Friday, 27 November 2015
Jonah went to school with a pocket full of 'important stuff' this morning. Those of you with little boys will know that this oh so vital 'stuff' consists of elastic bands, fossils, cool looking stones, marbles, football cards and even occasionally dried out worms. It is always in their pockets (and now in my pockets and bag too) and they love to impress their friends with it.
I love this about little boys. His 'stuff' now spreads across his bedroom in various little pots and bags. All important but none of it looks like much to our untrained eye.
Cycling to school this morning (whilst I was half running behind him), he spotted yet another item for pocket-filling.
A dirty, almost squished ball-bearing.
I hadn't even seen it but as we crossed a busy road, he wanted to stop and pick it up.
'Mum! Stop!' He shouted at me.
'We can't stop here, it's too busy.' I shouted back (I wasn't cross, honest, the traffic was loud.)
'But there's something really special down there, didn't you see it?'
'No, I was actually concentrating on crossing the road.'
But it was important to him. So important that he couldn't simply leave it there. He excitedly talked of the treasure all the way to school and, using his incredible powers of negotiation, persuaded me to collect it on my way home, giving me detailed instructions.
'I don't think it was dog poo, mum, but touch it before you pick it up. If it's squishy, then it's dog poo so don't pick it up.'
As if I I would.
I hoped against hope that I wouldn't be able to find this treasure as I walked home again but sure enough, there it lay on the side of the road, covered in gunk and oil. It was barely glistening. The roads were busy and I tried to look normal as I picked up this tiny treasure from the gutter and quickly deposited it into my pocket before anyone called the police on this weirdo mother.
Jonah thought about this treasure all day, wondering if I had found it. And when he arrived home he took time to clean and polish it.
And I realised something as I looked at this dirty treasure from the gutter. There is a boy who stopped in the middle of the road and, had I not been there, would have got down onto his hands and knees into the dirt to pick up this precious item that others hadn't even noticed. He would have covered himself in the oil and grit from the road, just to hold it in his hands. It didn't matter that it was filthy. He saw past the grime and saw what was underneath - a bright, strong, shining ball-bearing. It had purpose. It wasn't meant to be left on the side of the road.
We need to stop for each other. We all have grime. We all make mistakes, shout at our kids (who, me?!), get relationships wrong, judge others wrongly, speak untruths and idolise other things instead of God. We need to look behind the dirt and call out the best in each other.
Just like Jonah (and most other eight year old boys) saw the slimy ball-bearing as a treasure, so we need to see the treasures in each other. Let's not leave each other on the side of the road to rot away. Let's encourage each other and 'polish' each other so that we can be the best we were meant to be.
Let's fill our friendship pockets with encouragements, faithful friendship, seeing the best in each other and treasuring our relationships with one another.
Friday, 20 November 2015
The slaughter of young children.
A tyrannical, paranoid leader.
Families fleeing to cling onto a remnant of safety.
Fear and corruption.
Violence and extremism.
Into this world, so similar to today, a baby was born in a little town in the Middle East called Bethlehem. The power-crazed leader, so jealous for his throne, set his soldiers the bloodthirsty task of slaughtering every boy under two years old. To save their son's life, the family fled to Egypt where they lived until the reign of terror ended when King Herod the 'Great' died.
Jesus was a refugee. When I see the photographs of desperate parents, arms wrapped as tight as they can be around their young ones, I look into their traumatised eyes and imagine the eyes of his mother, Mary. Jesus was born into a world of fear and he grew up under Roman rule as an 'outsider'. It wasn't like the Christmas carols tell us. It was a violent world, full of war, death and terror.
It was like our world.
And Jesus came into that world to love the ones nobody else loved. He arrived on the scene to point terrified people to a peace that they could find even when war was raging around them. He touched the diseased, dirty ones that others walked past, holding their noses. He brought hope into the lives of the ones who never even knew hope existed for people like themselves. He shocked by teaching his followers to love the very people who hate them. He talked of a different way to live - a way that brought life even though death was a reality. He brought freedom to a world trapped in dictatorships and persecution. He called the children to him. He spoke out against the hypocrites. He loved the fraudsters and the sex workers into a new dignity.
And who are we, his church? We are his body. That means that what he did when he walked the dusty roads and talked such radical sense is what we are meant to be doing now.
We can't turn a blind eye or pretend none of this is happening. We can't pick and choose who we love. We can't sit back and hope that 'someone else' sorts it out. We can't wait.
If we follow Jesus, then we do what he did.
It's quite simple. This is who we are.
And this is our response to Christmas. It's more than decorations, presents and even time with family. It's being who we're meant to be.
Thursday, 5 November 2015
I never knew my Grandad properly. Oh yes, we'd had fun together and made memories. But at eighteen you don't think you need to ask anything from an old man. You think you already know everything there is to know about the world. It never occurs to you that they have lived a whole life before you came along. You never ask them how they did life.
And so today, as I remember my Grandad with a mischievous twinkle in his eye and a fierce faith in his heart, I wonder what he would say to us today with the challenges we face. In the busy-ness of our lives full of heartache and joy, how I wish I could sit down with him now and pluck the wisdom that must have been oozing from his very being.
Then I think of the words of a hymn we sung at his funeral. And I realise these are the exact words he would be saying to us now, his grandchildren, his heritage.
Fight the good fight with all thy might!
Christ is thy strength and Christ thy right;
Lay hold on life, and it shall be
Thy joy and crown eternally.
Run the straight race through God's good grace,
Lift up thine eyes and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies
Christ is the path and Christ the prize.
Cast care aside, lean on thy Guide;
His boundless mercy will provide;
Trust, and thy trusting soul shall prove
Christ is it's life and Christ it's love.
Faint not, nor fear, His arms are near,
He changeth not, and thou art dear;
Only believe and thou shalt see
That Christ is all in all to thee.
And these words, whispered to me as though he is sitting right in my kitchen, throw me back into the arms of the One I lean on. My Grandad is celebrating now. His fight is over. But ours continues and so we trust, we lean, we lift up our eyes and we run our race surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on with the hope of our prize before us.