'For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord….'

Archive for November, 2009

For busy pastors…

Let’s face it.  However you’ve scheduled your busy life (especially if you are bi-vocational like me), you gotta give time to reading the paper.  It’s called staying ‘culturally abreast’ of things, and it’s very important.

The last thing you want to be is an ill-informed but well-meaning chap.  Why not be informed alongside well-meaning?  Easy.  Read ‘The Week’.  No, I’m not being sponsored to give their readership some added profile……..I’m just saying what works for me.

Some years back whilst doing NF Leadership Training we had a lecturer (who shall remain nameless) who unfolded the machinations of his weekly schedule to us.  As a full-time (hate that phrase – we’re all full time!) pastor/elder, he used the practice of dividing his week up into 21 sessions (3 per day – morning, afternoon & evening).

He figured that ‘working’ in more than 14 of these sessions was tantamount to ‘pushing it’ in terms of your health (let alone your marriage, family etc!), and also that some of this time should be given over to ‘cultural study’.  This ‘sessions’ idea…..well, that’s a whole new blog post I shall tackle sometime soon.

But the beauty of this publication is that it dips into the entire spectrum of news reporting (all the broadsheets & red tops rolled into one), thus granting you a flavour of opinion (politcal or otherwise).  It simultaneously keeps you entertained and up to date when thinking about relevant touchpoints in the culture around you (vital for preaching!).  The best way to buy it is online, which means you get a hard copy through the post AND the facility to read it online.  Perfect.

For busy pastor types

Of course, if you are bi-vocational, far from thinking it would be easier to imbibe the realities of life ongoing, it’s actually even more important to set aside time for such an exercise.  We are probably (don’t shoot me!) busier than our fellow elders who enjoy the privilege of operating all week for their churches, and we are therefore potentially more susceptible to dropping the ball when it comes to staying up with it.

Excuse me while I just put the kettle on………… I’ve got some reading to do!


Things my Dad taught me…

I really enjoyed Amy Loizides post on ‘things her dad taught her’, so thought I’d do the same.  Difference between my scenario and hers is that it took me till about my mid-30’s to finally appreciate what my Dad taught me. Doh!  Also, her Dad (Lex – here’s his blog) is only about 3 years older than me……so that’s a bit weird!

Dad and I, circa 1970

Anyway, we (Amy & I) were chatting the other day and we agreed that there’s not enough parent-honouring going on these days.  My Dad has taught me a lot of things, so here are a few (not in any particular order)…….some profound, some practical, but all shaping and significant:

Dad, you taught me….

The value of money – it wasn’t thrown at me as a kid, and I had to earn some of it.  Dont get me wrong, Dad is incredibly generous with cash, but this helped me appreciate that hard work has its rewards.  There were caveats too.  ‘The more you have of it, the more problems you’ll have’  I seem to remember him saying.  Having a great attitude to cash (ie. it not being your God) is the way to go.  You can’t serve both God and money!  It’s true.

The importance of respect – if you learn this one early on, you will ‘earn favour with God AND man’.  True also.  As a youngster, just watching how Dad accepted folk for who they were spoke volumes.  Reminds me of someone else!

To hit a nail straight – there’s a knack to this!  When I was a kid, I proclaimed to my parents that I would be ‘getting a man in’ to do the DIY.  How wrong I was!  (although Dad, you have been that man a lot!).  I’ve hit a load of nails since then, and technique is king.  Hitting them squarely isn’t enough.  You have to strike with a slight push, and be ready to adjust mid-swing for a really true connection.  Geek!

Who Jesus is – quite important this one!  Modelling a life that follows the God-Man is what Dad has done.  Not perfectly, but very well.  The good-news-made-flesh is our model, and watching Dad live his life in response to the God-Man’s commitment to him is tremendously releasing and encouraging.

How to love my wife – the best form of security a child can wish for is to be raised in a secure context of married parents that visibly love each other.  Hard work?  You bet.  But seeing how my Dad has led our family, loving mum and meeting her needs, has been unquestionably shaping for me.  Great job!

How to make wise choices – made a good number of dumb one’s over the years.  Even after hearing priceless advice, it’s no guarantee against making poor choices.  Always look at a scenario from different angles, work through the implications, make a decision.

To listen twice as much as I speak – God gave me two ears and one mouth, so he must have meant something by that!  I’m still learning this one, but appreciating the value of healthy communication on all sorts of levels.

To just whistle when annoyed – Dad always whistles when he’s a bit frustrated!  I found myself doing this recently too………chip off the old block!

Dad, thanks for all those things.  I’m beginning to appreciate you and them at last!

David, a man flawed…

In 1501, 25 year old Michelangelo began working on his colossal masterpiece, the 17 foot tall marble ‘David’.  From a huge block of marble that had been abandoned decades earlier by another sculptor, Michelangelo took on the challenge of David, portrayed in the Bible as the young shepherd boy who slew the giant Goliath, and went on to become the valiant, just and God-appointed Hebrew King.

Michaelangelo's David

Michelangelo's David

Michelangelo was painter, sculptor, and architect.  In his era, all three forms of art were thought to be based on an artistic discipline built on knowledge of the male human form.  Sculpture was considered the finest of art forms, because it mimics divine creation; the sculptural image found within the block of stone, much as the human soul is found within the physical body.

The ‘David’ is considered a masterpiece, an ideal male form combining heroic strength and human uncertainty.  It was erected in 1504 in the public plaza of Florence, the Piazza della Signoria.

All a bit high brow, granted.  But the story of how Michelangelo sourced the block of marble is fascinating.  As an up and coming sculptor, renowned for remarkable skill, the quarry owners were falling over themselves to supply him with the purest marble block for the commissioned project.

But the artist was looking for something special, something that really did suggest human soul and human uncertainty.  A pure white block was not what he wanted, but he set about seeking a block that was flawed in some way, cast aside and abandoned, deemed unfit purpose.

And this is what he did.  He sourced a block that has been cut decades before but never used because of its percieved low quality.  But Michelangelo’s understanding of the bible David (his triumphs & failures) had to be represented in the sculpture.  The block was flawed.  It had numerous discolourations and was far from pure.  Just like the man David, just as Michelangelo saw him, magnificent yet flawed.  A noble ruin.

I have no idea of where Michelangelo’s understanding of the gospel or bible truth lay, but when you hear a story like that, it’s gets you chomping at the bit to include it in a preach!  It’s possible that he came to understand David (from boy to King) as he studied his character and life in preparation to sculpt him.  Seeing him in his triumphs and failures, under the hand of God’s mercy and favour, perhaps caused the artist to think.

Michaelangelo, self-portrait

Michelangelo, self-portrait

Here’s the deal.  We are image bearers of creator God (noble, and very good), yet fallen in rebellion (ruin).  David was a great leader, example and King, yet ruined by error (ie. adultery & murder).  Not much hope, eh?

But Jesus came to put right every flaw, every error, all that ever ruined us.  He was flawed for us, took them upon himself, that we might regain nobility.  Perhaps Michelangelo knew this and put real soul and uncertainty into his David for that very reason.