Tuesday, 28 February 2012


There are some people who would be able to look at the first picture and say, 'that looks like a Monet'.  Others would look at the bottom one and say, 'classic Banksy'. 
(Don't worry if you've never heard of either of them, it really isn't the end of the world...)  Setting aside, for the moment, that you can read Monet's signature at the bottom of the painting, there are other reasons why people might be able to tell you it's his work.  Likewise, there are reasons why people would look at the bottom one and guess it's a Banksy.  I'm not much of an art critic myself, but I guess people who know what they're looking for can work out the artist from the style.  Maybe it's the way they use light in the picture, maybe it's the subject matter.  Loads of reasons really.  Some people would be able to do the same with sculptures, or pottery.  Flip, some people could probably do it with buildings, if they were building-geeks.  "Oh, that looks like the work of [insert name of well-know architect] doesn't it."

But what about with people?  Can we do it with them?

There's a song I really love called Fingerprints of God.  It's by a singer I also really love, called Steven Curtis Chapman.  In the song, he sings:
 I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know it's true
You're a masterpiece that all creation
Quietly applauds
And you're covered with
The fingerprints of God

Now, I get the impression from the rest of the words in the song that it's written originally for people who are struggling to find value in themselves.  They look in the mirror and don't really like what they see.  They look at their lives, and kinda figure they'd rather be someone else.  So the encouragement is to see that God's fingerprints are all over them.  He's left His mark on them - they just need to recognise it.
Obviously, that's a really important message.  We do need to recognise that we are God's creation, and see His 'fingerprints' on us - the things that make it clear that it was Him who designed us; Him who made us.
But for me, that isn't actually the way I've used those lyrics.  I used to work with some really quite naughty young people (!) and this song was a great help at times.  The song wasn't originally directed at naughty people, but the message really challenged me.  I was listening to it one day and I realised that I needed to see God's fingerprints on other people.  The kids I worked with were, just like me, created by God.  They, just like me, would have His fingerprints on if only I looked hard enough.  So there were times in my classroom or my office where I would actually make myself see God's fingerprints.  I'd work through everything I knew about those kids and find His fingerprints on them somewhere.  Sure, a lot of them had got pretty smudged by other stuff, and the work of other people on their lives.  But God's fingerprints were there if only I looked for them.  That helped me a lot in my work with them - to find and appreciate God's fingerprints on them.

So what about you?
Do you need to recognise God's fingerprints on your life?  Do you need to see how precious a part of His creation you are?  Because you are His creation, and you are immensely precious to Him.

And when you're with other people, are there some you really can't stand, who really get to you, or upset you, or maybe are just downright unpleasant?  Have you ever looked for God's fingerprints on them? because if you do, you might be pleasantly surprised.

When you're looking for God's fingerprints, be willing to look carefully.  Maybe you'll see someone's creativity as God's gift, or their desire to protect people they love as His mark.  It could be anything, but I reckon you'll be able to find something.
Give it a try.

Monday, 20 February 2012


This is our fourth year here.  We moved in 2008, and are now settled. 
I'm not a big fan of change though, and moving is always an upheaval.  Some people see it as fun, others as horrendous.  I guess I'm somewhere in the middle.  Not only was it a move away from our old jobs, our old church, and my side of the family, it was also a move into a very new phase of my life - being the at-home dad. 
We work in a school, and for the first few weeks, I was wondering what my 'place' would be in things.  I spent a fair amount of time feeling a little out of place.  Then came a suggestion from a friend who works here.  Perhaps I should play football on Monday nights with some of the lads.  Awesome idea, I thought.  I like playing football, it would give me a chance to get to know some more people at the school, and it would also be a chance to do a 'boy' thing (I'm surrounded by girls here...).
So Monday nights kicked off (ho ho ho) and I got into the habit of trekking down to the sports hall or astro for a bit of a kickaround.  Nothing too strenuous (thankfully!).  But as time went on, the attendance was somewhat sporadic, and there were some occasions when not enough people turned up for a game.  Occasionally, no-one at all turned up.  This meant that Monday nights were either a high point, or a very low point of my week.  The weeks that lads turned up, we'd have a good time.  But weeks when I found myself wandering home alone, having stood in the cold like a complete loser waiting for nothing to happen, well, they weren't so great.
Three years on, and things have developed.  Monday night is now a completely regular fixture, and is almost always a (even the!) highlight of my week.  This is a massive boost for me.  It makes me feel like I'm a part of the community.  Last week, most of the lads arrived in what seemed to be a new set of footy tops.  I thought it looked pretty impressive.  When we're just having two teams, I'm generally one captain, and the other member of staff who runs the session (they're his lads!) is the other.  Last week, we got them all lined up ready to be picked.  Imagine my surprise when he got them all to shut up, and then presented me with this:
I don't think they'll ever quite appreciate how much it means to me to be made to feel such a part of the group.  It reminded me how important it is for us to be a welcoming community to others.  We should go out of our way to make them feel they belong, until they really do, and they really believe it.
Who can you encourage this week, to show them they're a valued member of your 'community'?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Slow Fade.

I'm a big fan of music.
Pretty much any style of music.
But for me, music with words has got to mean something to me for it to be really good.  It's got to help me understand life, or give a sensible perspective on things.
There are a few individuals and groups that do this, I feel, better than most.  I found them in this order:
Michael W Smith.  I discovered him when I was at school in Pakistan, many years ago (not THAT many, though).  Wrote, and writes, brilliantly.  I saw him 'live' a couple of years back, which was great.
Steven Curtis Chapman.  Discovered, if I remember correctly, after our return to England in the early 90s.  Back then, I thought he was good fun, and a good songwriter.  I think he's since developed into something much more.  His songs on the album 'Beauty will Rise' are, when you know the story behind them, pretty gruelling and yet beautiful.  He talks of them as his own personal Psalms.  They reflect that theme, so often found in the Psalms, of a man bringing his woes, griefs and struggles to God, and ending each 'meeting' with, 'yet will I praise you'.  The ability to meet tragedy head-on, and say, 'even so, I'm going to praise you God' is grace in action.
Finally, there's Casting Crowns.  Only discovered them recently, perhaps even last year, but absolutely love their work.  Sure, the music's great fun, and upbeat, but the words are absolutely spot on. 
One of their songs is called 'Slow Fade'. 
Here's the music video:
I seriously recommend you watch it before reading on.
The lyrics include:
Be careful little feet where you go
For it's the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

What a challenge for any of us who have responsibility for younger people.  A reminder that going the wrong way is likely to lead others astray.  Jesus warns against that in pretty weighty terms.  "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."
The song goes on:
It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade

People never crumble in a day.  You don't wake up one day and decide it'll be the day you destroy everything you hold dear (well, most people don't!).  What's more likely is that you wake up one day and take a step in the wrong direction.  And the next day, and the next, and the one after that.  So one day you wake up and find that you have destroyed everything you hold dear.  A slow fade.
And how about this for a timely reminder?
The journey from your mind to your hands
Is shorter than you're thinking
Be careful if you think you stand
You just might be sinking

Every line of this song just drips with meaning. 

...a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
Daddies never crumble in a day
Families never crumble in a day

Don't let yourself fade away.
Cling to what you hold dear.
Cling to God.