Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Two Movies

The Golden Compass has just been released, a movie version of the first of Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy. There's a helpful article here on how Christians should respond to a children's fairy tale with atheist undercurrents...

But my main reason for blogging is August Rush - which is simply brilliant! It moved me in a way that movies haven't for a long time. The central line goes something like, "God gave us music to remind us that we're not on our own". Without being able to exactly quantify the film's message, I left the cinema feeling that my soul had been nourished. A beautiful, beautiful movie. Go, see.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Follow the Star

I thought I'd let you know that the Aldersgate Prayer Room is open 24-7 for two weeks (Mon-Fri) starting today. You can sign up for an hour or more at www.irishmethodist.org/fromourknees

The theme is 'Follow the Star', a exploration of the nativity story. Make some time for your soul this Advent!

Monday, 5 November 2007

Proud to be a Jesus-loving loser-head

Back from another fantastic Autumn Soul! Young people encountering God, encouraged to pray, to serve, to love. All good.

The speaker, Paul Flavel, was listening to God. He hit a lot of targets, real things that real teenagers are going through. One of his comments caught my attention - about going back to school and being called a 'Jesus loving... loser-head'. It brought it all back to me! I remember walking down the school corridor, aged about 13, being pushed about a bit and being called something similar. It upset me hugely.

But there is a certain reality to those words - first, I was and am a Jesus-lover. And I'm not ashamed to be so. Second, when I was in school (and let's face it, today) I was a geek, not cool, and a loser in the "World's" eyes. And that's fine with me too - I'm counting it all as dog poo for the sake of knowing Jesus.

So today I'm forgiving the guy who said it (he's probably a lovely chap with beautiful children now) and praying for the people at Autumn Soul who today go back to school and are called to be Jesus-loving loser-heads.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Petition for Burma

You'll see below a message about signing a petition in support of the Burmese peaceful uprising. About ten years ago I was involved in a Methodist young people's campaign for Burma, which got me interested in the plight of the country.

In 1990 the military junta held elections, overwhelmingly lost, but decided to hold on to power and put the lady who should be Prime Minister under house arrest. Two weeks ago Aung San Suu Kyi appeared in public for the first time in four years. You can read more below, or why not read the wikipedia entry on Burma? (But remember to sign the petition!)

______________________________________________________

Hi, have you heard about the crisis in Burma?

Burma is ruled by one of the worst military dictatorships in the world. Last month Buddhist monks and nuns began marching and chanting prayers to call for democracy. The protests spread and hundreds of thousands of Burmese people joined in -- but they've been brutally attacked by the military regime.

I just signed a petition calling on Burma's powerful ally China and the UN security council to step in and pressure Burma's rulers to stop the killing. The petition has exploded to over 500,000 signatures in a few days and is being advertised in newspapers around the world, delivered to the UN Security Council, and broadcast to the Burmese people by radio. We're trying to get to 1 million signatures this week, please sign below and tell everyone!

http://www.avaaz.org/en/stand_with_burma/tf.php?CLICK_TF_TRACK

Thank you so much for your help!

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Nobody knows

I had the privilege of hearing Anthony Brown sing today in College - a fine voice, a fine man. He sang "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen"; a song I first randomly encountered in a parody of Star Wars, the name of which I can't quite remember at the moment!

But there's something about the words and the simple melody that resonate with me:
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen,
Nobody knows my sorrow.
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen -
Glory Hallelujah!

I was thinking the other day that for once I can truly identify with a piece of scripture, in this case Psalm 40. It's a Psalm I've preached on, but it also struck a chord with me years before when Ian White sang his version of it.

There is no doubt that Kathryn and I have been through some hard stuff in our time, but we can truly say that God has lifted us out of it and put a hymn of praise to God in our mouths. Nobody knows the trouble we've seen - or at least very few - but God's word of hope has pulled us through. This is the message of Immanuel, God with us.

Glory Hallelujah!

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Joe and the King

I wrote this wee story for a service I preached at last Sunday. It's my first trip into story-writing so JK Rowling doesn't need to worry quite yet!

_________________________________________________________

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a young boy called Joe. Joe was an orphan, he had never met his parents or lived with them - instead he lived in a big white house with twenty other boys. Life was not easy, and he was often lonely, but he had friends in the big white house and the people looking after them were kind.

Joe spent a lot of his time in the garden at the back of the house. It was pretty in the summertime, when the flowers bloomed in dozens of colours and the Red Admiral butterflies flitter-flopped from one plant to the next. But he rarely left the grounds of the house, for outside was a scary place, a lonely place where everyone else had a family and he did not. At times Joe felt like he was missing out on something. He felt small and insignificant and feared that he would never be able to do anything that would make a difference.

One day, everyone was very excited in the big white house. Joe asked what was going on, and one of the other boys told him, "The King is coming to visit us!" "He won't want to see me," thought Joe, feeling empty inside, and he walked into the garden. Sure enough, after about an hour there was a big commotion at the front of the house. Someone was playing a fanfare on a trumpet, and there was lots of cheering. But Joe sat quietly on a big old stone in the garden. It started to get a bit chilly, and things sounded like they were quietening down on the other side of the house, so he walked slowly towards the back door, his head down, shuffling his feet on the gravel path.

And he bumped into someone! Who do you think it was?

Yes, the King himself was walking into the garden, with his servants a few steps behind. "Are you Joe?" the King asked. Joe was speechless! He looked up into the King's face and noticed that his eyes were warm and embracing. The King spoke again: "Would you mind showing me around the garden?" - his eyes sparkled as he talked. Joe suddenly felt a surge of courage and began to lead the King around the garden, pointing out the particularly beautiful flowers and the especially interesting insects.

As he spent more time in the King's company, Joe began to feel warmer. He felt taller, bigger, stronger. After all, he was talking with the King, who spoke of the many beautiful gardens in other parts of his Kingdom. When it was time to leave, the King shook hands with all the staff and boys who lived in the big white house - but when it came to Joe's turn, the King gave him a huge big warm bear hug! Joe thought, "This must be what it's like to have a Dad".

That night, as things had settled and the King was gone, Joe was still so full of excitement that he couldn't stop talking with his friends about the day that had gone before. They could see how their friend had been transformed from a shy, lonely and sometimes sad person into a strong and happy one. "I know what I want to do with my life now," said Joe, with a grin on his face. "I want to go to all the gardens of the world and tell people about my King. He's interested in who we are and what we do. Because today I met the King - I looked into his eyes and I know that I am loved."

Monday, 10 September 2007

God's Rules

We've been reading 'First Bible Stories' to Timothy and recently got to the paraphrase of Exodus 19-20: The Ten Commandments. I thought I'd post them here because they make so much sense!

God spoke to Moses, and then Moses spoke to the people: "God has given us ten rules that we are to follow. They will help us to live together," said Moses, "these are the rules...

  1. We must worship only God.
  2. Nothing is to take His place.
  3. We are not to misuse God's name.
  4. The seventh day is for rest and prayer.
  5. We must respect our mothers and fathers.
  6. We must not kill.
  7. Husbands and wives must keep their love for one another.
  8. No stealing.
  9. No lying.
  10. We must not be jealous of what belongs to other people."

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Old Patches

This blog is entitled, "Random thoughts from the Edge"... and so here is a random thought that occurred to me yesterday.

We often hear about 'new wine' - there's a festival named New Wine, I think there's a network of churches connected to it. The background is something Jesus said when asked about why his disciples didn't fast even though John the Baptist's disciples did. He says there's no need to fast when the 'bridegroom' (Jesus) is present, it's when he's gone that we'll need to fast. So far, so good.

But then come a couple of random verses about putting new patches on old cloth and new wine into old wineskins (this is in Mark 2). Just quite what this has to do with fasting is beyond me, I suppose I'll need to read a commentary or something to find that out. But normally we focus on the 'new wine' issue, generally along the lines of, "God's doing something new. We need to be careful not to force those new things/Christians into old structures/expressions of church". Fair enough. New wineskins for new wine, otherwise the wine will be spoiled.

Mark 2:21 goes, "No-one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse."

The thought that I had yesterday was: What if something's wrong with the old structures, with the old way of doing things? Is Jesus saying that, rather than trying to fix things with new ideas, we should be going back to basics, to the ancient way of doing church?

If I belong to a church that is centuries, rather than months, old - are the problems that I encounter going to be sorted by bringing in new life, or by rediscovering the old things that will fit the hole snugly? Old patches for old cloth, otherwise the cloth will be torn.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

New Laptop

Firstly, thanks to those of you who have sympathised with me over the previous post. Amazing that at least two of you still check my blog every now and again! Although here's a note to self - anything that's on the internet is, surprise surprise, public. I did a search on a phrase rattling in my head, wondering where I had heard it. Turns out it was me all along: 'Jesus-tinted spectacles' appears on the Internet only twice (three times now presumably), one of which is a post I made ages ago. Yay, I'm on Google!

Anyway, I'm tapping this short note in because we have a new laptop, hurray! But its hard drive just died, boooooooooo. Honestly, used a week and the hard drive failed, not good. But at least we hadn't put much onto it. Here's hoping the replacement will last a bit longer. And now I'm researching online backup services, to keep our photos and documents safe in case it happens again. When did you last backup?

Monday, 9 July 2007

Under the Knife

Last Thursday we were in a hospital, for a change. The difference this time was that it was for me! And now I'm going to tell you about it, because it seems to be a topic that isn't often mentioned...

Last Thursday I had a hernia operation. "What's a hernia?", I hear you ask: and well you might ask, because I had no idea before I got one. Essentially, it's where a bit of a man's intestine has found a weakness in muscle below his belly button, and makes a break for freedom. There's nothing overly dangerous about that, but it can get quite painful at times. So last Thursday a surgeon dealt with it.

Actually, I walked completely healthy into the Lagan Valley at Noon, was under anasthetic at 3, and home watching TV at 9pm. With a packet of paracetamol. No worries!

Until the anasthetic wore off.

I don't think I've ever been so grey. But it's alright, I'm slowly getting back on my feet although I can't drive for a while or pick up Timothy for another week or so. Daytime TV is actually beginning to bore me (oh that that would happen during exam season!) and lucky Kathryn gets to look after both her men all day.

And how does this connect in any way to Edgehill? It was at my first event as a student, the pre-term induction weekend, when Mr. Hernia first came into my life - I was in severe pain on the Saturday night and hardly slept at all. That was almost two years ago. The procrastinator in me went online, self-diagnosed myself and didn't bother going to the doctor for over a year because I was embarrassed. I've heard of other men suffering quietly for over a decade.

One thing I've learnt in the past year at College is that difficult decisions put off just complicate the matter and make things worse. Tackling the problem means involving other people to support you, using their time and energy, but it causes less pain for all in the long run.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Privilege

I spent the last few days at Summer Madness as part of the prayer ministry team. What a privilege to be able to bless what God was doing in the lives of so many young people and their leaders!
One thing I was thinking is that we need to find ways of making praying for people more natural - why wait for a festival to get something brought before God? It doesn't need fancy words or dramatic gestures, just a heart after Jesus and an obedient attitude. Or is it just that we can be embarrassed to ask for prayer from friends and family? Why is that?

Monday, 11 June 2007

Spinning Wheels

I've always loved cycling, it's one of those pleasures of life for me. So I'm a little envious of Jools, who's doing an amazing maracycle at the moment, down the east coast of USA. It's taken a huge amount of training and perseverence for him, we're proud of him!

You can see what he's up to, and give to the Skainos project in East Belfast while you're at it... www.joolshamilton.com

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Why?

I've been doing some thinking. And here's the outcome... If I'm to lead one or more congregations in the near future they need to know that they can ask 'Why' I want to do something, or don't want to do something. We need to be purpose-full in all things; being aim-less is less than helpful.

So if my practice doesn't align with that which is expected, both I and the people need to know Why. Including the times when the answer is, "I messed up".

But in this age of communications technology where we rarely communicate at a deep level, I want to be able to share Why we're doing things the way we're doing them, or Why we're changing things. I want us to spend time together working out the Whys.

When a Why pops into my mind I'll try blogging it - just in case, in the future, I forget Why I'm doing something at all!

I'll also begin to label this blog, beginning with any Whys that may have snuck in already!

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Christians at Work

Timothy notched another hospital on his list at the weekend, this time Craigavon Area Hospital - he had a wee infection that needed antibiotics but it was decided that he ought to get his first two days' doses intravenously. So lucky mummy got to spend the weekend with him - brought back not-so-happy memories of being in the Lagan Valley and then the Royal when he was born and had dehydration problems.

All is well now though, so don't be worrying for us!

I just wanted to encourage the Christians out there who are nurses, doctors, auxilliaries, cleaners, etc in hospital. It can be a very scary experience for those of us who have just brought a new life into the world. Then when something goes a bit wrong the sensation is not unlike that of drowning.

We thank God for the staff we met who did more than they had to, who saw us as people, who could see our fears and frustrations and tried their best to help. From the lady who changed the bin bags every day who promised to pray for us at her church prayer meeting, to the midwife who calmly explained what was happening, to the nurse who sat with Kathryn in the night, to the doctor who came in specially just to say hi. None of them talked about church. None of them talked about Jesus. They didn't need to - he shone out of them in everything they did.

Can there be anything more important than allowing the grace of God to transform us without realising, forming us into a people who love and care and bring God's Kingdom a little closer to the broken and wounded of this world?

Friday, 27 April 2007

Night of Fire

Blaise Pascal was 39 when he died, and he was a genius. His mathematical skills were proven from childhood but his theological thinking was transformed and empowered during his final eight years. After he died a scrap of paper was found sewn into the lining of his jacket with the following words:

The year of grace 1654.
Monday, 23 November, feast of St. Clement,
pope and martyr and others in the martyrology.
The eve of Saint Chrysogonus martyr and others.
From about half-past ten in the evening
until about half-past midnight.
Fire.
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.
Not of the philosophers and intellectuals.
Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace.
The God of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God [in Latin, accusative case].
Your God will be my God.
Forgetfulness of the world and of everything except God.
One finds oneself only by way of the directions taught
in the gospel.
The grandeur of the human soul.
Oh just Father, the world has not known you,
but I have known you.
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have separated myself from him.______________
They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water [in Latin].
My God, will you leave me?
May I not be separated from him eternally.
This is eternal life, that they know you the one true God
and J.C. whom you have sent.
Jesus Christ.____________________
Jesus Christ.______________
I have separated myself from him. I have run away from him,
renounced him, crucified him.
May I never be separated from him._______________
One preserves oneself only by way of the lessons taught
in the gospel.
Renunciation total and sweet.
And so forth.

This intense experience of intimacy with God prompted Pascal to give up mathematics and instead use his abilities to engage in apologetics. It seems he had a lot of very good things to communicate (and defend). Without having read his ‘Pensées’ or anything else (yet) I can’t comment any further, but it is reassuring to me in the week that I turned 31 that God can, without warning, greatly use a person who is deeply in love with him.

What use is my learning, or indeed my spirituality, if I do not love God passionately, trust him, and allow him to direct my paths? Then my thinking and working will be more effective, and my heart will reflect his.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

It's that time of the year again...

You can tell when exams are looming close - none of us appear able to do anything particularly productive!

So this morning I was scared silly about the upcoming Hebrew class tests and exam. I really don't know enough to do well, and the fear is paralysing! The lack of doing anything is getting so bad that I just ordered a book on time management. It's called 'Do It Tomorrow', I'm sure I'll enjoy it... whenever I get round to reading it :)

Meanwhile, the blogging craze has finally caught up with some of the Edgehill peeps... Nick, Colin and Angie have all just started up. Who knows, they might make it past the six-post mark this time? To be fair, Angie's is about her book - more on that later.

And now - coffee time?

Monday, 2 April 2007

Henri Nouwen

I, like Jools, have been greatly enjoying Henri Nouwen's book of preparation for the Easter season. He challenges me and prods me to love God more, and more simply, and more actively. But following some comments on Mr H's blog, where Mr Nouwen was quoted having written something that personally I have difficulty with...

I have a question:

Can God use any and all of his creation to speak his truth to our hearts?

If so, is it ok if I am still blessed and encouraged by most of the writings of a person who, as far as I can tell, loved God and his neighbour as himself?

Is it ok to disagree with 1% of someone's work and still be blessed by the rest?

Or should it be all or nothing?

Monday, 26 March 2007

The Body of Christ

I've been doing some random thinking (for a change?) on one small area of the church, prompted by several conversations with friends and family and some recent experiences... Feel free to disagree with me, I'm not out to make anyone feel guilty! It's not particularly coherent, maybe you can help refine my ponderings?
----------------------------------------------------

When reading about the Body of Christ in the New Testament there appear to be two approaches. One that is more often communicated is that you are a member of the body, you have a special role to play, you should not be turned away, you should always be valued. It's an inclusive message that emphasises the role of the individual, the gifts and skills that God can use etc.

The other approach is the us perspective. We need you.

Fellowship is a two-way (in fact, three-way!) thing - going to 'church' because we want to meet with God and be blessed is only part of the story. Here's another part: We go to be a blessing. Absenting ourselves (due to late night, busy week, boring preacher, lacklustre worship...) harms the body.

I don't think many people - including Christian professionals - see it that way. Is it just that my understanding of 'church' is different? I know that a group of teenagers at YF, or young adults in a home, or a weekly prayer meeting, or whatever, is just as much 'church' as a group of all-ages from the local community meeting on a Sunday morning; but who should I call my home?

Whoever I call my 'home church' is the group I should not deprive of my presence wherever possible.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Grace in Abundance

I had the privilege of spending three days with the Church at HMP Maghaberry last week. And it was indeed a privilege. It would be hard for me to think of a finer group of gentlemen, keenly aware of their need for the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, walking in the knowledge that they are loved and moving in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

Do not be surprised when some day you hear that revival has swept the cells of Maghaberry and is spreading to Northern Ireland and the world.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Theological Ambush

I know, how amazing, two posts in the one day! My brain must be beginning to wake up from the new-baby-experience!

Yesterday, I was theologically ambushed by the doctrine police. It was my first such experience (Jools is the normal target!), and left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Leaving personalities and the actual topic aside for the moment, may I take this opportunity to plea for warmth and integrity in relationships when you feel you're right and I'm wrong?

As I get older I realise more and more that I don't know everything, and the things I do know may not always be right. So if I waver on a doctrine it's not because I'm unsound, it's because at the moment I'm not fully persuaded one way or the other. For someone to then procede to intentionally intellectually crush me in order to prove that they're right, do you think I am warmed to their perspective?

Do I say, "Because you demanded an answer without giving space to reflect, because you undermined me in front of friends, because you cast doubt on my belief-system, I shall now acquiesce and agree with you and believe everything you believe, as your way is far better"? If the way I was treated reflects the person's evangelism style I truly pity the people they witness to.

Now I have vented (and let me assure you that it was no-one in this fine educational establishment), the hard part comes. Forgiveness.

Time to Deliver

The votes are cast, the counting continues. Now it's time for our politicians in Northern Ireland to DELIVER.

We want peace, real peace, friendship with 'the other side', forgiveness and a shared future. I'm considering sending a letter to each of my MLAs, asking them to deliver a Northern Ireland known for its good politics. Would you do the same?

It's Time to Deliver.



ps This is permission for you to bug me until I've done it!

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

You Know You Want To

If you can vote in Northern Ireland's Assembly Elections today, please do.

I have my own political opinions, I won't share them with you here today. But I do believe it's important to exercise the right to vote. And pray while you do it.

It might just be the fresh start we need.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Timothy J Harte

Well, here he is, the wonderful Timothy John Harte. He's sleeping at the moment and I have a few minutes at the computer.

He's amazing. Sometimes grumpy. But always ours, and always loved. In fact, I find it hard to believe I could instantly love a person so much after so little time.

Welcome to the World, little Timothy - we're so glad you made it!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

People First

A word to those who hope we will vote for them in fifteen days' time:

God brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

Such are the words found in Isaiah 40. I read them yesterday and thought of the NI Assembly Elections. I want to make it clear that I believe everyone who can vote, should vote. It is a right that people have died in order to secure for us. But please vote carefully.

Will you help elect people who are interested only in themselves? Will you help elect people who put states and blinkered vision before people? All talk and no substance? Well-crafted words and policies are all very well, but action is what we need now - action in the areas that matter, that make an actual difference to our lives.

Who is going to stand up for the oppressed in this province, even though they can't vote?
Who will make us pay more taxes to clean up the environment and save the world?
Who will publicly state that our 'enemies' are human beings who deserve to know love and acceptance?
Who is going to allocate some of Stormont's millions to developing nations so they can have free primary education and infant vaccinations?
Is there someone I can vote for who will stand up for the rights of the oppressed, the poor, those widowed, fatherless, or displaced?

Words will be swept away like chaff. Actions count.

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Train Window

I was sitting on the train this morning, on my way to College, when I realised I'd been making this journey for almost twenty years. That was a scary realisation! So here for posterity are some of the changes that I noted today...

The car park at Moira Station exists. And has got huge. And still fills up. In 1987 approximately four cars parked on the road during the day and the land used for a car park now was then a storage area for the Historical Monuments people.

Trains that can stop at Moira, do. Back then during the daytime and evenings prospective passengers had to stand visibly on the edge of the platform so the driver would know to slow down and stop!

Bow Street Mall was Crazy Prices, Texas, a Shell Station and a near-empty car park.

Derriaghy Stewarts (supermarket) changed into a Super Crazy Prices and then a toys and pets store, finally demolished and now the land is filled with semi-detached townhouses.

The old DeLorean factory was abandoned but now a growing base for Montupet.

Malone College didn't exist - it was a field.

The dead trains graveyard at Adelaide (Boucher Road) used to be a busy goods yard.

Trains turned a corner and went directly to City Hospital after Adelaide - now they go straight ahead into Great Victoria Street station, which is the main public transport hub for Northern Ireland.

The journey time from Moira to Botanic was 18 minutes (on a train that didn't stop at Lisburn). Now it's 32.

I appreciate this is probably mind-numbingly boring to those of you who care to read it! The landscape has changed greatly, and I have changed a lot too. Yet at times I don't feel much different to that eleven-year-old getting on a train to go to school, with three bags and a hockey stick, wondering whether he would get the window pushed down and door handle turned before it was too late.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Notice

You may have noticed that things are a bit wonky on this page - I've just upgraded to the new version of Blogger, and my links and pretty background image have gone. They will hopefully return!

Meanwhile, it has come to my attention that people actually look at my blog! Especially recently, expecting news of parenthood! Well, I must confess that I haven't posted any deep and meaningfuls about Timothy John Harte - yet - but you can find some photos on my bebo site.