Quick Fix Prayers

The most frequent kind of prayer prayed is the ‘quick fix’ prayer: the prayer we pray in desperation (‘Lord, save me!’) The psalms are full of these prayers (Ps 6:4, Ps 22:41, Ps 31:16, Ps 40:13) and there’s clearly nothing wrong with such prayers. Nonetheless, it is interesting that at a critical point in Jesus’ life, this was not the prayer he prayed.

Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”’ (John 12:27-28) Wayne Jacobsen describes this as the prayer God always answers and it’s true that our experience of unanswered prayer (which demoralises us) is sometimes rooted in the fact we are more interested in being rescued from a situation which to us seems baffling and unpleasant than in being transformed through that situation. It would have been entirely understandable if Jesus had asked His Father to rescue Him from the horrors of the cross, but He knew that the cross was God’s purpose for Him and the only way the world could be saved. He put God’s glory and wishes before His desire for a life free from pain and suffering.

It can be just as hard for us to trust God’s goodness and kindness in situations which are painful, unpleasant and seem so utterly random and pointless to us. Yet God has greater purposes for us than our short-term happiness and is working in all situations for our good, redeeming and refining often through the tough times. May we all learn to pray ‘Father, glorify your name’ more than ‘Father, save me.’

A Busy Weekend

Events are like buses, it seems: you can go months without anything happening, and then all at once, there are two events in one day!

On Saturday 28th September, we have our Macmillan Coffee Morning at church between 10 a.m. and 12 noon. The buns and cakes are all made and we can’t wait to welcome people back on a Saturday morning. Do come along to support this worthwhile cause!

Then there is the Dearne Community Arts’ Festival happening at Astrea Academy Dearne (the secondary school in Goldthorpe, on the left as you head into Bolton-on-Dearne). This arts’ festival aims to champion creativity and celebrate community, with many local residents taking part in exhibitions of arts and crafts and workshops and demonstrations where you can see first hand what creativity can look like. Come along between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. for a chance to buy Christmas presents, be wowed at all the beautiful things people make day-in, day-out in our area, have a go at something different and just be uplifted by all the beautiful creations made locally. Entry is free and there will be refreshments available served by the Snap Tin Cafe.

Some examples of what you will find are:

  • circus skills (fancy a go at plate spinning or riding a unicycle?)

  • paintings & drawings

  • sand art

  • hot wax painting

  • clay modelling

  • children’s clothing for sale (handmade sewing and knitted items)

  • crafts & Christmas gifts

  • woodwork

  • face painting

  • henna designs

  • storytelling & poetry

Plus we have performances on stage (dance, music, circus skills, book readings) and the unveiling of the Community Mosaic started at GPCC on 1st June as well as guest appearances from Vincent the Sun Bear and Hilda the Hippo, from the ‘Go Wild in Thurnscoe!’ sculpture trail this summer.

The Unsung Heroes (2)

Bezalel and Oholiab.

Not the easiest names to get your tongue around,

Not the most well-known Bible heroes.

They killed no giants.

They defeated no warring armies.

They are not listed in Hebrews 11 with the heroes of faith,

But tucked away in the Exodus narrative,

These men inspire me.

They were creatives filled with the Spirit,

Whose metalwork and gemmology were used by God.

Bezalel possessed wisdom, understanding and knowledge,

And “all kinds of skills.”

His artistic designs and craftwork enhanced the Tabernacle,

Turning it from functionality to a place of beauty,

Drawing from us worship by his artistry.

Art for God’s sake.

Whenever I am lured by the voice of pragmatism

Into the lie that functionality has to be cold and impersonal, Formica-style,

I lean on Bezalel and Oholiab,

And on the tribe of craftsmen,

Who through the ages combine function and form

With dazzling beauty and distinctive, individual style.

Creativity lifts my soul to wonder.

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

The intricacy of the water lilies,

The glistening story of creation retold in stained glass…

But also the delicate hardanger, the versatile crocheting giving bags, blankets and clothes,

The beautiful stitching and embroidery turning functional clothing to works of art,

The precision of the flowers painted onto my skin,

The soft feel of felt hair accessories,

The swift iron-strokes of encaustic art,

The grace of the delicately-arranged flowers,

The rich melodies of music.

I name my Bezalels.

You’ll all know Michelangelo and Monet,

But Ros Grimshaw?

Pat Harris?

Ruth Coombs? Anne Graham?

Angie Wapples? Vanessa Denton?

Julia Harris?

Samantha Wallis?

Sarah Chappell?

Brian Nelson?

Pat and Andy Moore? Gareth Taylor? Chris McShane?

Are these names on your wall of heroes?

For they’re surely in my hall of fame.

Enriching.

Adorning.

Beautifying.

Combining function with soul-enriching, jumping-for-joy, breath-taking artistry and skill.

I salute you.   

The Unsung Heroes

When I get a new CD, the first thing I do is to turn to the lyrics booklet and read the artist’s thanks. When I get a book, the first thing I do is read the ‘acknowledgments’. I want to know who’s behind the person, who’s the team that supports, encourages and keeps them going, because I know that the finished product – the music, the novel – is actually the end result of a lot of hard work, not just inspiration. As Thomas Edison is reputed to have said, ‘genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration’, and I’m always curious about the ‘team’ as well as about the individual artist.

Teamwork is essential to life. One person simply doesn’t have the time, talent or ability to do everything, no matter how gifted or inspirational they are. God acknowledges this freely, calling His church a body made up of individual parts, each with their function, responsibility and gift. (Rom 12:3-12; 1 Cor 12:12-31)

There are many famous people in this world, but behind each famous person is a team of unsung heroes, people who work hard to help, organise and encourage the person. The gift of encouragement and practical support is not to be dismissed lightly because it’s a background thing. It’s the everyday fuel in the soul of anyone who strives to make a difference in the world.

This weekend is the Dearne Community Arts’ Festival and as one of the organisers of this event, I’m very aware of the unsung heroes who make the festival happen. I might be the one in the foreground, promoting and organising the event, but without this backroom team of volunteers and helpers, the festival simply wouldn’t happen. We will salute many creatives this weekend whose skills and gifts leave me in speechless awe, but behind each creative there are people who encourage, support and help in a host of practical ways.

A lot of people don’t like the lists of names in the Bible, finding them boring. Giles Coren wrote a scathing article in the Times recently about the tedious list of ‘thanks’ that are given by celebrities. I vehemently disagree with both these views. Acknowledging people’s contributions is crucial to humility, thankfulness and spiritual growth. I’m so grateful for the many people who believed an arts’ festival could make a positive contribution to Goldthorpe and our area, who work hard to make that vision a reality and who perform the art of encouragement with as much skill as any artist or musician.

What Are You Sowing?

It’s a fact of life in the natural world that we reap what we sow. If we plant apple trees, apple trees will grow – they won’t magically morph into banana trees. This is so obvious we take it for granted, and in the same way in the spiritual world, we reap what we sow. ‘Those who sow to please their sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; those who sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.’ (Gal 6:7-8) As the meerkats say, ‘Simples!’

It really matters what we sow. If we sow kindness and compassion, mercy and grace, love and forgiveness, those are the things we will reap. If we sow envy and jealousy, anger and impatience, hatred and resentment, we will reap those things later in life.

If we want to grow spiritually, we must contantly learn to sow to the spiritual life – and learn patience and perseverance as we wait for those crops to grow (Gal 6:9-10). Crops don’t grow overnight, and spiritual fruit takes time to grow and develop. We need not only to be sowing the right things but need also to keep the long view in all things. Hos 10:12 says Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unploughed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you. What are you sowing?

Re-Arranged Priorities

At Beersheba, Isaac’s priorities are changed. His encounter with God (Gen 26:24-25) has a lasting impact on him, as he responds by building an altar there and calling on God’s name. Previously, he has stayed wherever he dug a well, found sufficient water and was not opposed. Now, he meets with God first and foremost, worships Him and then pitches his tent and digs a well. Isaac’s priorities have been rearranged; he’s learning to do what Jesus told us all to do: ‘Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.’ (Matt 6:33)

Having spiritual priorities is essential if we want to know God’s living water. We can only be filled as we hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness (Matt 5:6). If we have no appetite for God, we will not feast on Him. Ps 36:8 tells us, ‘they feast on the abundance of Your house; You give them drink from Your river of delights.’ God has so much to pour out on His people, but He will not do this unless and until we ask Him. We may not be entering into all that God has for us because we’re waiting for Him to bless us or because we feel we’ve got to get our lives sorted out first. God says it’s the other way around; we have to come first and then receive. In the book of Haggai, God’s people are challenged because they are so busy working on their own houses that they’re neglecting to build God’s house. (Haggai 1:1-11) God said, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’” Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Haggai 1:2-4) Sometimes when God speaks to us, He challenges us to put Him first, to trust Him with our ordinary lives and to let Him deal with all the practical concerns we have. He is well able to provide for us all that we need: Paul reminded the Philippians, ‘my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.’ (Phil 4:19)

When we put God first in our lives, we will find our needs met and God sorting out the problems we couldn’t control (as evidenced by the treaty Isaac made with Abimelek at the end of the chapter.) Re-arranged priorities means handing the reins of our lives over to God.