Friday, 26 March 2010

Six Degrees of Separation

Never mind six degrees, today I sat one degree, five feet to be precise, away from the greatest Englishman in modern history!
Just another Friday afternoon, & I sat in Caffe Nero reading John Crowder & sorting out my diary, when in walks the Rt Hon Nicholas Soames MP, grandson of Sir Winston Churchill. Here is a man who immediately draws attention to himself, not in an ego-centric way, he just has presence, & plenty of it.

Taking a seat at the ajoining table, I watched him lower his considerable frame into a chair which was never designed to have such greatness descend upon it. It was like trying to balance a grand piano on the quivering head of a matchstick.

I attempted to mind my own business & get into my book, but every so often I was picked up & dropped into the pages of history. His voice, which travelled rather well across the tables, carries echoes of all those speeches that were first heard across crackling wireless sets. So caught up was I in the moment that even an insipid comment about local building regulations beckoned me to stand & fight them on the beaches.

Then each time I glanced up, there was the profile - The jaw line, those famous bulldog jowls, the hairline, the broad proud shoulders somewhat rounded by the weight of world events.

Mr Soames of course is not his Grandfather. He is not perhaps touched with greatness, or maybe he has not been given the opportunity of a dire hour in which to discover it. He is nonetheless a good constituency MP who, if his comments today are anything to go by, seems genuine in his concern for those he represents.

Surely though, he must be fed up of wide eyed history buffs like me watching him in the manner of a slack jawed stalker. Try though I did, I couldn't stop myself. Here is a man who must have sat on Churchills knee, who heard first hand the stories of one of the last ever cavalry charges in the Boer war. Here was a man who played on holiday beaches with the leader who was ready to fight upon them. Here was a man who just mourned his Grandad whilst the rest of the nation filed passed at a state funeral.
Today I salute Mr Soames & his Grandad, though I will of course vote for neither of them come May!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Long hot summer of cynicism!

It happens every year around the time the clocks go forward. As the daffodils lift their heads, up step the fantasy forecasters & we desperately want to believe them. Here we go again, this morning I read the first headline of the spring to herald a long hot summer in 2010.

The experts who were so narrowly wrong last summer (oh did you miss it?), the same experts who told us we would save on the heating bills through this mild, warm winter - they have dared to come out to play again! I quote, 'a summer of unbroken sunshine & record breaking temperatures, perfect BBQ weather, the best since 1976....'

I know their predictions are about as reliable as the human rights entry on Google China - But I can't help myself, I already feel hope of a suntan stirring in spite of a Met Office reputation for missing the target that rivals the unused directors cut footage from the new Robin Hood movie.

Our problem is that we are just too cynical. We congratulate ourselves over this national characteristic, we see it as a positive to always find the negative. We've moved beyond the simple, naive acceptance of earlier generations, we're the conspiracy generation, we don't believe the lies they feed us, & we should know, the powers that be have fed us enough rubbish!
I'm all for a robust questioning attitude, but cynicism is a dangerous poison. It hardens in us a natural critical response, it undermines our trust of authority, it produces a weary sideways view of the world which always expects the sky to fall in.

Imagine that we lived in an alternative Trumanesque world of sunday school innocence. A world where you say what you see, to quote Jim Bowen of Bullseye fame. A world where I am now busy cancelling my exotic foreign holiday in order to book a camping trip to mediterranean Cornwall on the strength of the Met Office predictions.
Imagine a world where WMD really did exist & the war on terror made sense after all. A world where the headline 'Peter Mandelson Spin' refers to a jocular radio two show. A world where Princess Di really is still alive, living in a mobile home in Skelmersdale with Elvis & riding Shergar to the corner shop each day to buy her copy of the Daily Mail. A world where Rio leads the triumphant England team up the steps to lift the World Cup in Johannesburg........
.....oh that's really too absurd. I'll be in the pub in July wearing my coat, watching us lose on penalities in the 1/4 final to some lank haired lantino types whilst it belts down with rain outside. Here's to a long hot summer of cynicism!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Does God really want to heal us?

We're learning a lot about healing. In the nitty gritty of ordinary life we are never short of opportunities if we are prepared to step out of our comfort zone & have a go.

Tonight we have a Healing Meeting. The specific naming of this gathering indicates what we hope the fruit will be - yet we remain locked in our experience (or lack of experience) when it comes to seeing the sick healed.

I've seen some incredible breakthroughs over the years, a terminal brain tumour disappearing, a 9lb growth in the womb shrinking to nothing in a week, a deaf ear opening to name a few. However, these high water mark moments of power breakthrough have been punctuated by far longer periods of powerlessness.

Much more frequent have been the times where I've prayed & nothing has happened. Or, if I'm being honest, I've even avoided praying at all. I really have been one of those wavering disciples of whom Jesus despaired, 'You have so little faith, how much longer must I be burdened with you!'

Not turning up tonight is not an option! So what do we do? Here are some thoughts that I may share this evening which help me & may even help you. I'm sure they're not all my own but have accumulated from my shameless devouring of other peoples wisdom on the subject. (And that is no bad thing)

I remain convinced that God wants to heal us. The only time someone doesn't get healed in the gospels is when the disciples are involved (Mark 9). Even here, Jesus comes down the hill to the rescue. If the scriptures show us a Saviour who always heals then we can't afford to lower the standard of the word to our level of inexperience, just because it makes us feel uncomfortable. We can't afford to create doctrines that simply aren't there in the life of Jesus - ideas that He may not want to heal, or that He doesn't really do this stuff today - it's not there in the bible stories I read, whereas the truth that He is ready to heal is staring us in the face!

Obviously, this raises far bigger questions, even if we are convinced that He wants to heal. What happens when it doesn't happen?

Well, it's not God's fault - there is no problem with God, He's not lacking in His power or compassion for the sick. Nor is it necessarily a problem with the sick person. Heaping the blame on them is never going to help, even though there are times when we do need to ask questions about lifestyle, forgiveness, repentance.

I've gone beyond taking it personally too. It's not down to me, dependent only on my great faith if someone is made well. No! We are bringing them to Jesus, He is the one who heals.

So, it looks like I'm saying that it's no-ones fault if no-one gets healed, that's a classic hedge your bets approach that should ensure no harm done & we all go home wishing we hadn't bothered! What I'm trying to say is that there are just bigger issues at stake than my faith, or even the faith of the sick person, this is only one element in the process. Bill Johnson puts it wisely when he says, 'Just learn to do your best, to be faithful to His gospel, & to honour Him for the results.'

We're learning to take some risks & we're taking on occasions like tonight because we want to evolve into the kind of ordinary people who live extraordinary lives at any time. So, we start at least from the firm foundation that God loves us & He does want to heal us. From thereonin, we're into the realms of uncharted territory!