Thursday, 31 December 2009

Who walked with Adam?

Over Christmas I read Vaughan Roberts excellent book 'God's Big Picture'. His book gives a chronological overview of the Bible and pulls out the main themes. Its an easy read, short and has a great chart that plots the interaction between God and mankind. This chart ends up showing heaven as a better place than pre-fall Eden.

I got talking to my fellow elder Richard about this and we ended up on a fascinating discussion centering on who walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. Was it God the Father or God the Son?

Richard suggested that throughout the OT whenever God appeared (the theophanies) it was Jesus, the mediator of our faith (not God the Father) . This is how he reconciles the numerous statements that no-one has ever seen God face to face.

Jesus in the garden of Eden is brand new thinking for me and am not sure what to make of it. If the age to come is the first time God the Father will walk with Mankind, this position certainly makes the new heavens & earth a much brighter prospect.

In one sense I think this is , at best, a secondary issue, but it is an appealing idea. If you have any thoughts on this please do post a comment!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Proper music

One of the joys of being 42 is that I was a teenager in the 80's, the era of proper music. For Christmas, I was given 'Anthems Electronic 80s'. Washing up is now a riot of sound, suds and top grooving!

To honour the brilliance of the electronica genre here are some classic tracks (links to youtube):

Soft cell 'Tainted love' 12" Mix

Gary Numen 'Cars'

Ultravox 'Vienna'

Human league 'Love action'

Heaven 17 'temptation'

Blancmange 'Dont tell me'

Pet Shop Boys 'West end girls'

and of course New Order 'Blue Monday'

Monday, 21 December 2009

Craig's latest blog

The latest from our dear friends Craig & Karena (posted on his blog this morning):

John 14: 1-3 (Jesus said) "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house there are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am...."

Karena had her scan on Monday; then for the next few days we discovered the extent of the medical problem - the cancer is back, now in the bowel, and growing rapidly and they cannot operate. Chemo would be permissible if she regained her strength but would be unlikely to have much effect. We are told she may live 3 months, but I will be surprised if that is the case, things seem to be changing very quickly. I have resigned from my job and will look after our children 24/7 for the foreseeable future.

Karena, my wife for 16 years, is on her final journey. Fairly soon she will be with the Lord forever, in his presence where there is no mourning, no crying, no pain....

The day before yesterday we got the christmas tree up and decorations out....without Karena's artistic flair though so it's not quite as good as normal, but the girls did a pretty good job (B+me just bung everything up !). I was glad to get that done to try to make Christmas a special time for the children still, albeit with unwelcome news hanging over our heads.Karena has been transferred to the Dutchess of Kent House which is a palleative care unit. She has a fabulous room which includes a spare bed for a visitor to sleep in, sofa and comfy chairs, big TV, dvd player etc. We did a family film with chinese takeaway the night before last.Their goal is to try to make her as comfortable as possible and hopefully for her to be able to come home for Christmas (either Christmas day or even better...Christmas eve) but that is by no means certain.Yesterday was heart wrenching as we told the children the news....we cried, we hugged, we prayed, we cried some more....then I brought the children home and we did dvd and a pizza, and all went up to bed together. Karena's sister stayed over at DKH with her last night.Appreciating your prayers :-

  • that Karena will be able to come home for a last family Christmas with us all together
  • for strength of faith and hope for Karena in these final days/weeks
  • for our children to be able to laugh and to be able to cry and to be confident that, in spite of the circumstances, God IS in control.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

16 daddy Christmas tips

I stumbled upon a Driscoll list of Christmas tips for dads ... I'm sure you can guess which one is a cultural misfit for the UK!

’Tis the season for Dad to drop the holiday ball, stress out as the money is being spent for presents, and miss yet another providential opportunity to lovingly lead his family. So, this blog is intended to help dads not fall into the same old rut of holiday humdrum, sitting on the couch watching football and eating carbs, but rather intentionally plan out the upcoming holiday season. Our children grow quickly and if we miss the sacred moments God opens up for us to connect with and bless our families, everyone suffers and we set in motion generations of missed opportunity.

#1 Dad needs a plan for the holidays to ensure his family is loved and memories are made. Dad, what’s your plan?

#2 Dad needs to check the local guides for what’s going on to make fun holiday plans for the family.

#3 Dad needs to carve out time for sacred events and experiences to build family traditions that are fun and point to Jesus. Dad, is your calendar ready for December?

#4 Dad needs to not let the stress of the holidays, including money, cause him to be grumpy with Mom or the kids. Dad, how’s your joy?

#5 Dad needs to give experiences and not just gifts. Dad, what special memories can you make this holiday season?

#6 Dad needs to manage the extended family and friends during the holidays. Dad, who or what do you need to say “no” to?

#7 Dad needs to ensure his family is giving generously during the holidays. Dad, who in need is your family going to adopt and bless?

#8 Dad needs to schedule a big Christmas daddy date with his daughter. Dad, what’s your big plan for the fancy daddy date?

#9 Dad needs to schedule guy time with his son. Dad, what are you and your son going to do that is active, outdoors, and fun?

#10 Dad needs to help Mom get the house decorated. Dad, are you really a big help to Mom with getting things ready?

#11 Dad needs to ensure some holiday smells and sounds. Dad, is Christmas music on the iPod, is the tree up, and can you smell cookies and cider in your house?

#12 Dad needs to snuggle up and watch some fun shows with the kids, especially the little ones. Dad, is the DVR set?

#13 Dad needs to take the family on a drive to see Christmas lights while listening to music and sipping cider. Dad, is it mapped out?

#14 Dad needs to help Mom get the kids’ rooms decorated. Dad, do the little kids get lights or a small tree in their room?

#15 Dad needs to read about Jesus and pray over his kids. Dad, how’s your pastoral work going with each of your kids?

#16 Dad needs to repent of being lazy, selfish, grumpy, or just dumping the holidays on Mom. Dad, are you a servant like Jesus to your family?

Friday, 18 December 2009

Come & have a go if you think yer hard enough!

The staff team challenge any contenders to a snow ball fight in the carpark at lunch time.

We promise to show mercy by initially only fielding our two most competent all rounders (me & Joe) before unleashing the mighty Scott 'snow bundle' Taylor, the scary Claire 'curve ball' Whyborn and the awesome Karen 'blizzard' Dwight...

Thursday, 17 December 2009

the Marriage Course

When Liz and I attended the Marriage Course a few years ago we really enjoyed it. I so appreciated having a framework to talk about our relationship. Since then, we have always wanted to lead the Marriage Course and have decided to do that in the New Year.

We plan to invite every married couple who are part of our community at RFC and it will be held at the church offices on a Tuesday evening, 7:30 until 10pm:

26 Jan - Building Strong Foundations.
2 Feb - The Art of Communication.
9 Feb - Resolving Conflict.

23 Feb - The Power of Forgiveness.
2 Mar - Parents and In-laws.

23 Mar - Good Sex.
30 Mar - Love in Action.

In order to help with babysitters, we have blocked out all other church activities on those nights (no Alpha, Foundations or CAP courses!). You will have your own table and not be expected to talk to anyone but your spouse!

There will be a cost of £60 per couple to cover the evening meal and bursaries are available if required. You can book in via Lucy Thomas but we
only have space for 15 couples, so husbands, now is the time to take the initiative!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

A highlight from the weekend

On Sunday afternoon, our lifegroup hosted a Carol Service at Douglas Court (A home for the elderly at the end of our road). 12 of us went and we sung our hearts out, read passages from the bible and we reminded them that Christmas is about Jesus.

Whilst there I met Jim (name changed). He used to live in a caravan until it burnt down leaving him with nothing (he went out but had left a frying pan on the stove). He showed me the part of the garden he maintains, the leaves he had raked up that morning, his room and beloved cat. It was a privilege to meet him and hear his story.

The residents seemed to enjoy meeting us all, and Lucy & Zoe were a real hit! The staff have invited us back again to run an Easter service ... I still smile when I think of our time there.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

A Womens Refuge - our Christmas Project

Last Saturday at our women's breakfast, Bernadette Adams of Berkshire Women's Aid (BWA) spoke on the issue of domestic abuse. She recounted some shocking statistics;

1 in 4 women will suffer domestic abuse in its widest form (verbal bullying, control as well as physical violence).
1 in 9 women require hospital treatment as a result of domestic violence.
Every 60 seconds, the police are contacted regarding a case of domestic abuse.
Every 3 days a woman is killed as a result of domestic abuse.

BWA is involved in supporting women who are suffering domestic abuse. In some cases, it is necessary for the woman and her children to leave their home and be rehoused in a refuge house. There are 5 of these houses in Reading.

This Christmas, the women at RFC (and any boys who want to be involved too!), want to support a local refuge house. The house has a small playroom for the children and the staff would love to have a few more toys for the children to play with. We have been given a list of items that the refuge would like, most are for role playing. Bernadette informed us of the importance of role play for the children, as they often re-play what they have seen at home. This helps the workers to understand the children and counsel them through very difficult feelings.

We have a list of the items they would like and most of them cost no more that £10-£15. Please would you consider buying one of the items (most available at The Early Learning Centre). We would love to have all the items in by Dec 22nd to pass them on in time for Christmas playing!

In order that we don't purchase the same thing, Kerry Cowieson is co-ordinating the list, so if you would like to be involved do contact her.

Books I've read this year

The reason for God - Timothy Keller
Axiom - Bill Hybels
Trusting God - Jerry Bridges
When Heaven invades Earth - Bill Johnson
Journeys of hope - Christians Against Poverty
Death by love - Driscoll & Breshears
for men only - Shaunti & Jeff Feldhahn
Money, Possessions & Eternity - Randy Alcorn
Feminine Appeal - Carolyn Mahaney
for women only - Shaunti Feldhahn
Worship Matters - Bob Kauflin
Spurgeon - Arnold Dallimore
Wigglesworth - Julian Wilson
The true Vine - Andrew Murray
The Soul Winner - C H Spurgeon
it - Craig Groeschel
Crossing the Divide - Owen Hylton
Father, Son & Holy Spirit - Bruce A Ware
Extremely loud & incredibly close - Jonathan Safran Foer
The monkey and the fish - Dave Gibbons
The Shack - Wm Paul Young
Authority - D. Martin Lloyd-Jones
Grace for the afflicted - Dr M Standford
From Fear to Faith - D. Martin Lloyd-Jones
Lance Armstrong - John Wilcockson
Ordering your private world - Gordon MacDonald
It's not about the bike - Lance Armstrong
A Resilient Life - Gordon Macdonald
Gods Big Picture - Vaughan Roberts

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Jonathan Bell

Today I travelled to Oxford to meet up with my great friend Jonathan Bell. Jonathan leads Church Central and I have quite a history with him. When they first started the church, Liz and I spent a weekend with him & Helen wondering whether to join them! Clearly we didnt, but we have been friends ever since.

Today I picked his brain about multiple meetings. In the New Year they are going multi-site; two morning meeting but in different locations. He talked me through the logistics of the same preacher & worship band at both the 9:45 and the 11:15 meetings (which are in different parts of the city)!

I probed him on his experiences of starting an evening meeting, which they closed after just two terms. Strangely, their experience stirs me to learn their lessons and press on in faith for our venture!

It was such a great investment of time ... and it had a comedy journey to it. Jonathan got on the the wrong train out of Birmingham and headed to Plymouth. After a long & tortuous route via Cheltenham & Swindon he arrived 2 hours late! Very funny though!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Your story from 'Across the Divide'

This Sunday is the conclusion of the sermon series 'Crossing the Divide'. I plan to paint a compelling picture of what a multi-ethnic/cultural RFC will look like!

As part of my message, I would like to read out your short stories, journal entries or reflections on how this series has provoked, challenged, annoyed or resonated with you.

So, could you RFC'ers please stop for a few moments, reflect on the series and then send me a something I could read out on Sunday morning. A blog or facebook comment is fine, as it text or email.

I do think it will be really helpful to hear how we have journeyed over the past month ...

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Being honest about this sermon series

When I read Owen Hylton's book in the summer I really had no idea how difficult a series on embracing diversity would be.

I don't mean preparing the material, Owen did a great job capturing our discussion and proposing a series. Neither has the church received the teaching recticently, in fact I sense we are all open to this journey.

For me, the pinch comes when standing at my daughter's school gate on a Monday afternoon. Whilst I wait for her smiling face, I am among the most diverse group of my week. And we all stand in our invisible enclaves and only say hello to those who look most like ourselves .

Worse still, because it's a Monday and I'm tired, I have no overwhelming desire to cross any divides! I keep thinking how exhausting it will be if I try to bridge the differences and try to make a new friend... and how easy it is to stay quiet.

I write this because, in my world, this is where the series hits the ground outside of church life. And it is provoking and it is hard.

And it is about Whitley & Earley. And it's about immigration & education & identification. It's about socio economic grouping and my emotional energy.

Diversity goes well beyond gathering lots of different people in the same room. Embracing diversity is very complex and can make at least 10 minutes of your day off very uncomfortable ... ;o)

On a different note on embracing diversity: Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.