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Footprints in the Sand

Photo: Kirsty Andrews

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, sometimes three or four or a dozen. Sometimes there were rabbit footprints. At other times there was only one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord, ‘You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?’

The Lord replied, ‘My precious child, I love you, but you are as thick as a long-forgotten glass of milk in a teenager’s bedroom. First of all, why are you getting your ideas about me from syrupy inspirational poetry instead of the bible? I’m not some cute guy you walk on the beach with. I’m spirit. My life is in you. How could I leave you?

‘So what about the footprints, God? If they aren’t yours, whose are they?’

‘They are the footprints of your family and friends — the people on the journey with you.’

This really bothered me, and I said to the Lord, ‘Dear Lord, why did you curse me with terrible friends that would abandon me as soon as trouble came my way?’

‘My dear child,’ said the Lord, ‘are you having me on?’ Then the Lord laughed heartily, for he is God and he knows all things

‘It is true that some of your friends deserted you because of their fickleness. But the reason that many of your companions left is that you pushed them away. You became offended and did not try to restore the relationships. You were afraid that people would judge you for your struggles, so you did not share them. When you failed, you ran and you hid behind sand dunes and piles of driftwood.

I admitted to the Lord that many times I had run away and I had hidden from those who could have helped me. ‘But Lord, I don’t remember any sand dunes or piles of driftwood.

The Lord replied, ‘Just go with the metaphor.’

‘Okay, Lord. I don’t want to hide behind the metaphorical driftwood of my dream. What should I do when times get hard again?’

‘Remember, my child, that you are not alone. You are part of my glorious beach party.’

‘What?’ I said, ‘You are pushing this whole beach-as-a-metaphor-for-my-life pretty hard, Lord.’

‘My beloved cranky and impatient child, I’m just trying to work with your dream here. When times are hard, don’t wander off down the beach in the dark. Stay by the fire and have a chat. Do you understand?’

‘Yes, Lord. I see now that this life following you is not meant to be lived alone. I have only one more question. Why were there rabbit footprints in the sand alongside mine?’

As I began to wake from my dream I heard God call to me as if over his shoulder. He said, ‘It is because you are really weird.’

23 January 2011
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In which Larry Shallenberger hits one nail very firmly on its head

In recent years the church has gotten better at helping its members identify it’s strengths. We help them find their gifts and passions, but we do this with a self-serving motivation: We want to know how people can fill volunteer slots in our churches. The unspoken value is the highest dream God ever places in the heart of a person it to be a church volunteer. The other unspoken value is that the church is the non-profit [organisation] that meets on Sundays.

What if the church decided that it’s job was to help its people find their gifts, talents, and ambitions. But what if we didn’t try to edit those ambitions? One person would start serving homeless people and a second would start working on her novel. One might serve the children’s ministry while another would volunteer to tutor in an after school program. What if we trusted God to give people the right ambitions? I think Don [Miller] is hitting on something important when he told the audience, “there is no category for you.”

A to the big fat men!

Read the whole post.

1 October 2010
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A modern Pentecost

I wanted help my class of 10-13 year-olds to feel like they were a bit more inside the story of the beginning of the church, so I rewrote Acts 2, setting it in the present in the town where our church meets on Sundays.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together at Ysgol John Bright. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole room where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Llandudno holiday-makers from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking from North Wales? You can tell by their accents. Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Scousers, Mancunians and French…

Keep reading
18 July 2010
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Have you heard of this whole non-violence thing?

Guys! Guys! There’s this guy called Leo Tolstoy and he’s written a book* about Jesus and non-violence and resisting evil. Apparently it’s a huge influence on these other guys called Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Anyway, it’s like a Christian anarchist thing, and it’s a bit dodgy in some places, but also super-good. Also, there’s this theologian guy called Walter Wink. He’s written a book too.** It’s called The Powers That Be, and it’s got this whole thing in it about The Myth of Redemptive Violence that says good must use violence to defeat evil. He thinks that’s totally the opposite of Jesus, and I think he’s right or whatever, but the implications of that are like, whoa! So that’s the latest from me, Jeff Gill, your source for everything on the bleeding edge of the zeitgeist.

*in 1894
**in 1999

17 June 2010
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I love the way the bible combines bright-eyed idealism with clear-eyed realism

Deuteronomy 15:1-11, TNIV At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to another Israelite. They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people, because the LORD’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt one of your people owes you. However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. For the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you. If anyone is poor among your people in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: ‘The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,’ so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your people and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward those of your people who are poor and needy in your land.

10 June 2010
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Things that are hard to do while carrying a cross

14 May 2010
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In which I get all devotional with my bad self

I woke up this morning with Break It Down Again by Tears for Fears playing in my head.

Not a bad way to wake up at all. One particular lyric stuck in my mind:

And all the love
And all the love in the world
Can’t stop the rain from falling

My next thought was from Jesus’s sermon on the mount:

[Your Father in heaven] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

These two thoughts rushed together. All the human love in the world — it’s a nearly infinite amount — is nothing compared to God’s basic care for humanity: sunshine and rain. God’s love for us is utterly unfathomably great. No wonder the apostle Paul prays that we would be strengthened so that we could begin to understand it for ourselves.

13 May 2010
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Paul Mayers posted this parable over at Deep Church. I am reposting it here with his kind permission because it is brilliant and I want it to launch me back into writing more about abundance culture.

I can almost hear Jesus saying…

‘A man and women walk into starbucks, pay £8 to sip their skinny latte and chi tea. They leave feeling less thirsty and more virtuous having discussed their spiritual journeys and resolve that in this space they can be truly free. Before parting they agree to meet back there at the same time next week where they will this time discuss how to resolve world hunger over a chocolate muffin and a piece of blueberry cheesecake. Who do you think is richer for this experience, the economy of God or the economy of the market?’

At once Peter spoke up, ‘Guru, you have made me think that if we offer free muffins and better coffee we will be able to attract more followers, for as you have said men and women need more than just Dunkin Donuts alone.’

‘No, no,’ said Judas, who managed the on-line bank account and charitable donations, ‘We should buy shares in this starbucks. It would seem its business model is most profitable.’

The disciples began to bicker amongst themselves, one saying for the coffee plan and another for the investments, still a third argued that they should set up their own coffee shop chain and a fourth that maybe it would be better and edgier to run a pub or a tattoo parlour. Each one saying that their idea was more radical and counter cultral than the last.

Finally Jesus spoke again, ‘Oh you and your consumer ways! Do you not realise that you seek to take on the forms of this world rather than embody the values of my Father? For it is not about the coffee blend or the pastries that you consume but rather what it is that consumes you and gives your identity. Broad is the market and many who find it easy to be sold their identity from amongst its counter cultural niches. Morons! You are being consumer sheep not radical rebels. But I tell you, narrow is the way of true self formation, denying your right to your rights and instead following me.’

The disciples wondered at his words as they entered into the McDonald’s drive through…

21 March 2010
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Greg is at it again

In the book I’m now working on (Jesus Versus Jehovah?) I’m offering an alternative interpretation. Over and against their polytheistic ancient Near Eastern neighbors, ancient Jews emphasized that there is one sovereign Lord over all creation who rules all of history. They thus tended to view God as a supreme ancient Near Eastern monarch king who had ultimate authority over all subordinate angelic and earthly rulers. As a good monarch king, Yahweh takes responsibility (though not moral culpability) for all that transpires within his “court” (the world), including events he himself abhors.

I’m not very widely read, but I know that a number of people have written books to address the apparent contradiction of the violent, angry God of the Old Testament compared to Jesus in the New Testament. It may just be that I am a fan, but I think that the book Greg Boyd is working on now could turn out to be one of the more important Christian books. The way we understand God and God’s character has massive implications for the way that we relate to the world and the gospel that we share. This book might even revolutionise our understanding of God’s ways and God’s plan. Greg is an excellent teacher with the ability to help us ordinary folks understand complex ideas without our brains hurting.

Unfortunately, the book isn’t done yet, so for now, go read the whole article

19 March 2010
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Look at me being a stereotypical children's pastor!

In my new ‘office’.

16 March 2010
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