Friday, 14 February 2014

Wild Crazy Adventures

Day off today (sorry if you're at work). Spent some time worshipping this morning, singing along to one of my favourite albums of the season, Tides, by Bethel Music. Absolutely loved these lines in the song 'Chasing You':

This life, this love
Was always meant to be
A wild crazy adventure
Discovering, the thrill, the rush
The more I see
The more it leaves me wanting
Your everything
Your everything

The song is generally about our chasing after God, our pursuit of him, because he is so incredible, so wonderful; because Jesus is so mighty, powerful and loving all in one, we're to pour all our energies into finding and following him: chasing after him. He really is so captivating.

This verse that caught me (or if your'e a muso it might be a bridge?) captures well the Christian life. It instantly rem
The pain of the end of ride massage!
(our ITBs for those in the know)

inded me of 2 of the greatest thrills of my life: Cycling the Zoe Challenge last year - 2720km across Europe in 19 days in an amazing team to raise money and awareness to rescue people from horrific slavery; and 4 hours of white water rafting on the mighty Zambezi in Zimbabwe.

The cycling journey captures the 'adventure' of following Jesus. How when you meet him, your heart changes and passions rise to reset injustices, and you find yourself in places doing things with people you've never met before that you would never have guessed. And that the adventure of following him is darned hard work: it aint no sprint, and its gonna hurt some! The Zoe challenge involved getting on the bike early in the morning when everything ached, and churning out another 95 miles, till early evening, day after day. It taught me even more about team, community and the dangers of isolationism and individualism (and i thought i knew quite a lot).

The white water rafting was the biggest image though, simply because it was so 'wild and crazy' an adventure. It was always something i had wanted to do but never got the chance. So after serving with the brilliant and inspiring Zimkids charity, I pounced on the opportunity on a visit to the majestic Victoria Falls.

Why is white water rafting like following jesus? Because of the thrill the exhilaration, the adrenalin rush, the excitement, the amazement of the power of the river, the beauty of the scenery ... and the fact that you could lose your life! Yep. It is both wonderful, but it is also dangerous, and a risk to your safety and health. Our boat flipped 3 times, one of which i was trapped under the boat during a level 5 rapid! Pretty scary. I could feel the power of the vortex below me, sucking my down, but I clung on to the safer rope, and all it to was my watch, and my friend's shoe! I would do it again tomorrow if I could. Why? Because I had been taught what to do, how to look after myself; because I was in a team,  who were looking out for each other because our lives depended on it; and because the captain of my boat was none other than the awesome 'Sir Wilson'. If you ever go there, get in Sir Wilson's boat because he is quite simply the best (Unashamed plug: Shockwave Adventures!). This guy is the boss of the river.

You know, being a Christian is not easy: Jesus said tough things like "If anyone want to be my disciple, they must take up their cross and follow me". We have to die to our self, to let go of everything we lean on, depend on, and lean on him. We have to be ready to die at any moment. But we get to go on the wildest craziest adventures with him as the captain of our boat.

The good thing is it's not wild all of the time. And after periods of several sections of rapids there was a lovely long slow meander with no white water. Instead of gripping the boat for sheer life, we were able to lie back on the edge of the boat and bask in the sunshine, resting from the exertion.

So whether you're  on a section of the river that is quiet and restful, or dangerous but exhilarating, remember the Captain is always with you, and he is the Boss of the River. The most important thing is to be in His boat, and let him steer you, trusting everything you have into his hands, and not caring what you lose in the process, coz we dokn't get to keep anything when we die anyway.

This life, this love was always meant to be a wild crazy adventure ... the more of you I see, the more it leaves me wanting your everything. Too right!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Laughter's Medecine

Discussing last week's blog about consumerism with people I've got some further thoughts about it. When we've applied insights on consumerism to the area of Christian teaching we've got into some hot water, offended some people, confused others, and possibly misunderstood by both. So my thoughts centre around the mechanism of consumerism: the addiction we have to consuming things, that others have produced for our own benefit and convenience. No sooner do we have something than we're tempted to want more of it or a better version of it. The experience becomes addictive. So, imagine the new Christian, who gets into the rhythm of going to a church service every Sunday and experiences brilliant teaching. the sermon is fantastic and God speaks so clearly, so profoundly, that Christian has an incredible time in God's presence. This becomes the pinnacle of her/his week. Consumerism works within that person to say, "you need that again, and again ...and again". And if the preaching continues to be good, the addiction is sealed in a never ending repetitive cycle.

Whilst the Bible is clear about the importance of good teaching (the disciples were devoted to the apostles teaching -Acts 2), I believe Jesus modelled something different to us than just endlessly receiving teaching: 'freely you have received, freely give' (Matt 10:8). So rather than getting on the treadmill of receiving great teaching, we change our mindset to one of living out what we've been taught before we try to get more teaching; giving freely what we've received. I'm not criticising anyone, just trying to point out our slavish addiction to consumerism and how the ways of Jesus rub up against that, compelling us to live counter culturally, in a rhythm of giving and receiving that is anathema to western thinking (of course there are many wonderful people who listen to a great sermon on Sunday and that fuels their life, I'm simply pointing out the opposite ideology and how  we can be blind to our culture). This is, I believe, one of the reasons why many Christians today simply cannot comprehend living without a service / sermon every Sunday. Once again, I'm not saying services and sermons are wrong every week - goodness me I've spent the last 17 years of my life preaching most weeks in a church service. I just want to be fully aware of the forces at work in our culture, to be free to do something different like having freely received we can freely give back to others, and to have some honest mature reflection and debate about the rampant consumerism around us and how it might affect our faith. Cool.

So onto this week's thoughts.
laughter, boy do we need it. We need it anyway don't we, but also in Jan and Feb, the hardest months for mental illness in the UK, we need it even more; AND  when we've had storm after storm, and rain belt after rain belt all winter, well i think we should book ourselves in for a whole weekend of comedians!

Did Jesus laugh? You bet he did. It's quite important that we get a right view of Jesus. Was he sombre, dour, serious, even grumpy, most of the time, as some churches might portray? No way. Laughter is very healing and mentally beneficial. I've just read some research about it having a positive effect on the immune system, and that we need it daily. When was the last time your ribs ached from laughing so much? So let's have more fun in our lives. Do fun things together too. This week in my house we've ended up laughing because of a  broken finger, and physical exhaustion! The Bible speaks about having life to the full, and the joy of the Lord being our strength. Sure;y that includes laughter. Next week I'll write about the cost and challenges of being a Christian today, and hope that we can see the tough side of life through the lens of God's love, and hold laughter and tough challenges in the same hand.