Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Fast thinking

There is another thing you should know about me - I can procrastinate like there is no tomorrow. If I don't want to do something, I can find an excuse to not do it. That excuse can be very good, or a little more tedious.

Why do I tell you this? Well one of my biggest distractions is social media. It is all too easy to keep checking it, and adding to it. Waiting for new items to be posted, waiting to get stuck into debates. When really I should be doing something much more important.

So last weekend I did something different.

In my Christian upbringing, fasting has not been a common thing. My youth group took part in a couple of 24 hour famines for charity. But that is the closest I got. We filled our time with fun and fellowship, and not very much sleep I seem to remember.

The point of fasting, is to give something up to concentrate on something else, something better. Now admittedly I chose a good weekend to do it, because I was away with a Duke of Edinburgh's Award group in the Peak District. However, I decided that I needed to spend some time thinking. So I gave up social media for the weekend. Twitter and Facebook were off limits until Monday morning.

Now, it was an easy weekend because I was so busy anyway, that there wouldn't have been much time for social media. But it was a good experience. It got me thinking. Which is what it was meant to do, so I guess it was a success.

But it has given me the taste for it now. Thinking about what I don't need to clutter my life with. To give me enough space to live the life I should be living. The weekend gave me space to think about what was important, and what was just there to keep me from the important things.

Yes, when Monday morning came around I was catching up on Facebook and Twitter happenings. But I survived a weekend without them. I managed to do what I needed to do, without the distraction. Fasting isn't just about not eating, and using that time for something else. Fasting is about giving something up that you don't need, and using time more effectively.

I saw social media as something I didn't need, and I used the time I would have spent on it, thinking and praying. What other things can we live without? How much better and clearer would our lives be if we used that time for God's will to be done, or to just spend that time with God, and people who mean so much to us.

In today's world it is too easy to get distracted. What can you give up, to increase your focus on living God's life?

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Trust in risk?

There are a couple of things you should know about me. Firstly, I really really dislike hypocrites. And secondly I'm much more likely to do the opposite of what you tell me, just because I can! (Slight disclaimer, in certain situations!)

When you take that second characteristic, it can be a bit worrying. But it can also lead to some really quite fun and exciting times. When I feel like rebelling against what someone has said I feel alive, and excited. Its wonderful. I also feel like God is guiding me in those times, to make sure I'm doing the right thing.

It is a time to be spontaneous, when I can let my mind wonder into the land of imagination, that I usually just let my mind dip it's toe into. It is in moments like this that I come up with mad ideas like blindfolding a whole congregation, and getting them to play Pictionary with someone describing what is being drawn.

Some may see this idea as completely usual, maybe even tame. But at my church's traditional 9am service, it could be interesting. I will let you know how it goes! It is when I let my mind wonder, almost in rage at being confined by someone, that I am at my most risky.

A third thing to know about me, I usually play it safe. I sit and observe something, work out how it works, how I fit in with it. And then I'll jump into it and immerse myself completely in it. But when I let my mind go to the imagination land, I throw caution to the wind and say "Sod the world! If that is what I want to do, I'll do it." I'm pretty sure this will get me into trouble at sometime. But this is where risk comes in. I just do it, without thinking. Or sometimes I do it, with a lot of thinking. Usually thinking about how out of joint it will put someone. (Not to say I do it out of spite)

Sometimes I think we need to throw caution to the wind and take a bit of risk. Don't sit and watch, stand and do. Risk something, and if it doesn't work out, you'll have had fun trying! Risk is good. It doesn't matter if you don't know how things will work out, because you'll know what happens when you do it.

And then comes hypocrisy. I know right now I should be taking a couple of risks rather than playing it safe. I should be starting a couple of conversations, and in all honesty I don't know what the outcome of them will be. I know what I want the outcome to be though.

I say all this stuff about taking risk, but I only take a risk when it suits me. When it is probably going to be quite safe to take a risk. If I could peer into a crystal ball (other future revealers are available, but this is a commonly used illustration) and know how things would turn out, I would. And then I'd start my conversations. Or not as the case may be.

But it has made me think more about the risks we take in life. Not only in our personal lives, but in our Church life, you didn't expect me to leave God out of this did you?! So often at Church we play it safe, we do it how we've always done it. When actually we need a trip to imagination land (I'm quite liking the sound of this now!) where the sky is less than the limit.

What risks should we be taking, but aren't? Maybe it is starting that project, or talking to someone, or saying Yes to something. The futures absolutely petrifies me. You never know what is around the corner. But you never know what you might miss. Yes, the future is scary, but now is even scarier because you are actually doing it! Lets risk leaving the future to sort itself out, and have fun whilst we live the now.

Anyway, it's boring knowing what is coming up!

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

Sunday, 7 October 2012

What language do you speak?

Sorry if this is a little ranty, just something I'm working out

This week I read the first World Methodist Youth and Young Adult Devotional. It was written by Christy-Anna Errington, current Youth and Young adult committee chair, and ex Methodist Church in Great Britain Youth President. Christy-Anna talks about her experiences of using translators at a conference.

This sparks a call to think about the language we use in our churches. Its something I'm very concious of, trying to be as inclusive as possible, using language that is truly open to everyone. But our Christian living should go further than just our language.

Often, the language we use isn't just words. It is our actions too. Its the way we do things, the way we present ourselves. Apparently most of our face to face communication is non verbal. So how does the church communicate with the people?

Sometimes I think we don't quite hit the mark. We wonder why our numbers are falling, and then I look at events, groups and sessions that are put on by my church and it is no wonder. They are only at a time for people who don't have 'standard' work hours. We have meetings at a time that, before I had to travel 2 hours to get home from work, were difficult for me to get to after work.

I wonder if the church remembers that there are people with lives outside the church. It is little things, like being surprised that when someone phones me at 10am during the week I can't answer my phone because I'm at work. I make no secret that I'm sold out to the church. But it makes me wonder what people who aren't think about the church.

So here is my challenge, think about how we communicate with people as a church. Think particularly about those people who are trying to fit church into their life. Remember, there is a life outside the church. And think about how we reach those people who have a life outside the church.