Season’s Greetings 2017

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres

Whatever you choose to celebrate at this time of year, we’d like to bless you in Jesus’ name, that you will be able to enjoy good company and that excellent things may overflow for you in ways expected and unexpected. (For more, scroll down…)

DollarStreet-Cirencester-Portrait

More about the picture – The photo shows Dollar Street near the centre of Cirencester, taken on 10th December after the previous night’s snow. We moved to Cirencester in April this year, and the photo shows part of our walking route to the town centre. (You can download larger versions here – PortraitLandscape.)

More about love – Jesus came to bring good news; in fact, he himself is the Good News. He came because he loves people; he wants us to know him and love him; he wants us to love one another, too. Here’s a description of love at its finest:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Jesus is love personified. Here’s one of the outrageous things he did as a result of that love:

A religious leader called Simon invited Jesus to dinner. In the town there was a woman who had broken the religious laws by doing some pretty shameful things. She made her way to Simon’s house and  crept in, coming up behind Jesus at the dinner table (in those days people reclined on a couch to eat). She was crying quietly, and some of her tears fell on Jesus’ feet; she wiped them away with her hair and poured perfume on his feet and kept kissing them.

Simon saw all this and thought to himself, ‘If this man, Jesus, had any idea what kind of life this woman leads, he wouldn’t have let her touch him like this. It’s disgraceful’.

Jesus said, ‘Simon – I have something to tell you’.

Simon asked, ‘What is it?’

And Jesus told a story to make the point clear. He said, ‘Two men were in debt with the bank, one owed half a million, the other £50k. Neither of them could pay, and the bank manager wrote off both debts. Which of them felt most favoured by the bank manager?’

‘Well, I suppose the one who was let off the bigger debt’, said Simon.

‘Right’, Jesus exclaimed. He looked at the woman – ‘See this woman? When I arrived in your house you didn’t provide the customary foot-washing water, but she washed my feet with tears and dried them with her hair. You didn’t give me the customary kiss of greeting, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet. Nor did you put the customary oil on my head, but she’s poured perfume onto my feet. Her wrong behaviour has been forgiven and her love demonstrates it. But people who have been forgiven little, love little.’

Turning back to the woman he told her, ‘Every wrong thing you did is forgiven. Your trust has made you perfectly safe; go in complete peace.’

So – If you want people to love you more (and who doesn’t), try forgiving them. Let them off the hook. Be like Jesus; set them free.

Living the revolution

Engage with the people around us as people of peace

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“What if we read the Bible through the eyes of a revolutionary?” – George Barna

In his book, ‘Revolution’ (2012), George Barna suggests that if Christians want to be more effective, they need to read the Bible in a new way – as revolutionaries. In my own words, here are some of the attributes he ascribes to revolutionary believers.

  1. Live the revolution; it’s a way of life. Read the Bible not just to see what it says, or to memorise it, or to study it. Read it in order to actually do what it says.
  2. Victory through engagement, promoting peace. In other words, if we read the Bible through the eyes of a revolutionary we will do what Jesus did; we will engage with the people around us as people of peace. We will enter their culture, on their terms, to bring them the best news possible – that they are loved by a powerful presence who wants a personal relationship with them.
  3. Motivated by love and obedience. We will not only tell people they are loved, we will show them. A revolutionary follower of Jesus will listen to the lonely, feed the hungry, support the weak, heal the sick, take in the orphan and the homeless. If people engage with revolutionary readers of the Bible they will know they are loved.
  4. Take orders from Papa, accept he’s in charge and listen. To be a revolutionary means paying attention to the Holy Spirit all the time and every day. As he whispers to us, ‘Go there’, ‘Speak to that person’, ‘Invite those people to dinner’ –  the revolutionary believer will just do it.
  5. Leadership. Doing what’s right. Revolutionaries don’t lead by giving orders, they lead by going in front. Set an example by doing what you read in the Bible and inviting others to join you.
  6. Internal politics are absent. A revolutionary has no agenda or goal other than the revolution itself. Jesus’ revolution is about turning the world upside down. If you want to lead, learn to be a servant or even a slave. If you want to be rich, keep giving things away. If you want to be eloquent listen a lot and speak little. If you want to be strong, strive to be weak. If you want to be wise, be willing to appear foolish.
  7. A different dimension. In the end, to be an effective revolutionary you will need to see far beyond everyday things and events. Grapple with the spiritual realities that Jesus invites us to engage with. These have nothing to do with the way the world behaves or speaks or thinks. Find that different dimension.

Getting stuff done

It would be foolish…to crash through life without a care

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“He that leaveth nothing to chance will do few things ill, but he will do very few things.” – Lord Halifax

I found this quote in a book, ‘Heart of the Comet’. It’s a work of fiction about life on Halley’s Comet which returned in 1986; the book was published in 1986 too, shortly before the comet made its appearance. I remember looking at it through a telescope one evening with my wife and daughters, aged 8 and 11 at the time. It was just a faint smudge of light.

It would be foolish indeed to crash through life without a care, not considering one’s actions. But it is surely equally foolish to spend so much time pondering and planning that nothing is ever actually done. An exciting life demands a certain amount of spontaneity!

Meadow cranesbill

One of the plants she wants to encourage is meadow cranesbill, a wild geranium

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I was walking through the countryside near our home today, and had a conversation with a man walking his dog. He mentioned that, like us, he and his wife moved into the area earlier this year. His wife is cultivating an area of wild flowers and hoping to attract bumblebees, butterflies and other pollinating insects; one of the plants she wants to encourage is meadow cranesbill, a wild geranium. It’s at its best this time of year, and very pretty.

Photo of a wild bee on a cranesbill flower
A wild bee on a meadow cranesbill flower

On my way home after our conversation I spotted a bee working some cranesbill flowers, and stopped to take the photo above (click for a larger version).

There is such beauty in the natural world; living amongst it is a great privilege, one that we often overlook. This world deserves to be cared for; what can you do to look after your local area? There’s always some positive action you might take, whether you live in a rural area or in the heart of a city.

A Walk in the Cotswolds

A gentle stroll brought us to this stunning view.

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Setting up a new home becomes a bit much eventually, so Donna and I decided to take a break and go for a walk. We chose part of the Cotswold scarp near Leckhampton, and a gentle stroll brought us to this stunning view north over Cheltenham with the Malvern Hills in the distance (about 30 miles away). The ‘flying saucer’ in the upper-left is GCHQ.

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There was a heavy fragrance wafting from a nearby field of oilseed rape, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and all seemed right with the world. What a place! Standing here on the steep north-western edge of the Cotswolds, about 300 m above the Severn Vale below, we had this amazing vista. But turning round and looking the other way revealed rolling farmland and the field of fragrant, vivid yellow rape.

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Then we drove on to Crickley Hill Country Park for coffees, and amongst the grass on the hilltop were cowslips in abundance, another yellow flower that grows wild in most of England, wild and pretty but so much less showy than the farmed rape.

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We love the Cotswolds! Glad to be living here, but back to unpacking boxes…

A bridge on fire

We are looking forward now, not back.

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“When one burns one’s bridges, what a very nice fire it makes.” – Dylan Thomas

I spotted this quote on the wall in Coffee#1 in Cirencester. I like it – a lot!

I suppose in some ways Donna and I have ‘burned our bridges’ by moving from St Neots to Cirencester. The sense of ‘no going back’ is strong, it cost money and effort to make the move, and the house we loved and lived in now belongs to someone else.

Burning bridges makes it hard to return, to go back to the old ways. Decisions can be open to reversal, but the decision to burn a bridge cannot be reversed. Once burning it’s hard to put out, and once gone it’s hard to replace.

We are looking forward now, not back. Our old friends in St Neots are not forgotten, we will return to visit, but not to remain. We miss many of them already and we know they also miss us; but there are new friends, not yet known. It’s exciting. And because we intend to follow Jesus, and because we understand he wanted us to come here in the first place, we are very confident and excited about what will come next. But the past? The bridge that led that way is smouldering and impassable. Life always goes forwards, never back.

(Older posts are at quotecj.blogspot.com)

Moving House

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Well, we did it. We moved from our old home in St Neots, to a small house in Stratton. The old village of Stratton is on the northern edge of Cirencester, mostly between the roads to Gloucester and Cheltenham.

The 18th of April was the big day. We drove down to Cirencester, collected the keys to our new home, and our furniture and boxes of possessions arrived the following day. And I do mean boxes – and boxes – and more boxes – and yet more boxes! The garage is packed to bursting, the house is full of clutter, but we’re sorting through it all and making progress. The lounge is tidy now, the kitchen is functional, and we should have a little more time from now on to explore the area and begin to live our lives again.

Stratton
Click the map to expand and scroll

I’ll be writing again soon to tell you more about the house, the town and the countryside all around.