Working with headphones in

I know, I know, it was only a couple of posts ago I was moaning about how much I listen to music. And how, this constant beratement of music in my life: on my walks, during work hours, with God in quiet times etc etc, was slowly numbing me to the power of music. I’m aware this is a total 180 turnaround.

Maybe life isn’t as black or white as a single permanent solution.

So today, in my lunch break, I write to tell you that working from home with headphones in has really helped me focus on work and “get in the zone”.

When working from home, the default when listening to music, is to have it blasting out from my phone. But there’s something more focused about listening through headphones.

  • Better sound
  • Cuts off outside noise
  • Clear break from work, as well as a clear entering into work-mode.
  • Also, a lot of headphones these days allow you to pause/play the next song, without actually picking up your phone and getting distracted by personal e-mails/messages.

That’s it. If you’re struggling to focus working from home, try using headphones for your music.

“Make haste and come down”

God knows when He needs to interrupt us. Today He interrupted me.

Bringing up three significant areas of my life where I had been failing to honour Him. And challenging me to action. It was tough to be challenged and disciplined, but the real work continues. Conviction is only step 1.

I began journaling repentance and was reminded of the story of man in the Bible who encountered Jesus. Turning to read the story again in my Bible:

“Make haste and come down”

Let us not wait to repent, let us make haste and come down, responding to Jesus call and receiving the good He has for us joyfully.

Jesus in the Gospel of Mark

Who is this Man?
Jesus is the Miracle-Worker, healing those that come to Him with faith, multiplying food for those who eagerly listen without concern for their rumbling-stomachs, walking on water in order to be present with those whom He loved.

Jesus is the Masterful-Teacher, instructing the crowds, challenging the religious experts and nurturing His own disciples. Using a diverse range of tools from cleverly crafted parables to razor-sharp pointed questions. From the examples of a poor widow’s generosity, to a rich young ruler’s disappointment.

Jesus is the Spiritually-Orientated Leader, who sees what is hidden in hearts and chooses prayer rather than might, submission instead of pride and love instead of judgment. He understands the dynamic between the physical and immaterial, embracing both and using it for His Father’s purposes.

Jesus gladly embraces and honors the least.

May I ever seek to desperately approach Him, in humility and awe. May I never lose the wonder, that God became like us in order to love us and restore us. May I never forget to be grateful for this.

What did He do?
Jesus taught truth, in many ways to many different people. He was sought out by the crowds, the religious experts and the desperate citizens from both Jewish and Gentile communities, because of His teaching and insights. Three noteworthy themes of His were: 1) The Kingdom of God, revealed through parables and one-liners, and ultimately through His death (13:39). This is a Kingdom that seems in many ways to mock the kingdom of this world by raising up and honoring the least (10:14-15), by promoting servants (9:35) and it does not pay homage to material wealth (10.21). 2) The importance of Faith, Jesus is repeatedly responding to faith (or lack of) and using it as a springboard from which to teach. Jesus sees the faith of the good friends who have gone to great lengths to present their companion to Jesus, He accepts the trying faith of the frightened father and leaves Bartimaeus named, healed and following all because of faith. Jesus is disappointed and left astonished by the absence of faith in others; following the panic incited by a storm and those offended by His familiarity. 3) His own death and the suffering awaiting His disciples. Three times in this Gospel Jesus teaches about His death and each time follows it with a caution that those who follow Him will also be asked to lose, be it their desires and life, their status and pride or their freedom and position. Jesus taught difficult truths.

Jesus provided numerous people with significant direction and purpose for their lives. Not only did He provide direction for a miracle-hungry and easily impressed crowd who eagerly waited for another mass feeding. But He also touched individual lives, sparking generation upon generation of changed futures as He went. Levi was ushered away from his booth and hosted a party for other tax collectors before leaving everything and following Jesus. Legion was delivered and sent home to proclaim truth to the Decapolis. Peter was invited away from his trade to fish for men and become the head of the Church to come. Bartimaeus was healed and decided to follow Jesus. Barabbas freed on account of Jesus’ sacrifice and given a second chance. The Centurion sees Jesus’ death and receives saving faith in order to enter eternal life. The eleven disciples were commissioned to ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel to all of creation’. Jesus provided purpose.

On two accounts Jesus sees’ what the world might have missed and loves where someone else in his position might have scoffed. Firstly, as a widow discreetly offers all she has amid a crowd donating large sums of money. Jesus sees deep what others would have missed and honors the lady’s sacrifice. Secondly, when the rich young ruler approaches and is disappointed with the prospect of selling what he has – Jesus doesn’t gloat in his intellectual joust instead He sees and loves the man who could not surrender. Jesus sees and He loves, even the those who were despised.

Jesus lived by Scripture in close communion with His Father. He knew Scripture profoundly and completely, using it not only to teach but to defend His own actions and life choices. His knowledge and approach to Scripture purchases for Him a freedom from human tradition and regulation, a freedom He compassionately offers to those in chains. This Scripture wrought freedom allows Jesus to bless, to heal, to rest and to eat without entertaining the expectations and fear of men (for a poignant example of this read Mark 7:1-23). Jesus also lived in close communion with His Father, frequently withdrawing to quiet places and allowing His disciples to do the same. This communion undoubtedly informed many of His most crucial decisions, significant teachings and insights into His own calling as well as the hearts of those around Him. The most stark and important decision which He made was directly in the context of extended prayer (14:35-36).

How do I tell others about Him?

He commands me, and His decree makes possible. He accompanies me, with Him by my side whom shall I fear. He protects me, and yet, He demands that I surrender all I hold as precious. He rewards me with Himself. This is my hope and faith.

I find that the best way to tell my colleagues about Jesus, is to tell them a story from a gospel and ask for their thoughts. I feel like Jesus did this to tell people about the Kingdom of God. I don’t need to explain the story, just telling it is powerful. Most recently I asked my colleagues about the three people who wanted to follow Jesus but had things to do first (Luke 9), Jesus gave them an uncomfortable ultimatum.

I find that people are often happy to express their opinions on a story. Maybe in the story they encounter Jesus.

Hopefully they encounter Him in me.

The White Flag: Called and Equipped to do much.

One of the significant activities God has been leading me into over the last 5 months is the process of ‘stepping out of ministry’. This has been an interesting time and I’ve learnt a lot. I wanted to share a bit of that journey and what it’s all been like.

Since October 2017, I have been doing what I called ‘bi-vocational’ ministry. I was working 9-5 for Cancer Research UK in their clinical trials unit, and at the same time running a student ministry with Navigators UK. It was great fun, it was a great challenge, it had it’s ups and downs like any ministry endeavour – but it was incredibly rewarding.

My average day started around 4.30-5am with all the regular routines and disciplines I needed to sustain me through the day (quiet times, exercise, reading and study), then I’d be out to meet with a small group of students on campus at around 8. We’d often simply read our Bibles and pray together. A fantastic way to start a working day, a fantastic way to approach discipleship, a fantastic way to grow friendships. Meeting daily in the mornings, you really do get to see each other on good and bad days – weaknesses exposed, yet together meeting to encourage each other and bring our days before God.

Then I’d be at work. I might meet someone at lunch (the trials unit was based at the university!). Then, depending on the weekday – I’d either be meeting a student 1-on-1, attending/leading/hosting a Bible study. It was busy. But being in my early twenties I have/had a lot of energy and time to spare for these good endeavours.

After a year at this pace, I added to my life FFM (Foundations For Ministry – a 3 year training course with Navs) and my wife and I took up our Church’s youth group’s mid-week gathering. Wow. Oh, and on top of all that, I was being allowed to preach once a month at Church (something I deeply cherish, and feel so honoured by!)…. Looking back on all this, it sounds like too much. But honestly, God sustained me.

I held firmly onto two verses which inspired and motivated and kept us both going…

“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me!” – Col 1.28-29 (which continues beautifully and relevantly into chapter 2!)

“Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;” – Ecc 11:2 (I felt God give me this verse one morning in my quiet time, it also came with the word: there is a difference between investing and managing)

With these verses, which I genuinely believe God gave me, I was encouraged to do all the many works I felt He was asking me to do. He put the work before me, and then enabled me to do it. I would say to myself, and to anyone else, that they really shouldn’t do as much as I was doing, unless God has specifically called them to it – and to remember – He probably won’t call you to it permanently.

…And then at Christmas 2018, we felt very clearly God was telling us to start drawing back…

 

Choose Worship

aston-webb-landscapeI want to praise my God. Publicly, not for my benefit, but because He has blessed me richly. I am married to a beautiful woman, who loves God and is actively pursuing His calling on her life, who writes fantastic music and spurs me on in my faith. We live in a fantastic apartment, and have never failed to pay bills – even when I was supported by God’s people as an income, even when I was unemployed… I have an amazing day-job, working alongside amazing people. Every morning I walk across a beautiful campus, with buildings, fields and sights that are quite literally: stunning. I get to preach at least once a month. I lead a ministry focused on discipleship and meet with amazing people who are willing to let God invade their lives in increasing doses. I am receiving training that will be useful whatever career I end up pursuing. We have a vicar who cares for us, not just as volunteers, but as a couple, as individuals with individual callings and gifts. We are part of a growing home group, full of honest and exciting people.

I often forget this, because I have ambitions, hopes and dreams that are never satisfied – that always want more. Whilst some might glamorize these emotions, (“hope and dreams – they help us strive for excellence and to express who we were made to be”) I recognize them as coming from ingratitude and jealousy. I want more. I want to have achieved more. I want my name to be greater than it is. I want more recognition, more status. So many countless – selfish ambitions. The symptoms – frustration, bitterness, dissatisfaction…AKA: SIN… The antidote? PRAISE!!! Gratitude. Humbly admitting that I deserve death. And I have life. Everything else is a blessing.

So I might not have the networks others have, the status and platforms I’d want. But God has given me what I can handle, I will be faithful, grateful and worshipful with this.

Why I got confirmed?

42385533_246819712684069_1045783107321462784_n

On Sunday (23rd) I was confirmed. This is an Anglo-Catholic ritual that traditionally happens soon after baptism. At least this is my understanding. I was introduced to this concept as a teenager when I first joined a CofE church, their policy was that you couldn’t have communion unless you had been baptised & confirmed. This was quite a shock for my brother and I, who were following Jesus and had taken communion many times before.

And from the off – confirmation and I had not seen eye-to-eye.

In the last month I was confronted with the concept again. As part of my exploring a calling into ministry within the CofE, I have been meeting with various people (sort of informal interviews – stretched over a year). But last month I met with a guy who holds the position of DDO. (Director diocesan of ordinands – or something like that) His job is to oversee all the people, exploring this as a future job. And to, frankly, vet us.

When he found out I didn’t really know what the whole confirmation business was about – apart from it lets you take communion in some churches – let alone that I hadn’t been confirmed. He told me this was a red-flag. If I wanted to go any further – I needed to do this.

So I asked what it was. He said it’s based on the bit in the bible where Jesus is baptised and comes out of the water and God says ‘This is my Son, with whom I’m well pleased’. God was confirming Jesus… As a Christian? As a follower of Himself? I wasn’t too sure. But it made a sort of sense that the Church could perform a similar thing whereby it confirms God’s work in your life.

So who does it? Can my vicar confirm me? Since he’s the one who really knows me, and has seen me grow, and knows about my walk with God and how my life is spent serving Him? No. It’s a bishop. Ah, so I meet the bishop and talk with him, and he’ll find out about me and confirm that God is at work in my life? No. Apparently it’s very rare to meet a bishop before confirmation. But he will have my name on a piece of card before the service. When the DDO said this, I couldn’t help but laugh, and laugh out loud.

Someone, who doesn’t know me, has never heard about me, comes to my church (wait? No, I would have to go where the bishop was) one day and confirms that God is at work in my life…Ah, that makes sense. Now I’m more sceptical than ever.

So why did I get confirmed?

  • It’s a matter of submission: For me at least, this nonsensical act is a symbol of me coming under the authority of Church leadership. I don’t need a stranger in a robe to tell me that God is at work in my life, I can see this from the fruit, from my time with Jesus in the mornings, from the daily battle with sin that I choose to fight. The thing about submission is that it is fairly easy, when you’re told to do something you’d probably already be doing. It’s a lot harder when it’s something that requires effort or doing something uncomfortable or costly. By being confirmed I was declaring that I am coming under the authority of the CofE. (Obviously this doesn’t mean blind obedience, and there may be obstacles yet to come that I won’t be able to submit to – but this wasn’t going against God (Mark 9.38-40) or my faith (Rom 14/1 Cor 8).)
  • It doesn’t hurt anyone – except my pride. I wasn’t going to say things that were going to hinder anyone’s faith. I declared truths about who God is – publically, I declared that I belong to Jesus and that I reject sin. I didn’t have to say anything that contradicted what I believed, it didn’t undermine what God is doing in my life before confirmation. It just was just humbling to stand alongside new believers, remembering that I need grace just as much as them. So often I think we Christians can cause divisions over petty things, just because they hurt our pride.
  • God’s sovereignty was clearly at work – After meeting the DDO on the 11th September, I spoke to my vicar and found out that the bishop just happened to be coming to our church in a couple of weeks. And that they could probably “slot me in”. Given that people wait months for this, and have to go through loads of classes etc etc. This happened in less than 2 weeks. I’m not saying that God wants me to be a Vicar, or is leading me down this path, but I do think (if nothing else) He wanted me to face my pride in another encounter between obedience/submission and disobedience/suppression.

So why did I get confirmed? Well, a large part of it was that I needed the certificate to get me through to the next stage. But even in this God was at work, making me more like His Son.

Boredom in the workplace

ywning-man
One of the things I have been thinking about recently, is how does boredom in the workplace and the “afternoon slump” fit into a Biblical perspective. What does Jesus think about my afternoon tiredness, or ‘boredom’ at work? How does He intend to use it for His purposes? Is there anything I should be doing do fight for excellence? etc, etc. Not that my work is boring (as a whole), but like most people, there are repetitive tasks that need to be done which don’t stretch my mind. These tasks usually lead to a feeling of drowsiness or tiredness, and since I am very keen to integrate my faith with the whole of life including the workplace – I wanted an answer.
Let me also say, that I do think there is a clear distinction between boredom and drowsiness, coming about from different things and having different effects on my ability to work. So, I think what I’m trying to talk about is the drowsiness that springs from boredom.
In my thinking I’ve come up with some ideas, not the whole picture – I’m sure there is more – but enough to satisfy me for now. I’ll probably write a sequel post later.
But my main thinking is that: boredom and drowsiness in the workplace serve to remind me of my own nature. What do I mean by that? Well let me break it up.
They remind me of my:
1) Sinful nature – now, I know I am a new creation (2 Cor 5.17) and that my sinful nature has been crucified with Jesus (Gal 2.20) but there is still a very real part of me that continues to wrestle with my sinful habits (Rom 7). It is very much a case of dead to sin now, but also dead to sin not-quite-yet. When I get bored and drowsy at work I am reminded of the rebellious and broken part of me that wants to dishonor my employer by giving a half-asked job, that wants to give into laziness etc.
This in turn allows me to see these elements of sin in my other spheres of life: laziness in my quiet times or care of my body, my desire to dishonor God and my commitments. When I am reminded of my sinful nature, I am pushed into a posture of prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit to continue to put to death this rebellious side of me (Rom 8:13)
2) Weakness nature – now thanks to having a great mentor through my time at University, I learnt that there is a big difference between weakness and sin, (even though it is at the point of our weaknesses that we are often most vulnerable to sin), in fact there is a very ‘Un-fallen’ part of our humanity that is weak because God made us this way. English please. When God made us, he made us with areas of weakness for our good and His glory. For example: when He made man He said: ‘It is not good for man to be alone’, in the perfect creation God made man with a weakness, a need for relationship, without it – the situation is not good.
In my boredom and the resulting tiredness I am reminded that I am only human, that i need sleep and rest in order to function properly. This again pushes me closer to God in dependence.
3) Finally on a more positive note: boredom and tiredness remind me of my creative nature. My God is a creative God, I don’t have to look too far in creation to observe that. And me, being made in His image, carry part of that creative-DNA in my humanness. Therefore, when I am bored and doing tasks that are dull, I feel God reminding me that I am to be creative. So I start looking for opportunities to create and make the work more interesting, more engaging, and ultimately more efficient. Now this obviously doesn’t mean I get a pack of coloring crayons out and start working on a canvas, but it means I look for ways to make my job more interesting. An example of this is how I’ve started writing timetable for the afternoon. With a change of activity every half an hour. It’s a small thing I can do, but it helps my mind focus and engage throughout the afternoon.

Unclogging the river: dumping the leaves

4d50b57e-c2d9-4408-94fc-92fb64339ab3-161013stormprep5

Sometimes, I just need to get a quick update done on my blog page before I can carry on again. Like pushing all the leaves in the drain out the way to get the water flowing again (and that’s as creative a picture I paint). Hopefully this will be it. Not very pretty, eloquent but it’s hits the nail on the head…So:

I got a job! God provided at just the right time. I work for Cancer Research now at the university I was working with Navs. This is ultra convenient because I can carry on meeting with the students in my new role. Hopefully, my prayer is, I can model this stage of life well.

I’ve been in the role for two weeks now, and enjoyed settling into routine! I arrive on campus for 8am for a quiet time before work starts at 9. It’s a perfect job, and so far, I love it. Feel really blessed to have it, and looking forward to getting to know the people there. I work in a small office, with 4 other people who are all really nice and have welcomed me into the room.

My aim is to start applying for a long distance, part time learning Master’s in theology or divinity to start Sept 18, to do alongside my work. But we will have to see. I recently read a book on simple church called the Rabbit and the Elephant and it’s begun to challenge my perception of what leadership and church actually is/are. Probably more in detail later.

Just about catching up with my reading objectives for 2017, a book a week, currently 6 books behind schedule. But I got 3/4 on the go. Utilising my walks to work and back for audio book listening, and my lunch breaks for the biography. Will be starting the new russell brand book on recovery (all about addictions) should be an interesting and funny read (if its anything like his last one) with my workouts (which by the way are going well!).

What else? Oh, it’s my birthday tomorrow. Probably reason for a renewal of motivation!

Drain unclogged!

 

 

 

The thin thread…

Yesterday was an eventful day.

I had my first interview since applying for jobs became my full time job! It went kind of well – I’ve had a day and night to sift through all the worst moments. I still instinctively clutch my face with embarrassment at some of the things I did and said. But I’ve done it now. I did my preparation, and I was myself at the interview, dressed up smart etc. Its now out of my hands. They have another day of interviews and then they should let me know by the end of the week. 

I received another rejection this morning from a different job I’d applied for. And with efforts this last week focused on interview prep, I have large gap of applications made. Which I reckon to feel if this one gets a thumbs down as well. Its all a thin thread, and it feels like it. I have a handful of really hopeful applications, but they can fall through my fingers like water in a minute. No matter how far along they are. Constant feeding the monster with my applications hoping to get past him.

Anyway in other news…Navs has started up again and is in full swing! We have hit the ground running, thanks to an awesome group and amazing student leaders! On Saturday we hosted a large group for brunch, with lots of new faces and pulled pork. Then last night we had our first study night of the year. More new faces! The student leaders wrote the study and lead them in three small groups. Amazing job! All I did was make drinks, share my testimony and enjoy being part of a Bible study. The baton is being passed!!!! And the next runners are fast ☺ . Meeting with the leaders on Wed for review and preparing next study. We’re also doing a New testament read through. Mark this week.

I am excited about the future, but really want a job. Please pray for this.