A Person not a Project…

Job 19.22: “Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?” Job seems to be saying that his”friends” seem to be taking an almost perverse delight in his suffering rather than caring. His actual and obvious suffering is not enough for them. They are drilling into his inner being and won’t be satisfied until they expose his inner condition. They are making Job and his suffering their ministry project.

I was thinking today of someone who used to come around one of the churches I pastored. i still have contact with them from time to time, but they no longer attend that church anymore. The reason they gave for leaving? “I felt I had become a project.”

I think, sadly, with regard to the way some at least treated that person, that was so …

People who have suffered greatly are quick to see whether they are being treated as a person or a project. They may stick around for a while, but ultimately they will not stay in company whether they are treated like that. When they leave it may be a good sign: “I matter.” Spiritual gifts, programmes for inner healing mean damage when there is no love.

God bless


Why have you put that boundary there…?

Jesus, God in the flesh, was approachable. Sinners sought Him out. Mothers brought their children to Him to be blessed. He was angered at the very idea they should be kept from contact with Him. Spirituality and Approachability are linked, I think.

I used to hate it when well meaning people at conferences used to stop people approaching me after I had spoken, or when I was hived off to some secret room. I know it was to protect me, it was well meant, but… 

Anyway, don’t over protect your space. Take time apart for sure, as did Jesus, your health and well-being matter, but remember that approachability and hospitality – making time for others in your time and space for others in your space – is part of being like Jesus. Spirituality is proved in how we are with “what” or “who” we perhaps are too quick to dismiss as interruptions, distractions to the really important matters of our life in the Spirit or our terribly vital calling.

After learning from my mistakes over the decades, I would say that boundaries are good in life and ministry as a full time parish minister in the traditional sense. But remember, if you are involved in full time ministry of some sort, barriers need to be there for two positive purposes: for your wellbeing, and to enable healthy and sustainable availability to others. They should not be put in place with the purpose and intention of putting a series of hurdles in the road of people coming to you.

I have known people in ministry who make boundary setting a bit of a professional obsession. When that happens “Keep away, I am far too busy with more important matters than you!” becomes the main unspoken message of your ministry that people will speak plenty about for sure, much more than the sermon you spend hours praying over and diligently preparing. The pendulum does so often swing too far in one direction or another.

God bless


Then and Now…

I am waiting for the day when “Then” will become “Now.”

The following words from 1st. Corinthians Chapter 15 have meant so much to me lately in the loss of my Mum. . Maybe you have lately buried a huge part of your heart as a loved one died and their remains were sown into the earth like precious seed. From that seed sown in tears something magnificent and imperishable will grow thanks to the one who drew the sting of death on our behalf on the cross. If you shared the hope of Christ together, hold on to these magnificent words….

“For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection from the dead…”

“…what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel…what is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory…”

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality, THEN shall come to pass the saying that is written:

Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ…”

Why not take time and listen on Youtube to someone singing, “I know that my Redeemer liveth” from Handel’s Messiah. The day when “Then” becomes “Now” will come…. be sure of it. May it help you out of mourning, into comfort and even into joy…

God Bless


“Come in! Come in! It’s nice to see you? How’s yourself…?”

In times past when I was speaking in different places and different countries more than is the case now in days of enforced truncated ministry, there was an experience I away found difficult…staying in bedrooms where no place had been made for me to unpack my stuff! It was a temporary situation, so I managed, but to find not a single drawer where I could unpack my clothes etc., somehow affected me. In fact, I am not so sure I ministered as well or as freely when and where that was my experience.

I think the effect upon me whether intentional or the result of thoughtlessness and lack of any gifting of hospitality in the so called hosts, was that I heard a message: “You don’t really belong here with us.”

After Morag and I shared a meal with a wonderful prison chaplain last night, I found myself thinking as I dropped off to sleep that the need to feel we are welcome, that we belong, that there is a place I can unpack my stuff, is very deep, very basic. It is of course part of the gospel that Jesus invites us into His living space and makes room for us; He wants us to know that the love of the Father for Him is a living space we can share in. There is more than enough room there for us. Whether the luggage we arrive with is helpful or not, there is room for it in the Father’s love. In that love we find that some of what is in the suitcases is never going to be needed again. Nurtured with the food of divine love, we outgrow what once seemed to fit us. It no longer looks right on us, feels right. It is no longer needed, but we are welcome to bring it all when we come through the door, until that realisation is birthed in unexpected joy unspeakable and full of glory as irrefutable living truth.

God makes room for us in Himself. Hospitality is a gift that comes from His own nature. 

There are many differing thoughts about Church, Mission, etc floating around today. Reflecting the Hospitable heart of God may be a a very simple key. Would people feel after spending any time with me, any time speaking to me, that a place to belong, a space to unpack is being offered?

When I was unable to do very much at all ministry wise, indeed when I thought I might never preach again, God seemed to show me a Kingdom vision for how to live my life. He wanted me to be like a Kingdom of God tree in whose shade birds of the air could find refuge and build nests! I hope I hold on to that calling of being and offering a welcoming safe space, now that by God’s grace, I am speaking again on an occasional basis. It worked without words for a long while. My prayer is it will work with words now, that what I say will not mask the simplicity of the Hospitable Christ.

A warm memory from my childhood when T.V. used to be more about entertaining before it became a vehicle for one single issue politically correct cause after another, Andy Stuart used to invite us all into “The White Heather Club” by singing with a cheerful voice and a smiling face, “Come in! Come in! It’s nice to see you! How’s yourself? ” Thousands of us believed that invitation, and waited for it with joy each week! We could do worse than learning from that.

God bless


“Sorry, I’ll need to cancel…”

Over the last wee while, bereavement has led to me having to cancel one or two arrangements I had made with people. There were just some situations which I knew I could not handle this early on after my Mum’s death. I felt bad doing that, because I think that keeping our word is a good sign of where we are with the Lord, and breaking it for any reason should never feel like an easy thing to do even if it is done for unavoidable reasons that anybody would understand. In Psalm 15 the questions is posed, “O Lord…who shall dwell in your holy hill?” One of the many characteristics we are then told about the person who does indeed dwell in closeness to the Lord is this: they swear to their own hurt and do not change (Verse 4). In everyday, simple terms, it is good to be people who keep our word even when it is not easy and may indeed cost us a lot to do so. That is part of living in fellowship with the Lord.

Perhaps you will face a choice today: you have made a promise to someone, but something else comes up that you really want to do, or the opportunity for some advantage is offered to you that others might say you would be a fool to miss out on, or the possibility is presented of spending time with someone you really want to spend time with. What will you do? Will you keep your word, even though it is going to cost you something to do so? 

Of course in a world such as ours, in the frailty of being human, there will be times when we cannot keep our word. That is very different from not keeping our word because despite being free and able to do so we decide not to, for one reason or another. Whatever the reason, not keeping our word puts a spiritual sense of distance between ourselves and the Lord as well as probably hurting or disappointing the other person involved, who despite perhaps graciously assuring you it is “OK” will probably feel devalued. Keeping our word at cost shows we are getting to know the One who keeps His Word to His own hurt.

This is not moralism. This is about knowing who God is and learning to walk as His chosen child, holding His hand…

If you were thinking about phoning someone today to say, “I’m sorry, but I will need to cancel…,” maybe just maybe you should think again…

God bless