BORED?

“Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.” says novelist Susan Ertz.

WE’RE A FUNNY OLD RACE, we human beings, eh?

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people tell me “I’m just bored” in the past month or so.

Millions long to live for ever in a world in which they don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Apparently one of the chief reasons that people give for having stopped attending church is that “it’s boring”. And the BBC and ITV and Satellite channels 1 – 333 are described equally frequently as “boring”.

Public parks, novels, poetry, music, girlfriends and boyfriends, cars, cinema, food, holidays, Facebook, Twitter and flying around the world are all described through drawling yawns as BORING! Yet: millions long to live for ever in a world in which they don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

We’ve got to get a grip of ourselves. It’s not that our church, or our world, or the indescribably extraordinary gift of life are boring. It’s more the case that WE ARE. And I mean WE. Me and thee. You know I believe that if we want to change our world, if we want to change our church, if we want to change radio and telly and holidays and marriages and partnerships and learning then we’ve got to erase that damnable word BORED from our lexicon.

There’s an old lady who lives on your street who hasn’t spoken to anyone for a fortnight. You know her. In her younger days you used to see her shaking out breadcrumbs onto her bird table. She loved to encourage the birds to come close to her window but she can’t get out to the bird-table these days. She used to sell poppies in your street. And collect for the Child Welfare agency. She’s the one who used to bake cakes at the drop of a hat for anyone and everyone who might have had need of them. Actually, she could still bake cakes for you if you would only pick up the ingredients when you’re at the supermarket. She used to sing when she was baking. “Now thank we all our God” was her favourite.

But on rainy Sunday afternoons, in fact on any afternoons, she sits alone near the window watching an empty bird table that could spring into life again if only a neighbour would sprinkle a few crumbs for her. Oh, and she was always such a good story-teller. Wonderfully funny. Young and old alike would delight in her company. Until she couldn’t get out to them anymore. Now the people she used to entertain so richly say they’re bored. Even at the same time as they long to live for ever.

Come on. Let’s get a grip on Sunday afternoons. Let’s tell boredom to clear off out of here. Let’s go and visit that wonderful inspiration who lives just down the road. And feed the birds.

for Pure FM 107.8 – 28xi2010

LUCIA ON LIFE

GOOD MORNING! And an especially good morning if you’re feeling a bit under the weather or down in the dumps. See if you can get your mouth around the lovely name Lucia Cappachione!

Lucia, an art therapist, wrote that

when I became ill, the years of pain and confusion loomed up like some primitive monster of the deep … I lived in fear of dying. The strange paradox is that by confronting my fear of death, I found myself, and created a new life.

This is yet another writing that reminds me of Jesus! No surprise, I suppose, for the thoughts of a parish priest often turn to Jesus. But with good reason, for he was and is a most extra-ordinary teacher.

“Whoever loses his life will gain it”, he’s recorded as having said by each of the four Gospels in the New Testament – Luke 9.24 etc

It doesn’t take any of us very long in this world to suss out that things ain’t always what they seem. Some of the things we’re most afraid of turn out to be life-savers. The lessons we’re most afraid of learning when we’re in primary school turn out to have been absolute building blocks for what comes later. How many times have we said: “No way! I’d die if I had to do that!” – only to discover, when needs have required that we do it, that not only did we not die but we discovered a whole new way of living.

Another of the things that Jesus taught often, something echoed by countless spiritual teachers through the ages, is “do not be afraid”.

Sometimes we can terrify ourselves into paralysis. At other times we terrify ourselves into ways that lead to wrong actions, hurtful behaviours – whether to ourselves or others. At yet other times we terrify ourselves with the illusion that the whole world is against us. We can become neurotic, whether as individuals or great nations. And then fear can lead to war and war leads to death. And the whole cycle of fear rumbles on.

Don’t be afraid, said Jesus. Confront your fear. Look at the monsters of your deep straight in the eye. Confront your fear of the millions of little deaths that every life must know and you’ll have confronted the big death in the process. And paradoxically and wonderfully, just like Lucia Cappachione, you’ll have found yourself, and created a new life! What a life! Really, what a life we’ve been given. Truly, things aren’t always just as they seem. Have a great day. Have a great life!

PURE FM 107.8 – Thought for the Day

CHANGING INNER ATTITUDES

THE GREATEST REVOLUTION OF OUR GENERATION, wrote the psychologist William James, is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.

Never a truer word, as they say. Life, so often, is a matter of perspective; of how you look at – or think about things.

Think of your husband, or your wife, or your lover, or your partner or your friend, or your son or your daughter as a world class superstar and you’ll be doing a great deal to bring their best qualities out of them. Think of any of them as drains upon your time, resources or freedoms and you’ll find that not only they but you, too, are as good as in prison.

Think of whatever you do and of the people you do it with as the worst, the most uninspiring and badly paid in the world and, guess what? As if by magic you’ll be living in the miserable world you’ve created.

But when we change the thought pattern, when we think positively about the people and the environment around us the world becomes a place filled with new delights and joys just waiting to be discovered.

Love a great deal and you’ll recognise that you yourself are loved a great deal.

Live life to the full and you’ll find that there’s no shortage of it to be lived.

The scientists tell us today that reality is bigger than our ability to perceive and since it grows forever in complexity it will probably always outstretch our imaginations and outwit our intelligence.

Now I find that exciting. The thought that there’s always something new and wonderful to live for, to learn and to reach out to … all that speaks to me of God and of an everlasting, loving goodness.

Retreat into your shell and complain about the world and you’ll find that others retreat into theirs whenever you do venture out into the highways and byways. Life mirrors our own thoughts and behaviours right back to us. Come out into God’s world, fresh every morning, and you begin to understand William James: “Human beings”, he said “by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, change the outer aspects of their lives.” You know, I’m going to give that another try.

PURE FM 107.8 – Thought for the Day

SECRETS OF THE STARS

Cover of

Cover of The Miracle Worker

HELEN KELLER WROTE that “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the horizon of the spirit”

How does one define a pessimist? Well: the Oxford English Dictionary says that pessimism is a lack of hope or confidence in the future; and that, philosophically, it’s a belief that this world is as bad as it could be or that evil will ultimately prevail over good.

Born in Alabama on the 27th June 1880, Helen Keller didn’t build her life around pessimism. And she could have done, very easily indeed. Perhaps you’ve seen the extraordinary film The Miracle Worker – the inspiring story of a battle to overcome impossible obstacles and the struggle to communicate. As a young girl, Helen Keller contracted scarlet fever which left her blind, mute, and deaf.

Sealed off from the world, Helen could not communicate with others, nor others with her. Often desperate, Helen flew into uncontrollable rages that terrified her family. Until the gifted and patient teacher Annie Sullivan arrived in her world in March 1887. Annie believed in human ability to achieve very great things and with love and patience she helped the little girl understand the world from which she was isolated. Annie Sullivan began immediately to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, beginning with d-o-l-l for the doll that she had brought the little lass as a present.

This led to Helen’s eureka moment in April that same year, when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of “water”; Annie was soon to become well nigh worn out as Helen demanded the names of all the other familiar objects in her world; freed from her internal prison forever Helen went on to become a world-famous speaker and author.

“No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars”, she wrote.

“Consider the birds of the air,” said Jesus of Nazareth, “they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6.26

You know: I’m going to make a real effort to sail to uncharted lands this week. Teachers like Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller and Jesus of Nazareth help me throw pessimism out the window. Reach for the stars. And maybe one day you’ll let me know how you got on.

PURE FM 107.8 – Thought for the Day

HAPPY EASTER

HAPPY EASTER! THIS SPRING DAY is a time to celebrate new life if ever there was one, and I hope that you have time to spend with family and friends and with anyone or anything that you care about.

Who or what are you passionate about? Take a moment or two to think about that today. I’m always asking that question of people because it’s our passions that really bring us to Life.

I was talking recently to a guy who burns with a passion for new hope and new Life for inner city London. He literally breathes life and response into and out of those he engages with. A whirlwind of life-giving energy.

Then there’s the granny I know who’s been seriously ill for years but suddenly sprang back into life with the arrival of her first grand-child. She’s passionate about the little fellow. He breathes life into her. Granny breathes life into him.

And I’ve just been back to lead the Sunday worship in St Barnabas’ Hattersley where I began my ministry nearly thirty years ago. Great to meet up again with a bunch of born leaders, still burning with the same passion and enthusiasm for their neighbourhood as they were when I first met them more than a quarter of a century ago. No wonder the sun was shining!

Same applies to the Church in Cheadle where I preached in the evening. People who’d been present for the laying of the foundation stone back in 1963 were still living and loving in that Church. And they breathed Life into me.

And again, during a visit to Bramhall High School, I bumped into passion and enthusiasm for life – amongst staff and students alike. The wind of God’s Spirit is still creating, still raising up new Life.

I’m one of the luckiest blokes alive. Every day I encounter people who are the salt of the earth. People like these make the world go round and I never tire of celebrating the stories of the people who breathe Life into being.

Passionate people reflect God. Jesus Christ lived and breathed the fount and source of all Life and so it came to be that even death itself was transfigured. Even death signalled a new and bright beginning. For God is the Ultimate when it comes to passion. And before you head back to your bed tonight the source of all Life will have breathed new passion into YOU. That’s resurrection; that’s the Good Life; and that makes for a happy Easter.

PURE FM 107.8 -Thought for the Day – Sunday 12 April 2009

TRAVELLING LIGHT

GOOD MORNING! The time for the traditional spring clean is bursting upon us. Ha! One of my favourite occupations is a visit to the tip. It’s better than going to the pictures. Though I do love the cinema, too, but that’s another story.

A bit like the joy of laying down a heavy rucksack at the end of a long hike or the walk to school, I love being able to get rid of the clutter and clobber that gathers in and around my life.

One of my favourite local council innovations where I live has been the introduction of the “blue wheelie bin” … that marvellous vehicle that whisks off all our empty Weetabix boxes, newspapers and the pounds and pounds of paper, card and junk mail that can take over a house like the Day of the Triffids.

Some of my friends, like yours, no doubt, are hoarders. Truth to tell, there are some things that I tend to hoard too. And we’d better not get on to the subject of heavyweight suitcases when we go on holiday … that’s the daftest thing of all since we only ever wear about 2 T shirts and a pair of shorts the entire time we’re away …

But what I have in mind especially today is the joy, the liberation that comes about when a house or a life that’s been filled with clutter and junk is suddenly freed up and rooms and hearts breathe easy.

What I’m getting at, I suppose, is that regular need I have in me to ask, “who or what is really important in my life?” I ask the question and am reminded that Jesus and his disciples travelled very light indeed. Unencumbered, they could go wherever Life’s call led them. And I’m reminded of the Church in South America that, when it realised that it would be useful if their Church building were a little nearer the present-day population were simply able to pick it up, made as it was out of a simple scaffolding frame with a roof on top, and put it down where it was most needed.

I wish you well with your own spring cleaning. I’ll be thinking hard about what I can let go of that would free me up a bit; oil the wheels. Have you ever read Louis Macneice’s wonderful poem “Mutations”? There are a few lines in it that keep repeating themselves in my mind this morning:

“For every static world that you or I impose upon the real one must crack at times, and new patterns from new disorders open like a rose, and old assumptions yield to new sensation; the stranger in the wings is waiting for his cue / the fuse is always laid to some annunciation.”

Have a great day.

PURE FM 107.8 – Thought for the Day – Sunday 29 March 2009

SUMMER HOLIDAYS

GOOD MORNING. One of my colleagues has just left for her summer holidays. A large family camping holiday: her husband, adult children and grandchildren are looking forward to a fortnight away from work. And I’ve loved chatting with them all over the past few days. Young and old alike have been equally excited … Auntie Ruth wonderfully and unashamedly so. And I’ve seen God in their shining faces. And I’ve prayed that they’ll have a ball, every one of them.

And I’m thinking of one of my parishioners, too. Largely housebound these days my friend enjoys holidays at home. A little summer house set in the midst of a pretty garden allows time and space for herself. Time to think on the joys of life. Time for a bit of reflection. Time to be thankful for the scent of roses, and of coffee, and of dew drops on grass. Other parishioners will benefit from a programme, organized by Churches working together in our area, called “Holidays at Home” … special visits, shared interests, meals prepared by someone else.

Jilly and I will head off later this month to a much loved spot in Southern Brittany. And whether you’re going to be travelling somewhere or “holidaying at home” – the point of both kinds of holy day is the same. We all need to take regular breathers in our lives. Time to take stock. Time set aside so that we can purely and simply be glad to be alive.

I’m unfailingly excited by the thought of holidays. And I’m rarely disappointed. I try not to set expectations too high and my wife and I set out consciously intending that the holiday will be a break, a rest and a change of scene for both of us. If we sleep for much of the time, that’s OK. If we break our self-imposed diet rules, that’s to be celebrated. The only rule that we aim to stick by on holidays is the taking time each day consciously to enjoy being alive.

It’s worth making the effort. Many will remember the genial and much loved Pope John XXIII.

Pope John was asked once whether he had time to take a holiday. The assumption being that the cares of Church and State would keep him much too busy for frivolities. Not a bit of it though. “I’m going next week”, replied John the XXIII. I keep telling myself, “I’m only the Pope!”

May many days be richly blessed for you this summer. Grace & peace for you.

PURE FM 107.8 -Thought for the Day – Sunday 17 August 2008