Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The one with the Big Lunch invite

On June 5th people everywhere ignored the cold and rainy weather and took part in The Big Lunch.

'The Big Lunch is a very simple idea from the Eden Project. The aim is to get as many people as possible across the whole of the UK to have lunch with their neighbours in a simple act of community, friendship and fun.' 

As I love the idea of communities getting together I worked hard at organising and running a Big Lunch for Wessex.  I signed up on The Big Lunch website, had the promotional merchandise sent to me, and explained to the rest of the church what it was all about.  Lots of people thought it was a good idea, and many offered to help in different ways.  I loved that so many people were coming together as part of this community initiative. 

Just over a week before the big event, a team of people from Wessex gathered together to post around 300 Big Lunch leaflets through the doors of the houses in the local community.  After all, The Big Lunch is about communities, and although the church has its own community of believers, this event was for everyone - especially those who reside in the locality of the church. 

Leaflets were also given out to members of various groups within Wessex, including Twinkling Stars Toddler Group and Youth. 

So - many people received invitations to attend this amazing event - that included a free lunch, craft, bouncy castle, music and much more.  So much to get excited about.  What an opportunity! 

Sunday 5th soon arrived and people bustled about preparing for the Big Lunch.  The bouncy castle was put in place, people arrived with plates of food, and the Welcome Team were ready to welcome the crowds of visitors we were expecting. 

We were ready!!

But ... hardly anyone came.

It is true.  Whilst a lot of our regular congregation attended, and a few of them brought friends - the footfall from all the advertising and leaflet drops amounted to ONE FAMILY.  The 300 + leaflets that were delivered and handed out must have soon found their way to the bin. 

The one family that did turn up came through an invitation to twenty or so parents / carers at Twinkling Stars Toddler Group.  No one came from the leaflet drop. 

The following week at Twinkling Stars, I thanked the lady for turning up with her family.  She said she had really enjoyed it, which was great to hear.  We chatted about the weather on the day, the food, the craft her daughter enjoyed, and then she said something that got me thinking ...

She said ...'It must have been really disheartening for you that no-one else came from Twinkling Stars?'

For a short time I was unable to answer.  I had to process what had been said, and my reaction to it.

You see, I could have followed her lead down the road to disappointment and disheartenment, and wallowed in self-pity at all the work I had put in, and the lack of response and commitment to it.

But - nothing could be further than the truth. 

Because, the simple fact of the matter was that it had been GREAT to see that one family there.  Sure, it would have been nice to see a few others at The Big Lunch, but I experienced just as much joy and encouragement to see the one, than I think I would have done to see the crowds.

As I shared this thought with the lady, I could sense that she was genuinely touched that I felt that way.  She did matter.  She did make a difference.  And her attendance at the Big Lunch had made my day.

Sadly, I think society can often make us feel invisible and insignificant.  We can feel as though we blend into a bigger and brighter background; that our individual colour doesn't really show amongst the vibrancy of colours on the palette. 

But, this isn't how Jesus views us.  He sees and celebrates our individuality.  We matter to him.  He loves us!

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’  (Luke 15:3-6)

Jesus cares about the one lost sheep so much so that he leaves the other sheep to search for it.  If that individual sheep didn't matter, he wouldn't have left the others to find it.

Although this verse speaks about how we have all been 'lost' - wandering around on our own without God - it also demonstrates the importance placed on our lives as individuals.  We are each loved by God.  We are not insignificant and we do not blend into the background. 

We all need reminding of this at times. 

If you are feeling 'lost' - then know that there is a God who loves you and is looking for you right now.  

If you are feeling lonely - know that there is a God who has promised never to leave you.

And if you are feeling insignificant - know that God loved you so much that he sent his Son to die for you!

We should never just feel part of the crowd - and we should never see others that way either.  We must always remember how important people are to God, and treat them accordingly.  We should love as we are loved.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The one with the old Hard-Drive

A few months ago the unthinkable happened and I was forced to re-think a lot of the way I do life.  Yes, it really was that drastic and the event's aftermath took me by surprise just as much as the event itself.

You see, one afternoon in April, I sat down at my laptop to prepare a talk for the following week at Youth, and as I checked out the relevance of a particular youtube clip - it happened.  At first I thought it was just a glitch, but time and effort proved otherwise.  My Mac hard drive had died.

Now, of course, all sensible people keep back-ups of all data don't they?   But I have never been that sensible!  Everything was lost;  itunes library, documents, photos - the lot.  A small part of my life had gone!

Originally I thought that I could live without all the information.  I would simply purchase a new hard drive and start to build the data up again - and this time I would back everything up.  However, as time passed I realised just how much had been lost on the original hard drive that I would really appreciate having back.

So, the broken hard drive was shipped off to the experts to rebuild and recover the lost data.  Several weeks and a lot of money later, almost all of the contents of my old hard drive returned.  As I browsed the files, I felt comforted that my life would shortly be restored.  All was about to return to how it had once been.

And so it began; file after file copied across.  I originally thought that this would be a quick and simple process.  I was wrong!  It would take a lot longer than I expected.  I had accumulated a lot of data in the short time I had had my Mac.

As the old files transferred, I had to find each one a new home on the new hard drive.  This process was not only time consuming but it also highlighted the amount of files that I had kept that I no longer really needed.  Sure, a lot of them were useful, and I would maybe open them again in the future - but some of them - well - were quite literally a waste of space!  And there I had sat, transferring them across to my new hard drive.

Why?  I paused the file transfers, made myself a cup of tea, and thought about the complete file transfer, and as I did, I realised a couple of things:

Firstly, it was far easier to copy everything across.  I didn't have to click on all files individually, but could save a lot of time and effort by transferring a complete folder.

Secondly, although a lot of the files being transferred were old, and would probably never be opened again - there was a certain amount of comfort in knowing all my past work and effort would be there - just in case. 

So, ease and comfort led the way, and I continued with the file transfers.  That is, until I began to see how quickly the new hard drive was filling up.  I hadn't realised quite how much I had on my old drive!  If I copied everything across, the new hard drive wouldn't be much use in the future.  Not unless the purpose of it was simply to store the same as it always had.

I wonder how much of our life today is simply a store for the past?  Do we save so much that we leave very little room for new experiences, attitudes, thoughts, dreams, hopes?

Do we hold on to the things in our lives that may have been useful once, but now serve no purpose?

Do we continue to store incomplete or corrupt files, that will not only take up 'space' in our lives, but may also have a negative effect on our future development?

Do we wake up each morning and pick up everything from the day, week, month, year before, simply because it has become a habit and is easier than focusing on new things?

Do we cling on to the past, because it has become a comfort for us - disappointments, rubbish and all?

Of course, some of our past is still important, and can have a positive influence on our future.  But what of the parts of our life that stop us moving forward?  God says - 'See I am doing a new thing!'  (Isaiah 43:19) God doesn't want us to dwell on our past.  He wants us to move forward.  He wants to do a new thing in our lives.  He wants to make a new way for us, not go over old ground.

I want God to be doing new things in my life.  I want to see him move in new and exciting ways.  I know I need to let go of some of my 'ease and comfort' of the past to allow room for the new.  This will take effort, and may even be a little uncomfortable at times, but it is the right thing to do.  I don't want to keep going over the same things.  I don't want to become stale.  I want to move forward into the new things God has in store for me.

What about you?

Are you ready for new things in your life - or are you going to continue to transfer all your old files over because of ease and comfort?  Is this really what you want?

Can I encourage you to join me in the new?!  Let's have a closer look at our file transfers and see what needs deleting.  Get excited, let go of the old, and see what God will do!

'Forget about what's happened;
   don't keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new.
   It's bursting out! Don't you see it?
There it is! I'm making a road through the desert,
   rivers in the badlands.'  
Isaiah 43:18-19 (The Message)

Bring it on!!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The one with the THUD

All was quiet in the Royal Household - I had just poured milk into my tea in the kitchen and the boys were watching television in the lounge.  It was a peaceful afternoon.  Then - THUD!!  In a panic I put my tea down on the kitchen worktop and ran (well - walked briskly!) into the lounge to check the boys were ok.  Although they had come away from their usual spot on the sofa and were now standing looking a little confused in the middle of the lounge - they both seemed fine.  In fact, nothing seemed to be amiss at all.

Confused, I began to interrogate the boys:

'What was that bang?'
'What did you just do?'
'What have you touched?'

Their response?


I believed them, and yet, I knew the THUD must have been caused by something!!

After a short conversation with the boys, they said that the THUD had come from the dining room, and that something may have hit the window.  A reasonable suggestion I thought, but I couldn't see any evidence on the ground that would suggest something had been thrown at the window.

Ah well, I returned to my cup of tea that I had left in the kitchen and my mind drifted to other things and the THUD incident was soon forgotten.

That is, until the following afternoon, when something caught my eye as I walked past the window in the dining room.  The sun shone through the glass, and as it did, it revealed a blurry mark on the window that hadn't been there before.  I turned to look at it, and suddenly the cause of yesterday's THUD became clear ...

The THUD had been the result of a bird flying into the window!  It all fell into place; the mystery solved.  The bird had flown into the window, and although it had flown away again, it had left his mark.

I wonder what 'mark' we leave?  We may think that our involvement and presence has no lasting impact.  However, just as the scent of perfume may linger in the room when its wearer leaves, so our example, our behaviour, our character, our words, our actions, may all have an influence on people and situations when we are gone.

Do we leave a 'good' mark?  Do we live our lives in such a way that leaves people with a positive 'aroma' of who we are and what we believe in?  Or do we leave an unpleasant stench, which upon our departure forces people to open the window to invite the fresh air in?

As Christians, we are to demonstrate the love of Christ in all we do and say?  Do our words and actions convey the fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control?  (Galatians 5:22-23 in TNIV)

Are we living God's way? 

'But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (Galatians 5:22-23 - The Message)

Even though the bird only made contact with my window for a very short time, it left its mark.

Don't underestimate the impact you have on people and circumstances.  You can make a difference - make every effort to make your 'mark' a good one.
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