Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Where have they gone - do we care?

If you lead a church you need to read this.
If you know a church leader you need to send this to them to read.

Why am I being so demanding with this post? Because I feel there is a need for all of us to do what we can to try and stop the ongoing cycle of hurt and abuse that is happening mainly across evangelical churches.
 I have reproduced the following open letter written by Addie Zierman on her blog here as having shared it as a link on my facebook account many people commented essentially saying that this "hits the nail on the head".

Personally my family and I have been hurt and abandoned but I also know many, many others who have been through the same type of pain. From people who have led churches only to be discarded with paltry a book token for their services through to people who have been ignored for years and eventually get the message and move on and no one notices.

As I said on facebook - you can see why it is 'easier' to hear the prophetic call to growth and enlargement and just wait for Jesus to bring it - but maybe we can't hear (or aren't listening for) is Jesus' saying "remember I talked about the lost sheep..."
An Open Letter to the Church: How to Love the Cynics 

You should know, first of all, that there’s no quick-fix here. There are not ten steps. There is no program that you can implement, no “Young Adult” class you can start.

This is not about your building or your music or your PowerPoint slides.

There is not a trendy foyer in the world with the power to bring us wandering back.

After all, there’s not much you can say to us that we haven’t already learned in some Sunday School classroom somewhere. We know the Bible stories.

We heard them over and over, year after year until they became part of our blood, part of our bones. We’ve heard a thousand sermons. We recited Scripture on Wednesday nights and earned shiny little jewels for plastic crowns. We know the “right answers.” We know the Ten Commandments and the Fruits of the Spirit and how to “lead someone to Christ” with five Bible verses and a three-minute testimony.

We left quietly at age 14 when we joined the drama club, and it felt more like family than youth group ever did. We left in a huff at age 17, angry and rebellious, slamming the church door behind us. We left at 19 when we gave in to passion in some parked car somewhere – left after a dozen sermons and well-meaning Christian speakers told us that in surrendering our virginity, we had surrendered our worth. That we were broken beyond repair.

We stayed the course for a long time. We led the small groups, sang on the worship team, and you told us that we would change the world for Jesus. And then we went to Christian college, where people looked at us side-eyed and dared us to prove our faith. We turned inward, faded out, faded away.

We left after long hours praying for healing that never came. We left when the Christian Girls and the Mean Girls were the same girls. We disappeared into Depression. We walked out of a funeral service of someone too young, and we never stepped foot in a church again.

We left for a hundred different reasons, none less real or important than the other.

Once, we believed quickly and entirely, our faith in the church people and in God all tangled into each other. We believed that you who loved God would be different, and no one ever confessed that Christians are broken too. We felt the knife-stab of hypocrisy at some point, and it is a wound that never really healed.

So we sit, arms crossed at the edge of it, hypersensitive to your failures and your faults. We have spent the last several years honed in on our bullshit detectors, critical and cautious. We are constantly aware of the darkness: yours and ours. The whole wide world, broken and dying, hurling herself into the abyss.

We hear your bewildered conversations about how so many of us have left the church. You are head-scratching, writing books, trying to pinpoint the problem. You are feeling powerless to stop the mass exodus of a generation.

You are looking at your church bulletin, wracking your brains, trying to figure out what you could offer us to make us come home.

But this is not about a program. We will see right through that flyer you stick in our mailbox. We have been bait-and-switched before, and we’re suspicious. We were raised on a steady of diet of ads and commercials, after all – we know when you’re trying to sell us something.

We need you to fight for us.

We need to be more than a number, an attendance card in the offering plate. A statistic.

We need you to come to where we are.

Come out of the church offices and the Christian bookstores. Turn off the local Christian radio station and hear us.
(Sometimes, I think that’s all it would’ve taken for me. Some church stranger to sit down next to me and just say, How are you really doing? You really ought to join the women’s ministry. Just get plugged in Just How are you doing? Just someone interested in just listening. Just someone to mean it.)

We can see through every trick, and we are not looking to be someone’s success story. This will not be a quick fix; you can’t just slap a little redemption on this mess and call it good.

We need you to sit with us in the mad season for as long as it takes. We need to hear your stories – the messy ones, the hard parts. We need you to tell us the pain of it without skipping ahead to the happy ending.

Maybe we can face our darkness if you are honest about yours.

We are weary and bitter and deeply broken. We can see through everything…

Except for maybe love.

And this probably won’t look like revival. It won’t look like much at all, and we need you to be the one group of people in this whole appearance-driven world who are okay with that.

We need you to measure your success not in results but in faithfulness. In coffee cups and late night phone calls. In glasses of wine and sharp fragments of story.

We need every single one of you. We need you brave in the face of our anger, kind in the midst of our bitterness. We need you every day. We need you here not there.

We are tired and we are cold, and we are looking for a reason to come. Be the reason.

Light a candle. Take our hand, and walk with us.

Remind us what Jesus looks like: arms open, eyes full of love. Help us see him there, sitting with us in the anger, waiting.

Help us. Love us. Join us. And, maybe, we’ll find our way home.

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Sunday, 24 February 2013

Book to read in 2013

At the beginning of the last two years I have put together a list of books that I plan to read over the year.
In 2012 I had a list of 17 books which I thought would be achievable based on my modest reading pace. Alas I once again got sidetracked for a large period of the year.
I did read
Cloud Atlas - by David Mitchel - absolutely outstanding
Hombre - by Elmore Leonard
American Sphinx the character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J Ellis - fascinating character was Jefferson, brilliant yet with some major flaws
The Dark Night of the Soul - by Gerald D May - very profound, I think I have a reflection written somewhere that I may publish one day
In the Shadow of His Wings - by Jonathan Macy - I can proudly call the author a friend and this is a great book which adds another dimension to our understanding of God, his church and how His care is shown to us.

So what of 2013? Will I set myself a more realistic target? Well my list of books I want to read is listed below and is very similar to my 2012 list, I refuse to be beaten (and quite frankly if I don't read them this year then I should give them away!). In total there are actually 14 this year (down from 17). Also as I am publishing this list in mid February I have already read three books and I am onto my fourth so by the end of February I will have 10 months and 10 books to read - a month a book very achievable.
Three Men in a Boat - by Jerome K Jerome - reading now
Tooth & Nail - by Ian Rankin
The ascent of Isaac Steward by - Mike French - the last (?) day of Isaac Steward sees the mental breakdown and rebuilding of a man's life and mental world, shades of Inception's dreams within dreams
The Road - by Cormac McCarthy
Blue Friday - by Mike French - excellent page turner sci-fi book that draws on elements of 1984 and chimes very much with the latest TV series Utopia

Six Centuries of Verse - selected and introduced by Anthony Thwaite
The War of the World – by Niall Ferguson

You Can Change - by Tim Chester
The Road Less Travelled - by M.Scott Peck
The Story From The Book, from Adam to Armageddon - by Ted Miller
Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul - by John Eldredge
The Practice of the Presence of God - by Brother Lawrence
Longing for God - by Richard Foster & Gayle Beebe
How to be a bad Christian (and a better human being) - Dave Tomlinson - I recommend this to any Christian who is a little bored with the church thing, it will help you to ask questions, search out a bigger meaning and be a better person (but people may think you are a 'bad' Christian)

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Thursday, 21 February 2013

How long

Lord, how long must I stay in this desert
In this barren land
All around the people cheer and whoop
And hunt for treasure
Stepping over the poor and weak
Do they not see us?
Will you Oh Lord not vindicate your people?
Come and bring justice in this place
Your justice is right and true
Blessing all people near and far
Give us the daily bread we need
Give us the eyes to see this bread
And forgive us when we strive after delicacies
To salve the desires of our eyes
When our soul hungers for the bread of life
My soul longs for the bread
The bread that brings life

Steven Hunter
March 2012

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Saturday, 16 February 2013

Six Things - Ken Campbell

Ken Campbell is an American and an Anglophile with a Scottish heritage who moved to the UK when he was 13, growing up and studying in the south east of England.

Now based in Stansted, Essex with his wife, two children and pet dogs he spends his working hours developing medicines for a pharmaceutical company.

Two of his great passions are cycling and playing the guitar in a variety bands (and outfits!).

One thing that's always worth getting out of bed for
Cycling.  One of the things I enjoy most in life is getting out into some quiet country lanes on my bike.  I rediscovered this pleasure a few years ago.  I say "rediscovered" as I had forgotten that in my youth I used to really enjoy the simple pleasure of riding a bike.  Then, having not done any cycling at all for around 20 years and inspired by a friend's cycling tales, I started going out regularly with some buddies who were keen cyclists. As well as the typical local 'blasts' around home, we've had some truly amazing adventures cycling through France, Belgium and various bits of the South and East of the UK.  Great exercise, great comraderie and a great way to see the world.  I'm really glad that I made that rediscovery of something that I had enjoyed in my younger years.
One thing about yourself that often obstructs me
Oh, there's lots!  However, they tend to produce the same result - INACTION.  Unfortunately it has taken quite a while to see it with clarity.  When I hit 40, it triggered a few years of real reflection.  To use a sporting analogy I felt like I was in the dressing room at 'half time' and I was reflecting on the first half 'performance' and thinking about what I need to do to get back out onto the field and play a good second half!  I realised in those reflections that there were a number of tendancies in me (procrastination, laziness, disorganisation, fear of doing something in case it is 'wrong', fear of failure, fear of what other people will think, etc.) that had prevented me doing things I should have done or stopped me making more of the opportunities that have been afforded me.  The challenge now: play the best second half I can in view of this knowledge!
One thing I've learned the hard way
Generally, heated argument isn't helpful!  I have found the hard way that I am not very good at it and in the end what you gain in 'winning' the argument is usually more than offset by what you lose in the process.
One thing that gets under my skin
A lack of integrity in individuals or organisations.  It wrecks trust and creates an 'image' that is not real.
One thing I'd love to change
Well, it would be easy to say some very obvious and noble things about things like global conflicts, injustice and poverty and I would love to see those things change for the better.  However, everything ultimately comes down to the individual; so what I would love to change is to see every individual treating each other in the way they would wish to be treated.  If that was everyone's default option, wouldn't that potentially go a long way to resolving some of those bigger issues?
One thing I hope for
One of my favourite quotes from the Lord of the Rings is this one:
Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

That's one thing I hope for: whatever happens in the rest of my life, that I make good decisions about how to use the time that I've been given to me.

Six Things is a series of micro-interviews with interesting and creative people
in which they’re asked to respond to a standard set of six prompts. 

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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

40 days - what is your response?

Are you in a wilderness place? Maybe God led you there - he did that for Jesus for 40 days, he did it to the Hebrew nation for 40 years. How long will your wilderness be? Or rather the question maybe, "If you haven't been through the wilderness are you really ready to be fruitful?".

As we approach Lent, a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance and spiritual disciplines, I hope this video will inspire you.

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Monday, 11 February 2013

Breaking through

image from
I see you
Making a slide
From heaven to earth
You normally hide in plain sight
In the bright sun
The reflective moon
The headlights and torches
I click a switch and you are everywhere but nowhere and click it again and you disappear
But I see you today
Sneeking through the clouds
Having your fun
On that earth bound slide

Steven Hunter,
January 2012

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Thursday, 7 February 2013

My paralympics shame

Last summer I had the privilege of serving at the Paralympic games, big shout out for my employer Hurford Salvi Carr for giving me the time off.

It was a great two weeks which gave me experiences that I will unlikely get again, gave me a chance to be part of possibly the greatest event ever to be held in the UK. I met loads of really great people, including starting a great friendship with a guy I met on the first day who it turns out shares the same birthday as me!

But there is an aspect of the Paralympics that makes me ashamed. It was something I carried everyday on my ID badge or rather on my ID badge strap, in big capital words ATOS.

ATOS are company employed by the government to carry out work assessments to see if people are able to work and if they are they will then have their benefits removed. Now if someone is capable of working then I am all for a system that encourages them to do so. But if a person can't work because they can barely work, they suffer from a debilitating mental illness, they are suffering from a crippling illness or maybe they are in a coma* then I think this should mean they should continue to be supported through the benefit system. Unfortunately ATOS driven by the government targets and values did just that including writing to a man in a coma to tell him as he hadn't attended his work assessment his benefit would be stopped and they assumed he was fit for work

For a few more angles on this scandal read these links - just four of literally thousands

It is hard to think of a more inappropriate sponsor of the Paralympics and I had to carry their name around me at all times!

The only thing more inappropriate was the decision to invite George Osbourne to be part of the awards ceremony, thankfully that was something that provided an opportunity for the feelings of the nation to be shared in public and for a brief moment the reality of what the people think of the govt and these sort of policies was seen.

Even with these unfortunate connections it truly was the greatest show on earth and I can say I was there.

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