a text saying this.

'Read [Peterson 'Under and unpredictable plant'] Ch 4. 'Finding the road to Nineveh'.  P. 138 Spiritual growth vs religious cancer especially.'

I read it this afternoon.

Someone is off the see a wedding dress exhibition which might be fun (if you like a wedding dresses that is). I am not sure I am exactly the target market.

We have a church film night watching this and I am worrying that it has a few rude bits which of course I failed to remember when I suggested it. I loved it so much- it caught me at just the right time. A film to watch as Father's Day approaches. 

This talk called Quenched (3/23/14) really blessed me

We have Toby coming to preach on Sunday which will be fun.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Secret places

Every week I try to withdraw to my secret place. Recently, I have ceased taking my phone and when there I can't get on the internet. It's hard. I don't think Thomas a Kempis had a phone:

'Be faithful to your secret place, and it will become your closest friend and bring you much comfort. In silence and stillness, a devout person grows spiritually and learns hidden things of the Bible. Tears shed there bring cleansing. God draws near to the one who withdraws for a while. It is better for you to look after yourself this way in private than to perform wonders in public and ignore your soul'

Kempis quoted by Gordon MacDonald in 'The Road We Must Travel', Page 145

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


What do you make of dancing?

What about the idea of a church that dances?

We recently brought three churches in Barnes together for a Barn Dance. We ate food, we danced and we got to know each other. It was terrific fun.

Yesterday, I went to see Jimmy's Hall and it too was about church and dancing (and Irish politics). The local priest was none too keen on the dancing and in fact he did all he could to stop it.

Why is it that so often religious people hate dancing? Remember in Footloose when Kevin Bacon quotes Ecclesiastes.

Then today I watched a great rendition of Happy by Elevation Church and two thirds of the way through what happens?

You guessed it - dancing.

People have always had trouble with dancing since David danced into Jerusalem, much to the chagrin of his Mrs.

On Monday, we learnt than my Diocese is in something of a crisis. Two thirds of the churches are unable to cover the costs of their pastor and depend on the other third for support and an increasing number are unable to cover their parish share.

Cuts are a coming.

Just a thought.

Maybe we should try a bit more dancing?


Did I mention I wrote something called 'Why plant churches?'

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What two books?

'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?

Thursday, June 05, 2014

For the pod: Scazzero on Emotional Health

I went to listen to Pete Scarzzero at HTB and he has an interesting story. When he started talking about the daily office and the liturgy I thought he should have joined the C of E :) Worth sending your Pastor if you think they are a workaholic or don't take their day off. Worth listening to also if you are not a pastor!

Quite interesting but also quite of his North American context. See what you think- you can watch here.

Saturday blog-sweep

 Some interesting books for pastors The State we're in Attack at dawn Joseph Scriven Joy comes with the morning When small is beautiful