Friday, March 29, 2013

To Choose or not to Choose...

There are so many choices we make every day.  We choose our hairstyle, the clothes we will wear, the food we will eat, even the people we talk with. On the first Good Friday the Roman governor in Judea also had to make a choice - whether to condemn Jesus Christ to be crucified or to let him go.  He listened to the chanting of crowd and was afraid.  His wife came and warned him not to go ahead with putting 'this innocent man' to death after she had suffered all night with a dream about him. So, poor old Pontius Pilate was in a real dilemma.  He turned to the crowd and asked their opionion.  'What shall I do then with Jesus who is called Christ?' he yelled.

'Crucify him!' bayed the mob, leaving Pilate perplexed.  'Why?  What has he done wrong?' he pleaded.  But the people were being egged on by jealous leaders who hated Christ. 'Crucify him!' was their only cry.

In an attempt to free himself from guilt, Pilate took a bowl of water and washed his hands publicly, declaring 'I am innocent of the blood of this just man - you see to it' before handing Jesus over to be crucified.  Like Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's famous play, no amount of water could wash away his sense of guilt, or make him innocent of the blood of Jesus.  Also like her, he probably went on to commit suicide years later.

Choices.  Whether to go with the crowd or strike out with the minority and follow Jesus as Saviour and Lord.  This Easter, what are you going to do with Jesus who is called Christ?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

To Cross or not to Cross?

I suppose that one of the most iconic items produced in historically Christian countries in celebration of Easter is the traditional hot cross bun. Very early on Good Friday morning in our island community there will be a long queue at the door of a small independent bakers to collect their freshly made buns.

Tradition says that early Greek Christians marked cakes with a cross, but of course, the Bible does not say anything about followers of Jesus Christ needing confectionery to aid their faith or express their worship! In less enlightened times people began using these hot cross buns as a kind of good luck token, claiming that if a ship sailed with them on board it would be protected against shipwreck and other such phoney baloney.

So don't get me wrong - I am not an advocate for the hot cross bun - but my blood was stirred to see in our local supermarket that under the 'hot cross bun' display there was a pile without the crosses!! I suppose that this is in an effort to avoid offending religious minorities - political correctness gone religious - but it just kind of illustrated to me a bit of a challenge this Easter.  Is my life marked by the cross the Christ or is it just fruit and flavouring? Is the cross central to the story of my faith or is it disposable when mentioning it might offend someone? The Bible does say that the cross will appear foolish to people who don't want to believe and it also foretold that the cross would one day become an offence to many, not just a religious minority.

So I want to come back to the cross of Christ this Easter, and thank Jesus for giving His all for me there. To cross your buns?  Well- that's up to you - I don't find they taste any different anyway!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

'Get Rid of Automated Hand-Washers' Campaign

Right!  That's it! I have had it with automation! Having had my fill of being offered options by computers on telephone lines when all I want is to get on with speaking to a real person - and being forced to listen to endless assurances that my call is important to the organisation - I am resorting to the megaphone!  Like the recent Fish Fight campaign in the UK I am going to start a 'Get Rid of Automated Hand-washers' campaign!

Here's why.  I went into the men's toilet at Bordeaux Harbour in Guernsey yesterday on a bright but very cold day.  Wanting to wash my hands - as you do - (cough cough gentlemen) I went to use the hole-in-the-wall hand washer/dryer which should be re-named 'the East Coast Hand Freezing Soap Chucker' machine! I held my hands out into the hole, waiting like a monk at prayer, only to have soap spurted back at my wrists and up my coat front!  Realising I only had seconds to react and not being the swearing type anyway I rubbed in the tiny remnant quickly and was then drenched from collar to belt by a high-pressure offering of freezing cold water that just wouldn't stop and seemed to have lost all sense of direction!  I yelled in pain and anger which seemed to make the flow relent, and I pondered what I would look like when I stagger out of the door wet all down my front - fellers you know what I mean.

At this point my hands were like two blocks of cold pork being held out for the butcher to chop while I waited longingly for the hot air dryer to kick in.  When it did I nearly kicked it in because the blast it gave me was straight from the freezing tundra in Siberia.  I rubbed the offending pork chops under the frigid blast in the vain hope that they might thaw but no such luck. The icy blast seemed only to have lasted about 2.4 seconds longer than my scream.  Sad as it might seem, all I could think was that I must have been the only customer for a while and so it needed to heat up, so foolishly I kept dangling my pork chop hands in the hole for a few more seconds hoping to get another serving of dryer.  What I got, of course, was a savage squirt of soap over my wrists and down my front!  Searching in vain for a paper towel or handkerchief I headed for the door just in time to see that the hole in the wall had changed shape from being round to a kind of extended grin! Grrrrr!!


Monday, March 04, 2013

Dealing with Disappointment

A week after surgery I am feeling much better, though still a little sore.  Thanks for all the messages of support, encouragement and prayer.  It is so good to have had this done without all the problems of previous years rearing their ugly heads! A good friend came to visit me yesterday and brought with him a copy of my first book Braving the Storm.  I could see from his copy that he had several portions highlighted in yellow - I am not sure if that is a good sign or not! We chatted for a while and then he began to question me about some of the things I had written during the early years of my long battle with serious illness and chronic pain. I found it quite moving to see some of the things that I had written back then and to be reminded of them myself!

One of the aspects of the section called 'Things that Hinder' was about disappointment.  It is a subject that I have been thinking about again recently because I am preparing to speak at a seminar called 'Dealing with Disappointment' at Elim Bible Week in the UK in April. I have read the story of the death of the wife of Pastor Wes Richards from cancer in June 2002 at the age of 52 after being prayed for by her huge Charismatic/Pentecostal church during at least one 40 day period of prayer and fasting, and of course, by Wes and his 3 children. You can imagine the sorrow and disappointment that they all faced and yet his book Hope and a Future is full of reality, faith and hope - an unusual mix! I was chastened and humbled by reading it and noticing the absence of a deep debate on why his loss occurred.

I am grateful for my friend's visit and the reminder he brought me of my own need to embrace mystery and allow God to be God in my circumstances without Him having to explain himself and His ways to me! "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts". (Isaiah 55:8-9)