Thursday, 3 January 2013

Showing some resolve.

I'm not sure that the following are resolutions, in the traditional sense.  Maybe there are too many of them ...
But here are some targets I've set for myself in the coming year, some with reasons attached.  They are in no particular order!

Re-learn New Testament Greek.  Having done a Theology Degree, I learnt NT Greek back in '96/'97.  Being a lazy bum, I let my grasp of the language (which was not exactly a firm grip) slip.  I want to learn a language this year, and this seemed like a good one for my personal development.

Bake more.  I was given Mary Berry's Baking Bible for Christmas.  I'd already been mulling over the fact that hospitality is such an important part not just of community (living in a boarding school, this applies to me) but of Christian service.  This was the perfect excuse, then, to develop this aspect of my service.

Run more.  I keep bemoaning the fact that I'm not fit enough (every Monday night, when I play football, it becomes quickly apparent that I don't have the stamina I once had!)  Our school encourages people to take part in the Parker 100, which is the commitment to run 100 miles over the course of this first term of ten weeks.  Linked to this, I am also aware that the Bible tells us that our bodies are temples, and mine tends towards food-worship, which is not the idea at all.

Blog more.  I now have five blogs, some of which are more active than others!  However, I am increasingly seeing the value of blogging, and want to develop this.  I am also due to start guest-blogging for BigBible on Spiritual Disciplines, so will be expanding my output in that direction.  It will be a monthly post for them.

Get published.  If you've not gathered, I've written a book.  As yet, no-one has jumped at the chance of publishing it.  My aim is to have that well underway by the end of the year.

Read more.  I have a fair collection of books.  I have not read them all; far from it. 

Eat more bread and toast.  Anyone who's seen our 'spreads' cupboard will understand this.  I'm currently working through some Christmas marmalade from 2011 (best before Nov '12...) and am aiming to clear the cupboard before next Christmas.

Pretty much all these targets require one main thing - time.  I have plenty to do already, but I also figure I can fit more in if I'm more careful with my time.  Perhaps once I start remembering that time is a gift not a right, I'll start to get more of these things done...

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A Father's Love.

The birth of your first-born is generally supposed to be a happy time.  Those pictures of mothers holding their freshly-born babies, looking exhausted but elated.  Well, with the exception of the exhaustion, this was not our experience.
Today, I’m very excited to be guest blogging for Tanya Marlow over at Thorns and Gold.  Some of you have asked in the past about Joshua’s birth, which was less than pleasant.  You can read the rest of the story over on Tanya’s site.  See you there :)
Also, don't forget the main site I'm now using for blogging is

Saturday, 1 September 2012

New post at the new blog

Here's the latest offering on #standorfall
It's over at the new blog.  Wordpress will now be used for the longingtobeholy blog, but I'll stick here on blogger, at least for now, for the personal blogs :)

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Holiday Romance.

I went to Spring Harvest over half a lifetime ago.  (For those who don't know, SH is a big Christian camp-type thing that happens at Easter in the UK).  I absolutely loved it and swore that I'd go again.  As yet, I've not returned, but one day, hopefully, I will.  But anyway, that's not the point of this post - I'm already drifting off track and it's only the first paragraph.

The point is holiday romances.  On that same trip to Spring Harvest, all those years ago, a friend of mine tumbled into a holiday romance.  I think it might have started at the sleeping-in-cardboard-boxes-to-get-an-idea-of-how-rough-sleeping-feels.  It may even have started before that, and the cardboard boxes were just another excuse to see each other.  But anyhow, love blossomed rapidly (as it has to on holiday - time is short).  I can't for the life of me remember her name, and it's entirely possible that he can't either.  But for those few days, and presumably a while after, love was in the air.  Needless to say, it all fizzled out.  I guess these are the likely stages such relationships go through:

Boy goes on holiday
Girls goes on holiday to same place
Boy and girl meet
Boy and girl like each other
Boy and girl hang out together and decide they're in love
Boy and girl exclude their 'real life' friends on holiday with them because they're so in love
Holiday ends (boy and/or girl may cry at this point)
Boy and girl continue to communicate (in those days, it was letter or phone call, now it's more likely to be facebook/Twitter/texts etc.)
Boy and girl get a bit bored of the effort required to maintain communication
Boy and girl stop communicating

Game over.

The holiday romance, in a nutshell.

Some years ago, I realised with genuine sadness that sometimes people have the same holiday romance with God.  It might go a little like this (I just used 'boy' because I am one ... the same applies for girls!)

Boy goes on holiday.
God also happens to be there (not much choice, with the whole 'omnipresent' thing he's got going on)
Boy likes the music/activities (or possibly just the girls!)
Boy discovers that God is the common link that joins the activities/music/girls together
Boy meets God (God's pretty darn chuffed at this point, I might add)
Boy falls in love and commits himself to God
Boy's friends who are already committed to God get all excited for him
Holiday ends
Boy goes back to the 'real world' and makes some effort to keep up his relationship with God
Boy notices that life committed to God isn't as much fun in the real world as it was at camp
Boy gets bored of the effort of keeping up his relationship with God
Boy stops communicating
God cries

So, if you've been on camp this year, please pray for any people who became Christians there.  They need to keep it up.  The flash-in-a-pan holiday romance isn't what God's after.  He's after long-term commitment.  That is, after all, what He's offered us from the very start.
And if you became a Christian at camp this year, then that's absolutely fabulous.  I'm not exaggerating to say that that is genuinely the most exciting piece of news someone could give me.  Make sure you keep it up.  It won't always be as exciting as it was at camp.  The music in the church you go to may be positively dire.  The preacher might not sound as excited at the people on stage at camp.  But God's commitment to you will never, ever drift.  If He loved you enough to send His Son to die for you, you can't possibly claim that He's anything other than utterly devoted to you.
Get rooted in Him.  Make sure you've got firm foundations and build your relationship with Him for all it's worth.  A solid relationship with Him can improve every other relationship in your life.  Put Him first.
Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be trying to blog weekly about the day-to-day struggle of living for God.  I'll be hashtagging #standorfall when I do it, and am hoping to get people to keep me accountable.  That just means that I'll be expecting others to help me live life as a Christian.  We're supposed to be a big family, after all, so I'm just relying on people to look at for me like I would look out for my brother.
You'd be welcome to join me on the adventure.

Thursday, 16 August 2012


So, I've had an idea.  It's one of those ideas that sort of swishes about in my head for ages.  Some days I think it's a real cracker of an idea, and other days I think it's just a bit rubbish.  So I thought I'd take a sounding from people who read this.  I'd really appreciate it if you 'commented' on this, even if it's just a 'good idea' or 'bad idea' comment.  Obviously, if you want to write in depth about why my idea is the worst thing you've heard *ever*, feel free to devote some time to tearing it to shreds, but I would just be interested to have a response one way or the other.

It's to do with Twitter and accountability.  I'm assuming that if you're reading this, you're familiar with Twitter.  As for accountability, it's just making sure that we have relationships with other people which encourage us to be all we can be and to maintain a high standard in our lives.  In fact, I'm being accountable to you lot who read this by posting this idea on my blog, and tweeting about it ad nauseum. 

The Bible makes it really clear that God, in His grace, gives us the chance to enjoy a restored relationship with Him, both now and, more fully, when we die.  It also makes it pretty clear that the standards we set for our speech and actions and the like should be pretty high.  It is often easier to maintain high standards when we are part of a community that is trying to do the same thing.
The basic idea is that Twitter could be used as an accountability tool.  I figure that I could tweet something along these lines on, for example, a Sunday evening.

Over the course of the next week, people would know that prayer is something I'm going to be working on that week.  I could be more specific if I wanted, along the lines of #dailyprayertime or something like that. This would then allow people to hold me accountable to that plan for the week, and perhaps to encourage me in it over the course of the next few days.  They could even tweet tips to help.  For example, I set an alarm on my phone that goes off every weekday during term time to remind me to set aside time to pray.

At the end of the week, I could tweet #standorfall #prayer #stand if I had done what I'd set out to.  Equally, I could tweet #standorfall #prayer #fall if I'd not (in this example, if I'd failed to set aside time one day to pray, for example)

That's basically the idea, in a nutshell.
Currently, the hashtag #standorfall has just been nicked by bhafc (Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club - a minority group if ever there was one (sorry Russ;))) but I'm guessing that's not too great an issue.

Some of the hashtags I would suggest might include:

Obviously, you might have something that might be particularly relevant that week.  If you had a meeting coming up where you know you'll struggle to accept the authority of others, you might hashtag #submission.  If you're struggling with the fact that everyone around you has nicer cars/shoes/clothes/food or whatever, you might hashtag #contentment.  You get the picture, I'm sure.

Here are some of the pros and cons I've come up with (feel free to add to these)

It might encourage me to put a bit more effort into living how I should (even if no-one tweets me about it, it's still 'out there' and they could at any time)
It would encourage me to be open and honest about my growth as a Christian.
It encourages a positive side to the Twitter community.  There's a lot of cynicism swilling about (I'm not flawless myself!) and this might help to redress the balance.

The amazing amazing amazing thing about my relationship with God is His grace.  Nothing I could ever #hashtag would ever change His love for me.  I wouldn't want people getting hung up on 'doing stuff right' and so forget that God's grace is enough.  I think I'd probably recommend not repeating the same hashtag target endlessly if you keep #falling.  That would just mess with your head.  Do something else and come back to it later.  Speak to people about what helps them in the area you're struggling with too.
I can imagine people taking it a bit far.  #standorfall #stophavingfantasiesaboutmyPEteacher, for example, is not something I'd ever really want to see...  I would probably stick with a one word or at least very brief #hashtag.  We don't need to know the details.
I can also imagine that some people might take the opportunity to criticise or belittle any who #fall, which really wouldn't be the point.  I guess it would be possible to have the whole concept without putting either #stand or #fall at the end of the week.

What do you think?

Please comment, even if it's just a word - I'd love to get an idea of what people think.

*I've just updated the blog to add a poll.  If you really don't want to write a comment, just click 'yes', or 'no' at the top of the blog :)

p.s. if you are a bhafc supporter, don't worry, I'm just teasing about you being a minority group - go seagulls!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

A significant day.

Tomorrow is a big date in my life. 

I'm not sure what August the 5th means to you, perhaps nothing, but for me, there are three key things that happened on this day. 

First, a long long time ago (!) my Granny was born.  It's not far off a century ago, in fact.  (When Mum asked the congregation in church once who the song 'Ancient of Days' was referring to, I piped up 'Granny'!)  My Mum's parents are a key part of my spiritual heritage.  Mum and her brother grew up in a Christian home, Grandad worked in missions and evangelism for much of his working life, and made a number of trips to India as well as working here in England.  Granny stayed at home with the kids.  Between them, they probably clocked up about a zillion hours of praying, especially for those of us in their family!  Granny died a couple of years ago and Grandad still lives near my parents.  Both of them passed the age of 90, and they celebrated their Diamond Wedding as well.  They have provided a foundation of prayer on which my life rests.

Ten years ago, the second significant event took place.  This one far less happy.  My old school in Pakistan was attacked by terrorists.  Although none of the students were harmed, and none of the expatriate teaching staff were killed, 6 people died in the attack.  One was a bystander, two were security guards, and three were Pakistani staff who worked at the school, including people I knew from my time there.

It's difficult to describe the emotions I went through in the following days.  One thing was that I felt violated.  Although I hadn't been at the school for ten years, it was still such an important part of my life.  We'd been back to visit twice, and many of the staff who worked there in my time at the school were still there at the time of the attack.  School had been my home (it's a boarding school!) and really key in my upbringing.  It was a place of security, and the attacks took that security away.  That was a weird feeling, given that I'd left ten years previously.  As it happened, I didn't even find out about the attack on the day it happened.  I was taking a minibus driving test at a Boarding School in Sussex, and even ten years ago, wasn't really into reading the news online.  I found out from my parents at supper at my brother's house.  It was a fairly horrendous time, even being so far removed from it geographically.  It felt like I'd been pretty badly let down by God.  I still can't fully imagine what it felt like, and probably still feels like, for those who were caught up in it. 

And yet, the more the story of the attacks unfolded over the next days and weeks and the more I learned of both the events and the future of my school, the more it seemed that God had been working incredibly through the whole event.  Stories came out of protection by angels.  I'm not talking about the namby-pamby pretend ones that are on a par with a garden fairy.  We're talking about real angels - messengers of God doing His will and His work.  Here's what one of my old teachers wrote a few weeks after the attack, about the experiences of some of the staff that day:

One man was grabbed by the leg and pulled to the ground. As he fell three bullets whizzed over his head. He looked around to see who had grabbed him and saw no one. Another man was helped over the fence by a man in white who urged him to run. As he looked back he could see no one. He tried to find out the next day from his work mates who had helped him - but no one had helped him. Another man was pulled into an outer building and the door locked behind him. He looked around but no one was there. I'll tell you what - I haven't thought much about angels before but I reckon the angels were working overtime all over the school. While we are still very aware of the terrible tragedy of the day with 6 being killed we know that it could have been so much worse.

That part of the story is pretty spine-tingling to be honest - real angels doing real stuff.  A little book was written about the attacks, called 'Angels in the Rafters'.  The name came from the stories of students who were in the school hearing the sound of voices singing above them.  To this day, I can't read the book without crying.
The school closed down pretty much straight away, but the next remarkable chapter was that it moved to Thailand for a year.  The School Board made the decision to relocate the school, and within about a fortnight, 106 people had been given permission to move to Thailand, accommodation had been secured for boarders, places for classes to take place had been found, and 25 staff moved along with children and some parents to maintain the community in another country. 
The event was a terrible tragedy and yet was also a reminder of how God works in and through tragedies.  It reminds me again of the phrase in the Psalms where the Psalmist tells God how tough life is, but finishes the Psalm by saying, 'And yet I will praise you', or something along those lines.  We can turn to God at the hardest times, and praise Him for His faithfulness to us.

And finally, August 5th is significant because tomorrow will mark Little Boy's first birthday.  He's been a great addition to the family :)
He had a much more straightforward entrance into the world than Big Boy did, and has been a pretty chilled out lad ever since.  We're not doing anything particularly grand tomorrow - we'll just have a cake and a sing, and maybe the odd cocktail sausage and party ring...  But still, we're immensely grateful for God's faithfulness to us, both in the good times and the bad.

What about you?

Do you have any significant dates?

Have you had any experiences of God's faithfulness in and through struggles?

Which people are significant in your spiritual history and heritage?

For another perspective on the attack on MCS, read Cecily's post over at:

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Is God on our side?

I've been prompted to think about this question this morning by a Twitter conversation.  It started with someone posting this:

God is on your side. He knows you completely, accepts you unconditionally, and loves you wholeheartedly.

Now, this comes from a highly respected, well-known leader, and I agree with him on most points generally speaking, but I found myself wondering about how helpful this particular comment was.  I know exactly what he's trying to do - people often believe that God can't stand them, and they need to know that he loves them more than they could ever really grasp.  But is He really on their side?  Is that the best way of expressing things?
My main issue is that, as I understand it, God is on our side when we are on His.  The quote above seems a bit me-centred.  To me, it's saying that I've got God with me.  Actually, I think this is only the case if I'm with God.  Maybe that's a bit pedantic, and I'm sure it would be possible to argue that people need to hear that God cares about them.  But my response would be to say that we can tell them that more accurately, without claiming that 'God is on your side'.  Because I'm not sure He is until we are on His.  And actually, it is far better for us to be on God's side than for Him to be on ours.  Us being on God's side reminds us that He is in control, not us.
Simply saying 'God loves you' instead might be a little overused and under-considered, but it could readily be developed by saying something more about how He has shown that love.
The above tweet could perhaps be improved (in my opinion!) simply by dropping the first sentence.

What do you think?

Am I being unnecessarily pedantic?

Is it ok to say 'God is on your side' as a general statement?