Archive for the ‘blessings’ Tag

AND FINALLY…

My wife – the unnamed hero of much of this blog’s output (Jesus being the named hero) – is getting baptised on Sunday. Having been raised a Baptist myself I have bugged her about this for years. She always said she wouldn’t do it until she could genuinely proclaim repentance, active faith and a changed life. She also thought the prospect of standing in front of a crowd and inviting people would be too terrifying. Well on Sunday she’s doing it, entirely of her own initiative. She’s scared but she very much wants to proclaim the goodness of Christ in front of friends and family, Christian and non-Christian. I hope you’ll be there Sunday to see it…God is brilliant and I’m chuffed to pieces. That’s a good way to end the blog.

THE END OF THIS BLOG!

What a melodramatic title. It is true though. I’m quitting for now. ‘What a fickle, impulsive chap you are’ I hear you think aloud – ‘just last week you were obsessed with drumming up business for the thing’. Yes, I know… and that’s part of why I’m stopping. Here are my reasons:

  1. It was detracting from my work. You may have seen the times of these posts. They are generally during school hours. There is absolutely no doubt I have committed myself significantly less to the job I’m paid to do in favour of writing and checking this blog. That’s not good, honest nor godly.
  2. There is too much desire for self-affirmation. I know I’ve blogged on this before. However, I’m too competitive and I can’t help the drive for recognition, ‘hits’ and feedback. It means I’m often posting with the wrong motive and I can’t abide it. There are plenty of people serving a heck of a lot more sacrificially and effectively within CCB, but without e-mails to advertise the fact.
  3. As a general rule, this is not ‘doing’. I don’t know exactly what ‘doing’ looks like – but blogging is generally just ‘talking about doing’ instead of ‘doing’ it. There are some posts on here I am proud of and which God has used to help others as well as me. However, in the majority of cases, time spent blogging would be better spent doing something else. I’m finding this ever harder to justify.
  4. Whilst I have come some way in terms of a ‘theological education’ via sermons, books and my own study, I want to formalise my learning a little. Therefore, I plan next term to start taking the theology courses from Moore Seminary via correspondence, in order to give my endeavours greater discipline, soundness and a certificate! I do love to study…

 So, was it all a waste of time? No, I don’t think so. For the following reasons…

  1. It gave me a reason to think things through with a degree of accountability. Thanks to this project I now far better know my Bible-based mind on Calvinism, gender issues, movie-watching, evangelism and a great deal more besides. This is very helpful for apologetics and mentoring younger Christians.
  2. I know, more via e-mails that comments, that some people have occasionally been helped and challenged by a couple of things that came up. Being honest however, this was more true early on  – when the posts were more occasional but more borne of deep conviction and a troubled soul.
  3. This whole blog relocation was part of a drive from the start of 2009 to get my focus on God. Along with setting myself some rules, reading more and listening to a heap of sermons I have managed to wean myself off some bad habits that I’m sure still lurk, ready to reclaim me lest I ever grow complacent!

Right, so, the end of the game for now. The best posts of the 71 were probably these about sex, a stag weekend, blogging v atheists, Jade, my wife’s op, The Shack and how it’s all irrelevant compared to the cross. I do love writing and I pray God will use that willingness in some way I haven’t yet been shown. I do also love discussion, but it may be more honest done in person and via e-mail, so do feel free. Thank you for reading and God bless.

 PS There is also one quick post to go which is very important…

20 OBSERVATIONS ABOUT 2009 SO FAR…

My year thus far. It starts quite negatively, but persist – it ends quite cheery!!

1. TUMOUR: My wife’s benign brain tumour is clearly the biggest news of the year thus far. It is horrible and scary considering brain surgery… Even so, it is with far more than token acknowledgement that I claim that God WILL use this for the good. I have already seen it in terms of the strengthening of our marriage, the strengthening of friendships, the strengthening of trust in Him. Even so, I really wish it wasn’t happening! (Sorry God…)

2. HEALING: A big challenge to us as UK evangelicals. It is the gut reaction of those in our church to pray for my wife’s ‘strength’ (generally spiritual), rather than for her ‘healing’. To some Christians this would seem bizarre. We are so keen not to give false expectations to believers, to stray into ‘wealth & health’ territory or to see Christianity as initiation into the Magic Circle. But are we exhibiting too little faith? James 5 states that ‘prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well’… but also of ‘patience in the face of suffering’, so we’ll see… I’d be grateful if you’d join me in praying that the tumour would indeed shrink.

3. ANKLE: This takes me to my own ‘suffering’. Less worrisome than the above, to be sure, but my unhealing ankle ligament damage, sustained before Christmas, has significantly impacted upon my year thus far. No more chats with Tom en route to the weekly football; no more joining my wife for weekend runs; no more active lifestyle at all in fact… I pray that I too am learning patience, but if so it’s sub-conscious!!

4. 30th BIRTHDAY: Maybe it’s all tied up in this! Five years ago my ankle would have healed. Of that I’m sure. I guess these things can no longer be taken so for granted. Me being me, my birthday has unleashed a dizzying bout of self-analysis. Society says stay young, but I crave maturity, responsibility and progress, albeit whilst still being mistaken for a sixth-former at school! God has been kind to me – I have a saving faith, a wife, a home I own and a career, so I could face this artificial landmark with a certain calm. Not to say I won’t moan about these very blessings! Read on…

5. CAREER: Tumour aside, the worst thing about the year thus far has been the continuation of the annual saga entitled ‘Andy fails to get a new job’. I fear I must learn not to uphold myself by worldly standards. I’d better not, because the sad truth is I have made remarkably little progress as a teacher, whether by promotion or by moving to a better school. I know I have the potential to do more, and that I am a better teacher than some above me. But God wants me where I am for now, so I’d better get on with it!

6. THE FLAT: And as for this… it’s hard to explain how negative I feel about our material home. The next item (Debt) will be largely explained by having bought a flat – having been forced to have it damp-proofed, double-glazed, having bought the freehold and done the bathroom… only to be told that we need new floors, new plastering and that, even with all that, the flat has devalued since we bought it. We don’t have funds or practical skills (at all!). I would love to host more and to stop fretting about where this home-owning saga takes us. 2009 has not gone well in this respect!

7. DEBT: This is the shame I bear. We have been unwise at times. Savings don’t exist. Debt is significant. In this current climate it’s horrible because you’re always one redundancy or vengeful credit card company away from disaster. True faith in God is required, as well as gratitude for all we have (and it’s a lot!), but I would love to be debt-free.

8. ECCLESIASTES: Reading this in my Quiet Times was fascinating. What’s it doing there? It is so deeply cynical and depressed in tone that even the NIV Study Notes don’t seem to have a clue what to do with it much of the time! But that said, I found it massively heartening. Hope placed in anything other than Christ is ultimately ‘meaningless’. This is the alternative – and we have the answer to it!

9. JOY: As seen for much of the above, I am a real worrier (and moaner) – increasingly so as I leave my youth behind! I have a wife who can take it personally and so I need not to let it become my norm. I have begun forcing myself to acknowledge those things I am grateful for each day. Largely by…

10. DIARISATION: If it’s not enough that I record minutely my Quiet Time content and blog my every other thought, I have this year begun keeping a record of what I did each day, perhaps to enforce some accountability in not wasting my time. I want to ensure I’m seeing friends, going places… and to be able to thank God for those recorded daily blessings! It works as I’m normally grateful for most of what I’ve written down. Lets look at a couple…

11. MOVIES: I won’t say much, as when I blogged about it no-one read! My wife and I have long since been movie addicts. The surprise has been that, as I try to watch them more with God-goggles on, I find I’ve been enjoying them more! I do like to consider character motives and lessons learned… seeing how a worldview compares with our own. Turns out God isn’t a kill-joy after all!

12. FOOD: Thank God that my wife has developed a passion for working her way through the latest Jamie Oliver cook-book! Now here’s a discovery – my spiritual regime very much benefits from a general sense of physical well-being. Attempts to eat my 5-a-day, particularly with an increased fruit intake, and to eat decent satisfying meals have resulted in me feeling far more ready to do something fruitful (ha!) with my days. I have more energy and a sharper focus for sure.

13. THE SPIRITUAL ‘REGIME’: The biggest difference in my year. On the plus side it has been enormously beneficial. I have instilled a lot more discipline in 2009. I am working to devised plans regarding the gospel-exposure of my non-Christian friends, have subscribed to Christian blogs, have given more time to Quiet Times and have listened to a sermon a day on the way to work. But there’s a major down-side. I am utterly routine dependent. As shown by the snow days, it utterly falls apart without that set window before work and the journey there. Too many of my good habits, behaviour-wise, are caught up in this dependence.

14. LUST: I remain a keen admirer of the female form. The impulse is correct. But not acting upon that impulse in a sinful fashion continues to be the biggest challenge faced by the Christian bloke, particularly within a society determined to rub our faces in it. To be frank, half of my routine is designed to prevent me from fixating upon sex and the allure of the fairer species. God certainly designed me to be a married man…

15. VS THE ATHEISTS: Remember this? (Read here) What fun it was – and great encouragement. Christianity is robust enough to withstand rigorous intellectual to & fro. I will certainly return for another bout before the year is done!

16. CHRISTIANITY EXPLORED: This deliberately follows the last point. I now view my Adventures in the Blogosphere against the atheist fraternity as being God’s training for me leading a ‘guest’ group over the Christianity Explored programme currently running at CCB in lieu of ‘normal’ church. Questions have arisen of all shapes & sizes. Some I’ve dealt with well, some badly… but I have rarely met the entirely unexpected. I feel like I rehearsed… It’s been great to directly espouse the virtue of the gospel each week… Church shouldn’t be a hiding place after all!

17. BLOG: And of course there’s been this! It’s a strange old business – the time I have spent writing these thousands of words – for an audience often smaller than you could possibly imagine! Why not just e-mail those few I know are reading? Why write at all? Well it’s good to have a reason to set out thoughts – it’s good to challenge myself to see how the events of my life and the world around me come under my walk with God. If no-one at all was reading I would still have benefitted from committing to this blog. But that’s not to say I’d carry on doing it! So please keep reading!! And maybe, just maybe, I’ll discover one day in the next world that I wrote something God used for someone I don’t even know… That is always the tantalising possibility in the anonymity of cyber-space…

18. WASTING TIME: I need to do some marking! I’m not going to concoct artificial points just to get it to 20!

19. OR AM I? It would seem so…

20. THE END… Well done for making it this far down the post!

MY BIRTHDAY PARTY. HOORAY.

I had my 30th birthday party last Saturday night and I know what you’re expecting, dear regular reader… You’re expecting angst, and lots of it, albeit perhaps with a happy ending. You’re expecting me to pontificate on the difficulty of not drinking too much, of witnessing to non-Christians and the like… We have certainly been there before, after all. However, this time is different. My party was a disconcertingly angst-free zone! So… where then has it gone?

 

Well this ties in to the whole idea of happiness, and the fact I fear I’ve become locked into a certain ethos of late. You can see it here. It basically runs along the lines of ‘God never promises us happiness in this life. We shouldn’t expect it. Few people’s lives are truly happy as we live in a fallen and sin-infected world. Happiness doesn’t truly come until the next world’. Well that might be true, but it can quickly supplant joy and, as my wife ever reminds me, it can be tiring living around a ‘half glass empty’ type of person. I was fascinated then by two conversations this week…

 

The first was with my sister-in-law. She is a Christian, and has lost two beloved brothers in their youth to disease. However, she looked at me and my theories as if I was strange indeed. ‘Of course God wants us to be happy’ she said… The truth is probably somewhere in between. I still maintain that an expectation of happiness can leave us feeling betrayed when bad times afflict us. However, I’ll concede that He doesn’t necessarily accurse us either. My riches may be stored in heaven (well they’re certainly not in my bank account!), but He has still been kind enough to grant me immense blessings… I could probably do with focussing on them and letting them affect my mood more often.

 

The second was a brief conversation with a Christian friend during my party. He had just accessed my blog and, being of a more Charismatic persuasion himself, seemed both bemused and amused at the constant self-lacerating analysis he found there. His verdict was ‘you’re doing OK by the sound of it, and you really should worry less’. Again, I reserve my right to pursue high standards and bemoan my sinful failure to reach them, but, okay, he does have a point. I do sometimes end up appearing simply neurotic. Joy doesn’t have to simply lurk in the background…

 

Which brings us back to my party. Maybe a couple of years ago I would have had cause to fret about the collision of my Christian and non-Christian worlds. Perhaps then I was a different person depending on which of the two I was addressing. However, I think I’m generally just me nowadays… Drinking will always be a challenge, but not so much on Saturday – take Christianity out of the equation and I still think I would simply have wanted to enjoy chatting with as many people as possible and remembering what I’d said. There were a great bunch of mates there, after all… You know what?? I just had a brilliant time – really great. Everyone came, everyone seemed to have fun, everyone got on well with one another… My better half had great support after her recent bad news and has been infinitely more cheerful since. Come 2am as the last survivors sentimentally enjoyed the last few tunes, and I had a complimentary drink with the owner, I was about as satisfied as can be with proceedings. Hooray for God’s blessings, his provision of mates and parties. This really isn’t a bad old life, after all… (and thank you to anyone who was there).

 

NOTABLE PS: In case anyone doubts God’s provision in testing times: The neuro-surgeon to whom Nina has been referred is a) a parent at my school b) the Christian father of two of the very few lads to attend the Christian Union I jointly attempt to run! c) Willing to have his secretary spend time at once digging out my wife’s scan in order to deal with it at once. It’s great to feel well looked after!

For a more ironic look at providence, note the fact I made a doctor’s appointment today regarding my ongoing ankle concerns. Just as I worried that there wasn’t enough wrong with it to still warrant the appointment, I this morning tripped on the stairs and ruined it all over again. I will now limp heavily into the doctor’s surgery!

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

Posted 1/6/07

I have held forth previously on that most elusive of God’s gifts; joy. However I, like everyone else, am often more aware of my hardships than my blessings, so I figured it was time to get some gratefulness on record. Here’s why… (by the way, if this gets too sickening, ask me for my list of reasons to be miserable – there are plenty!)

CCB is Great
CCB stands for Christ Church Balham. It is not perfect. It’s worship is a tad repressed in that middle class way unique to Anglicanism. It is also perhaps the whitest church in all South London. However, it is indeed great. As a kid, it is hard to figure there is such a thing as a bad church. That changes if you attend one. The places we had attempted to join since leaving uni may have been great for some, but for us they were bad. Bad because it was part of their policy statement that you weren’t doing it right if you didn’t speak in tongues, so you had to spend the whole time working out how to do that. Bad because they insisted on herding you in with the ‘young people’ – a group so cliquey they would move away from you if you sat next to them and thus attempted to separate them from their friends. Bad because every sermon was a different story about how God had blessed the pastor that week as a reward for his faith – the same pastor who would condemn congregational members by group e-mail if they dared disagree with him.
CCB, on the other hand, is not a bad church. It is the very opposite. The first place we were made to feel truly welcome. The first place where people were falling over themselves to invite us over for dinner. The first place that took real responsibility for our personal understanding of the Word and our relationships with God – on a Sunday, a Wednesday and pretty much any other time too. After a year plus in CCB I know God better, his Word better and I want to do a lot more to serve Him. The services are good. The small groups are good. I have people I pray with. I have people I play football with. I am helping lead a camp this summer. We are going to Revive in a few weeks. Hooray for CCB. I am grateful.

My Wife is great
Nina is not perfect either. Thank goodness for that. She certainly has a temper, and at times uses me as an emotional punchbag. However, she is indeed great. Of all God’s blessings to me she is the greatest. She is beautiful, funny, clever, successful, interesting, talented, stylish, sexy, caring, perceptive and faithful. She makes me feel special. She could have chosen 1000 guys taller, richer, better-looking or less irritating, but she has been devoted to me since we were 15 years old and I knew I was going to marry her soon after that. I trust her entirely and she has never given me any reason to change my mind. First thing in the morning I look at her and can’t quite believe she’s my wife. I still get excited when she gets home from work. She’s my perfect travel partner, my confidante, my fantasy and my best friend. She is thoughtful and quiet but then the life and soul of the party. She is awesome. Hooray for Nina. I am grateful.

My Job is great
Tough this one – I don’t acknowledge it too often. However, looking back, God made me to be a teacher and it’s nice to be made for something. He made me with a passion for academia, a speaking voice, enthusiasm, energy and a heart for the kids, annoying as they are. I get satisfaction from their learning, I get to do sport and music as part of my job, I get long holidays, I learn stuff ALL the time, and I get to meet a heck of a lot of people. Teaching makes a difference and is never ever dull. Hooray for working in a really odd school. I am grateful.
 
Our flat is great
Again – difficult. The walls got damp-proofed today. Almost a grand spent and the only perceptible difference is that we now need to redecorate 6 spoiled walls. The floor is springy as a trampoline and will be the next reason to spend a grand. The bathroom is awful and all in all it’s tiny. However (must. be. joyful!), it is an amazing thing to make it onto the property ladder in London. It is amazing to have our own place with our own cat and our own little garden (well glorified patio really). As long as I live I will always remember fondly this – the first place we could call a home of our very own – and I do feel happy every time I walk in the front door. I am grateful. But I already look forward to the next place! (the one with space for a drum kit)
 
Our cat is great
Sorry – no need to elaborate really. Turns out I really like our cat… (and no, he isn’t perfect. Nothing that routinely wakes you up at 5 in the morning is perfect)

God is great
God is perfect. Disrupts the continuity of this piece but I’d better acknowledge the fact. He has chosen me for salvation, He hasn’t let me drift away, despite my best efforts. He uses me, unworthy as I am. He controls His creation according to a perfect plan. He tells us all about it through the gift of his Bible (which is also great, but time we were getting on…). He created our aforementioned cat and my aforementioned wife, which He didn’t really have to do after all. Hooray for God. I am grateful.

There you go – now I’m off to put the house back together and hoover it for the third time this week after the rip-off workmen have taken it apart. Grumble grumble…