Lets go to Heaven or should we ??????

Last week I, and many others attended the District bi-annual retreat at Swanwick Hayes Conference Centre; challenging and uplifting time. Many quotes were used in one of the sessions which was entitled “Good News for Others”

This was one of the quotes that set me thinking about my position as an evangelical Christian within the Methodist tradition; I can remember watching a TV western movie with Mum and Dad and towards the end the hero was shot and I burst into tears. I don’t know why, perhaps because I’m an emotional person or because it was perhaps my first real point of contact with death (albeit in fiction). Mums way of dealing with it was to instruct Dad to “go and get the book”. The ‘book’ contained a beautiful picture on its rear fly pages of paradise. Literally a picture of the lion and the lamb together in a beautiful colourful and sunny garden scene, with people of a variety of colours walking around talking and smiling. The fruit trees were full of fruit and everything looked idyllic. For many years after I developed the idea that this is what Heaven would look like and therefore my role in my Christian journey was to prepare myself and others to strive for Heaven.

This quote turns that on its head, for it denies the puritanical argument that creation is essentially sinful and wrong; it overturns the idea that we can earn brownie points for Heaven; it certainly rules out universalism. All of these ideas and more can be found in a variety of evangelical thinking.

However, originally evangelical thinking was about making a difference in this world; the old quote of “so heavenly minded to be of no earthly use” is quite an accusation to be made so what difference do we make. I once knew a lady who thought it right and proper to help people who were good and upright, which implied that anyone who didn’t match her criteria were to be avoided or left on their own. Sadly, I never managed to persuade her that all people are equal and of equal need at some point in their lives, whether that be physical or spiritual. Sadly I come across many who are like that, selective in their help, and yet if N.T.Wright is correct in this quote then its about so much more.

God came out of Heaven to reach out to humankind, showing love, kindness, patience, forgiveness; despite what humankind may think it isn’t about us striving for Heaven because that implies a) that we can and b) thats where God wants us to be. NO, its about God taking the first step, the initiative, and reaching out to help us with the expectation that if we’re going to be His followers we will want to reach out to others in their need. That might indeed be spiritual in which we help them on their journey of learning about God, but its also about helping those for whom this life is difficult. The soup kitchen, the food bank, the kindly word, the smile, the help for the homeless, the compassion for the immigrant refugee are all examples of how we can bring Gods standards into the world. Jesus came to proclaim the Good News of Gods love; our job is to share it and bring hope to others

 

Relationship in Worship

As a result of focussing in yesterdays Church worship about the nature of discipleship and recognising how special we are to God, I’ve found myself sitting in an empty Church today reflecting on what worship is all about. Why do we bother when often it seems to be routine and “we’ve always done it this way.”

It strikes me that so often worship boils down to peoples preference over hymns, Graham Kendrick vs Isaac Watts, whether we are solemn or loud, arms length and never speaking or all hugging and touchy~feely !  And yet there must be more to worship than this.

`Worth-ship` is about giving God what he is worth; its about what he enjoys or wants and yet so often we personalise it back to what we want. I don’t think that this is necessarily about selfishness but it’s probably because its much easier to know what we want and its hard to know what God wants in worship.

I came across this definition from a friend……………………………     “The nature of worship is simply a recognition and encounter with God. The Hebrew seems to have a root derivation of, “To kiss.” If worshipping is as intimate as kissing, then arms length formal worship may actually at times not be worship at all. I think we have to turn to the language of Song of Songs. Very intimate and powerful imagery. So dare I say that worship is being in love with God. Expressing our love and receiving it from our God.”

If worship is about being in love with God then surely there will be different expressions of worship as each one of us is a different character who expresses him/herself in different ways. We will all have different ways of expressing our love to God.

I like the idea of worship as being an intimate act between myself and God, even if its conducted in a public arena and with countless numbers of people. As always it boils back down to relationship. How much of a relationship do you want with God as opposed to one with Church, with the hymns, the routine, the activities ?

Tonight I offered Alison the chance to walk over to where I was sitting on the grounds that exercise was good for her health; when she got to me I said, in a loving romantic way, “give us a snog !” it may come as a massive relief to all my readers that its not a request I would make of any other person, but I can with Alison because she knows I love her and because over 38 years of marriage we’ve built a wonderful, loving relationship. Now, I’m not going to be so irreverent as to suggest that we should ask God for a “snog” but surely we should desire such a relationship where we can come before him with total honesty knowing he accepts us and welcomes us. That is relationship and I, for one, want to grow more in my relationship with Alison and in my relationship with God.

Things always come in threes !

Things always come in threes, so they say, Ive always dismissed it as utter and complete tosh, but lately Ive begun to wonder; just before Christmas our washing machine broke and thanks to the generosity of church members our washing was carried out faithfully, and although we have got a new washing machinate firm won’t fit it as they think its too tight a squeeze even though its about an inch thinner than the one being removed. Consequently we’ve a carpenter coming to look at it in the morning with a view to altering the bench.

Then last weekend the drainage in the front yard began to smell and water was backing up. We had to call a firm to come and clear the blockage, on the day I was travelling up to the North-east so I was able to leave the mysterious message on Facebook that I was “leaving Alison to sort out the sewage”

Today incident number 3 has happened, as our dish washer has decided to leak all over the kitchen floor which looks like a war zone ! If the superstition is true then we’ll be left alone for a while, but we’ll see. As it is this has been a costly winter so far, in terms of finance (new washing machine) and certainly in terms of time.

In the midst of it all the Chair of District and I had a chat yesterday I which we felt that because of the workload (2 Circuits, supervision of a Probationer Minister, running up to

the NorthEast and other District duties) then for the sake of my health I should step aside as Deputy Chair with a review next January. This has saddened me no end for I will miss the District team with whom I worked, I’ll miss the conversation at District Executive, and the fellowship of those I met around me. It has been a tremendous privilege serving the District and working alongside Loraine, our Chair, who. has constantly shown good pastoral care for Alison and I, and also to learn from the skills of the rest of the office based team.

I have received a huge volume of emails and texts from around the District expressing thanks and appreciation.

Little wonder that our lives feel a bit like the jigsaw in the photograph at the moment !

Totally black and with no light to help reveal the design of the jigsaw, it must be a nightmare to cope with.

I’ll still have a District role in so much as I’ll continue to share the District EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) team; again another talented group of individuals who all bring their skills to bear, and once again I’ll learn so much from them.

However, tonight I still feel bereaved, but it’ll pass.

As I recognise that what I’ll miss most are the people it has made me realise more fully than before that for me, I find the light in a dark world in meeting and sharing with other people; that interaction is what stirs me, uplifts me and inspires me; other people show me the way by their tolerance of me, their support and their generous friendship.

When the world looks really bleak and black, it is easy to hide away but if its possible the best thing to do is try to be amongst people. Sadly the nature of depression (which

thankfully I dont have) is that its too wearying, tiring, mentally exhausting to seek out company or to get ‘out and about’, so perhaps its down to us to be the light in their darkness by simply coming alongside them and being the light in their darkness.

Just a few rambling thoughts; thanks for reading

 

Happy New Year

Saturday January 1, 1785. —

Whether this be the last or no, may it be the best year of my life!                                   John Wesley.

Very struck by these words as we enter into the year 2020 after one of the hardest endings to a year I’ve known. I know a lady whose view on life is that it is so serious there shouldn’t be time for fun and frivolity-theres work to be done-theres a routine to be kept etc. I think we’ve al known people like this. I tend to favour the opposite view; life is so serious you need to find the fun and frivolity to get through it !

The truth of the matter is that its somewhere in between both, but I’m of the opinion that we can either let life pull us down, or we can bow our heads bear against the wind style and plough on. Please note this isn’t an opinion on those folk who genuinely have to live with depression, but its more about those who have an off day and declare that life is terrible !

This year Alison and I are seeing in Hogmanay in a very different way; we’re babysitting ! And let me tell you it’s the best one yet !

I remember the days of our youth when as a gang we used to kick the evening off in the Grey Horse pub at about 6.30 pm, go onto someones house (usually whichever couple had got married that year) for a buffet and to drink the New Year in. At about 12.30 a.m. we’d set off and go around everyones houses, first footing (wonderful Scottish tradition) ending up back at the home of Alison and I at about 6.00 a.m. where I’d cook breakfast for whoever was still standing ! Going back further I can remember Dad being kicked out of the house by Mum at about 11.55 p.m. so that after 12.00 had struck and the new year started, Dad could first-foot us  bringing with him the traditional piece of coal (to give us warmth), salt (to give our lives flavour) and a coin for the kiddies (so we’d always be wealthy). Of course the first-foot always had to be a tall, dark, handsome man and Dad qualified entirely. When Alison and I moved away, Dad was always our first foot whenever he came to stay, and as you’d expect I’ll be thinking of him at midnight.

However until then no party games as before, no board games as before, Alison is currently upstairs looking after Emett and I’m downstairs with a Pernod and lemonade. We might not even see each other again this year , lol.

But even though its the quietest new year Ive known, and after the toughest Christmas I feel that I can still look forward to 2020. Why ? because I’ve spent my time reflecting on the treasure I have………………….

A beautiful wife, Alison, who I adore, a fantastic family in Rebecca, Vicky,

Michelle, Mark and of course the FoxCubs asleep upstairs, Piper and Emett. What more could I ask for. I add to this my wider family of Andrew, Cath, Stuart, Sue and all their family. I think on all the friends I have, Judith, Alison W, Stuart, Caroline and so many more ranging from across the world in Romania (must get out there in 2020) to here on the doorstep.

I reflect on how supported I am in the Church from Loraine to each and every steward in my circuit/church teams who without question allowed me to take time off following Dads passing.

I think of how their support helps me in my Ministry and in my health issues, especially over my hearing. I give thanks for the care and patience people show me; today I’ve given thanks for the audiology unit here in Burton for the new hearing aids I’ve been given and for the care with which I was treated. I also give thanks for Becca, our District Wellbeing Officer, who by her words and care lift my spirits.

I could go on listing all the blessings I have but the list would take too long and you’re probably bored already. Suffice to say I am, most of the time a glass half-full person, who has the occasional blip which is forgiven and forgotten by those around me; and its for all these reasons I feel that I can step out confidently into 2020 and try to live each day as if its my last but best. I believe that as long as I’m still breathing God has a purpose for me (even though I often miss it) and if he’s supplying the breath then I don’t want to waste it.

Finally, my thanks to you for faithfully following this blog (some of you since 2007); it serves to remind me of how blessed I truly am.

Happy New Year

 

 

Its been a strange time………

I’m fully aware that I haven’t posted anything since Nov 19th, when I posted about Dad. This is an attempt to catch up and reflect on the last 5 weeks.

Since Dads passing I have been reflecting and giving a huge amount of thanks for the privilege I’ve had of knowing him. Many in my Churches have spoken of his kindness, his smile, his generosity and that brings a lot of comfort.

His funeral service was a real mixed affair, for Dad would never have guess that in attendance would be 5 clergy, including a past President of Conference and a current District Chair who phoned to pass on his condolences. And many would be surprised to see this ‘august’ body sharing memories with the landlady of one of Dads local pubs, The Turf, alongside one of her barmaids. Dad had the ability to treat everyone as equals and never put on airs and graces for anyone. Alongside them we were touched that family had travelled from London and Crawley, messages from New Zealand and neighbours and friends who have supported him and us. Within the Methodist District I received cards and good wishes (texts, emails) from all over the District and beyond. Truly touched and humbled.

After the funeral Andrew and I have had to start thinking about sorting out Dads affairs, disposing of his possessions and eventually selling the house. The clearing of the house is hard and brings with it the mixture of laughter and tears. Anyone who has had to do this will be familiar with the phrases “do you remember when….” as photographs are sorted; “who shall we give this to……” as possessions are shared; and my favourites “why did he keep this ?” or “why on earth did he keep three toffee hammers, umpteen paperclips, bent nails, pieces of paper and Rebeccas spare leg ?”

Not an easy task but one conducted in the knowledge that he was a good Dad, and we’re doing our best to honour this.

Of course at the same time I had to prepare for Christmas, and that was a strange experience this year. Even though last year Dad was in the care home and I didn’t see him I was still able to talk to him through Andrew, but of course this year there was that empty void. It was hard and I won’t lie I shed tears and found it a struggle to even put the Christmas tree up. However I did it eventually, as it wouldn’t have been fair on Alison to have robbed her of the experience, so up it went, along with our nativity scene.

A difficult couple of days this week at Dads house as it will be over the next few weeks as Andrew and I grab a bit of time together.

Throughout this my right-hand woman in the shape of Caroline has spent time in hospital; Caroline acts as Circuit administrator and as my P.A. and she’s the one who protects my back, listens to my moaning, my wacky ideas and is generally there for me. However, because of her hospitalisation, her health has had to come first and there is much that I would have normally shared with her that I’ve deliberately kept quiet about. When she’s well enough we’ll have a good catch-up and I’ll no doubt get a right ear-bashing !  She’s a great help to me and I’ve missed her.

Finally, we stand on the edge of a New Year, 2020, with all of its surprises pleasant or otherwise, but if the Christmas season is to remind me of anything it is that of Christ incarnate. God understands our tough times, our family times, our laughter and our tears because in the Christchild lying in the manger he has been human. He knows human feelings, fears and fun. Because he has walked this earth as a human being he has understood the last few weeks when I’ve missed Dad with such an ache in my heart and he’ll be with me as I step into the new year.

And as I sit here and reflect all I can come up with is that I don’t understand why, but I know that “God is good, all the time” even at those moments I don’t realise it.

 

Dad

Dear friends

I write this evening with that strange mixture of grief and joy, for a week ago on the Wed of 13th November 2019 my wonderful Father, Charlie passed away.

Although he has been poorly it still came as a shock to receive the phone call to let me know. As you can imagine this last week has been full of busy for my brother Andrew and I as arrangements have had to be made, and I had to travel to the North-East. Family members have had to be notified from as far afield as New Zealand and others as close as Dads next door neighbours. Some arrangements were made together and others over the internet and by phone. However I think the bulk is done now, so we can think on our memories.

Memories of a much loved Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather. Dad was always there for us, growing up and into adulthood. He could be relied on not to interfere but to support us as we went along. When I had a lot of medical issues as a young boy, involving all my teeth removed at 10 years, my hearing difficulties, eyesight matters it was Dad along with Mum who was simply ‘there’.

When I told them I wanted to marry Alison it was Dad who hugged her and assured her that she wasn’t new to the family for she had always been a part of the family, as far as he was concerned.

As a young local preacher it was Dad who drove me to all my services, sometimes hearing the same sermon several times but never complaining. Later when I learnt to drive I could tell that I drove differently to him having learnt in a different era, but he was still supportive by not slamming on his imaginary brakes too often, when a passenger. However he still managed to ‘offer advice’ but not always when I wanted it !

 Two of Dads proudest moments came firstly with my own Ordination when he travelled to Derby and Burton to see me be Ordained into Presbyteral ministry; only 7 weeks after Mum died. I still wear the stole he bought in her memory and although he must have missed her dreadfully that day he never complained about the unfairness and simply played the role of the proud Dad. The second occasion was in 2010 when he firstly attended Alisons Ordination as a Deacon in Derby followed the year after by her Ordination as a Priest in the Church of England. I have a photo of him somewhere with a big beaming smile; hope I can find it.

Dad was a people person, whether in Church or having a pint at a variety of different pubs and clubs he would engage in conversation and be sought out for a friendly word. An impish and mischievous sense of humour, he was always looking to tease, right up to the end. When I saw the lovely twinkle in his eye I knew I was being teased. “How are you Dad” I’d say and he’d respond without hesitation “terrible !”. When he eventually began to use his walking stick which he should have used years earlier, it became another weapon with which he’d prod the person he was teasing.

A lovely quote from our New Zealand cousins describes a tour of NZ that Dad and their Dad (Uncle Thomas) as “a right couple of likely lads” (a lovely Geordie reference in there). Ian also says that he never saw Dad upset, argue or say a bad word of anyone. Well, like the rest of us he wasn’t perfect but he was a real gentleman, teaching Andrew and I respect for others, care for people and the need for hard work (especially for other people).

The first photo in this article was taken at Kensington Palace when I took Dad for a tour on his 80th birthday. He enjoyed the tour and was then surprised when I told him I had arranged high tea in the Orangery. This was a novel experience for a lad raised on dripping sandwiches, and he thoroughly enjoyed it until he saw the prices on the menu. Complaining about the crusts having been cut off he announced “at that price I’d have not only expected the crust but the rest of the loaf as well” much to the amusement of the waiter. On the way home he was pacified with steak pie and chips in a small greasy cafe outside Kings Cross railway station !

I remember when Mum died (on a Sunday), he made his way the following week and told me that he cried every step of the way, remembering how 7 days earlier he had taken the walk with Mum. When I said that the Chapel would have understood his rely was “I know that but its my rock”. Dad would never shout his faith, but in that phrase and in the way he lived his life I have no doubt whatsoever that it was a strong ad passionate faith.

I could go on for there’s so much more to say, but …………………..

Next week when we say our final farewell there’ll be a whole host of other memories to share no doubt (Andrew will have memories different to me) but every memory will reflect the gratitude that Andrew and I have that we have been privileged to call Charlie Redshaw ‘our Dad’

Rest in Peace, Dad

we love you

Knife Angel

Alison and I paid a visit to see the knife angel outside Derby Cathedral last Saturday. It was our second visit, but as the first had been in daylight we chose to visit on the evening and it was even more inspiring. It leaves Derby tomorrow for Chester so if any of my friends are within reach of Chester I want to encourage you to visit it.

As many will be aware the back-story to the angel is a response to the rising statistics of knife related crime within the country and in memory of those who have lost their lives to knives. The sculpture is 27 feet high and made from about 100,000 bladed weapons collected in knife amnesties across the country. Made by sculptor Alfie Bradley the angel was created to bring to a head the needless loss of life, or serious injury that knife related crime costs.

As we stood looking at the sculpture and reflecting on it, I became aware of a group of girls to my right who were obviously out night clubbing. They had stopped to take their own photographs, and climbing onto a nearby wall to be able to photograph over the security barrier. I became aware of them by the loud chatter, the laughter and the noise level. I can’t deny that, although I didn’t tut-tut, I was inwardly thinking “pay some respect, do you realise what this is about; be as overawed as I am……….”

On my way home I thought about it, knowing which passage I was preaching on the following day, from Luke 18:9-14. “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

I began wondering if I was like the Pharisee, looking down my nose on others who did things differently to me. Instead of giving thanks that the girls had taken some time out of their night clubbing to stop and see the angel (unlike others who walked past without regard), was I being judgemental in being disappointed they had reacted differently to me?

Was I any better than the Pharisee, and what right did I have in making the judgement when I had no concept of the girls own backgrounds; maybe they had known someone involved and wanted to stop; maybe they were afraid of knife crime and wanted reassurance; maybe they were making their own observance in their own way. The problem with the Pharisee in the parable wasn’t that he was in the wrong with his observance, but that his observance was all about himself and his belief that he was doing everything right (wasn’t he good ?). However the tax collector didn’t think of how good he was, but realised his own error and threw himself entirely upon God.

Look at the face of the angel, especially in the first picture (in blue lighting) and it looks so sad despairing and full of sorrow. I truly believe that God is sad and sorrowful when we try to rely on our own actions (which can lead to unfulfilled hopes, or in some cases to estrangement from others) instead of throwing ourselves upon Gods grace and mercy; when we choose our own path rather than the path of tolerance, hope and love which Jesus shows us. Look at the open hands and see in them the hands of God reaching out to lead us in a better way. Grasp those hands for in the pain and suffering of Jesus, the hands that were scarred on our behalf, there IS a better way and it’s the way of Jesus Christ, who spoke of peace and acceptance of all people.

I found and continue to find the knife angel profoundly moving and challenging to my own life and the way I treat others.