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Journey 4 – Day 28 – The Beautiful Disciplines

I had a really great as well as really challenging time preparing for and leading a session with a great group of young people from St John’s Southall this morning. They have been journeying through a series on the spiritual disciplines and today’s was on simplicity.

We took our inspiration from Richard Foster The Celebration of discipline and a really helpful and engaging book by Martin Saunders called ‘The Beautiful Disciplines

Using the interactive, session themed resources in this book was brilliant as we got the chance to look at our priorities, our possessions and our time in a way that was helpful and challenging. We had to list 10 things that we thought were essential to our lives and then try to reduce that list down to just 5. Not at all easy. Especially as so recently I had to make a list of everything I had in my life!

We were inspired and challenged by 1 Timothy 6: 6-10

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

It brought up some great discussion, especially about the importance of who we are, who we are becoming and the importance of character and core ethos in connection with what we do and what our goals, careers and aims are. Wealth and Money are themselves not a problem, provided our attitude towards them is healthy and orientated towards generosity rather than simply selfish gain.

The conclusion of today was to live open handedly, to hold onto what we have lightly and when we do possess things to be more thankful and more aware of the blessing that they can bring not only to ourselves but also to others.

As this session and my reading has shown me so far, There is a very strong link between simplicity and generosity. Simplicity has to be lived out in Generosity. For that reason alone these are two disciplines that indeed are beautiful and indeed should be celebrated and embraced.

 
 

Journey 2 Day 40 – Journeys End Pt 2

Its the end of the Journey as we know it (And I feel fine… albeit very challenged, encouraged and also inspired….). I am fine with that as its a good place to be. Its a place that I shy away from. I have needed to be out of the comfort zone and seeking to be challenged. Its been hard but its been good, energising and really helpful. Balance, Rhythm, Grace and continuity are the keys now.

I have sought to simplify my life over these 40 days. In some respects its been successful with regard to food, time, money and decreasing consumption. In other respects by wrestling, reflecting and exploring its also been hard as its opened up great questions to explore in terms of motivation, what I am passionate about and the many why questions I have about God, Society and the world we live in today as active global citizens.

A former lecturer of mine very wisely once said that questions are vital and good, but they do need answers (not trite, contrived answers that leave you frustrated) but answers that bring clarity and different questions rather than the same old questions going round and just becoming stale bug bears that unanswered can poison, diminish and drain a person and their zeal for life.

A genuine Antidote to my wrestling and getting to complex and introspective about things and my life has been the journey I’ve been encouraged to be on within this journey.  A journey of profound gratitude and thanks. Its simple but its so important. Thankfulness,and developing it as a rhythm in life is so healthy. It brings so much perspective so much of the time!

Other highlights/things I’m thankful for on this Journey

  • The training and insight I had on delivering a simple, quick, creative talk. I learnt I could do a good 1 minute talk on whole life discipleship! Which for me is amazing as I am known for my tendency to waffle!
  • My ability to stick with a concept, take a simple framework and goal and keep to the plan
  • Learning a lot from doing the Consumer Detox course and reading the book.
  • The sheer amount of people, experiences and things that I am genuinely more thankful for.

And so Journey 2 ends. Journey 3 begins tomorrow. The theme for Journey 3 is Humility. It should be another adventure and challenge. I hope you will follow the blog as I explore this complex but I believe vital quality for life in today’s culture and society.

P.S. I am looking forward to being able to eat cake again! Esp on the day that it was announced our group at work are having another bake off in April and May!

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Journey 2

 

Journey 2 Day 39 – Journeys End Pt 1

And so my journey of simplicity is now almost at its end. Its been a challenging, humbling, eye opening, helpful experience overall and I am thankful for what I have learn’t and experienced. I’ve been made very aware of just how much I love good food, how much of a ‘consumer’ I normally am in terms of food and other things. I will be reflecting more on the simplicity journey in my final post of this journey tomorrow.

At the beginning of this journey I set out my simplicity charter to give me a very practical outworking of the Journey. Food, Time and Money. 3 key areas in seeking to live a fulfilling and meaningful life, a whole life as a disciple of Christ. So how have I done?

Food: Overall pretty well. I’ve certainly been aware of just how much good food I have had to turn down and abstain from. I’ve also been aware that its not in my nature to take small portions and eat meals days on end without meat. I am glad for the opportunity quite soon after the rice and beans challenge to eat more simply and save money and also weight gain!! I count it as an achievement turning down so many of Hazel’s cakes, lots of nice stuff when on holiday and also some fine cakes and snacks after church on several occasions.

Time: I’ve found this the hardest. I think in all honesty the word is ‘epic fail’. There have been some moments of great balance, being present in the moment, having fun, resting, rediscovering the joy and need of comedy, which have been brilliant. But I have overall failed to stop cramming to much in and also wasting a lot of time.

Money: I have abstained from purchasing my usual favourites on many occasions. However In have not always succeeded and so with moments here and there, coffees bought and even occasional lunches etc, my ‘glitch tax’ stands at £28.50.

Overall its been a rewarding experience but overall if I am honest I am not sure how deep rooted these changes will be. I am so aware of how easy it will be to slip back into my more usual way of life and living. As Consumer Detox has taught me, consumption is inescapable, and in many ways is a natural and vital part of life. Good Consumption is vital to bringing hope, justice and transformation in numerous ways.

However Consumer Detox and this journey are also teaching me that consumption must be thought through, challenged, questioned and reflected upon more. Contentment, being more thankful and stopping are all vital and possible and can be more deeply ingrained into our lives and lifestyles.

I am also aware that the key to a lot of this is grace, patience and building in good rhythms which make contentment and simplicity seem more natural and a joy rather than a challenge that could turn nastily legalistic! Thanks Mark Powley for this traffic light guide and these thoughts on Rhythms of life to create a more meaningful and sustainable simplicity.

Some friends at Tearfund are also about to embark upon a major new project called Rhythms. Rhythms is a brand new website and app that will help you follow Jesus. It’s all about taking actions to change the way you live so that together we can change the world.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Food, Journey 2, lent, Money, Play, Work

 

Journey 2 Day 37 – Food and Friendship

Taking time out in the midst of the busyness of life is a vitally important and ultimately refreshing thing. Recreation in its fullest sense. It was helpful to be reminded of that today when reading the Consumer Detox blog on Sabbath. The words of Walter Brueggemann are profound and cut to the heart of the matter. Building in rest and refreshment as a rhythm of life is so key.

A good few years ago we got together with a group of friends and started something called GaFooFi (Games, Food, Film). The idea being to gather on a regular basis and share in the wonders of playing games, sharing meals and watching films. Our idea soon expanded to included creating our own games and widening the story aspect of films to real life and sharing and contributing to each others stories and lives in the times of joy, the times of sadness and the times of the mundane everyday stuff.

It was a great and very refreshing thing to take time out today with some of those friends, and our now expanding in number families, to stop and share fun, laughter, stories and food together.

The simplicity of doing this is simply that its important, refreshing and vital to life and what it means to be human. Thank you God for friendship and the gift of doing and sharing life with friends.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Food, Journey 2

 

Journey 2 Day 35 – Wow Moments

Having taken some time yesterday to explore the complexity, costs and struggles of living simply I want to revert back to the theme of the past week on Gratitude and Thanks. Over the past few weeks I have had more ‘wow’ moments than I normally have. Taking a bit more time to stop, reflect and take this journey has made me so aware of just how much I have to be thankful for and for how many amazing people, stories, experiences and moments I’ve had not just recently but in the course of my life.

I know that we live in the now and also the not yet of God’s Kingdom and that what we see and have now is just a foretaste of what is to come. But even in the midst of many questions, struggles, hurts and frustrations there are still many ‘wow’ moments that give a really great foretaste of the Kingdom now as well as for the future. And that really is ‘wow’.

I have been struck and inspired by a quote in Consumer Detox where Mark Powley refers to a concept of ‘triple enjoyment’ developed by Miroslav Volf in his 2005 book ‘Free of Charge’. Its one of those quotes that the more you read it the more you go ‘Wow’. This is indeed a rich and full view of life.

” A rich self has a distinct attitude toward the past, the present and the future. It surveys the past with gratitude for what it has received, not with any annoyance about what it hasn’t achieved or about how little it has been given. A rich self lives in the present with contentment. It still strives, but it strives out of a satisfied fullness, not out of the emptiness of craving. A rich self looks to the future with trust. It gives rather than holding back in fear of coming out too short, because it believes God’s promise that God will take care of it. Finite and endangered, a rich self still gives, because its life is ‘hidden in Christ’ in the infinite, unassailable and utterly generous God, who is the Lord of the present, the past and the future”

(Romans 13:11-12, 2 Coriinthians 9:8, Colossians 3:3)

Simply WOW!

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Journey 2

 

Journey 2 Day 34 – Struggle and Mess

As I have been on this Journey of simplicity I have been struck by both the importance but also the struggle of keeping things simple. I have been really impacted by the Consumer Detox Journey and found it really releasing and freeing. However as with my consumer confession, despite the impact of this journey, living simply and keeping things simple is a struggle.

Take the issue of Identity. In my heart and my bones and my very being I know that my true identity is to be found in who I am in God. A Son, A Child, A Friend and yet despite knowing this and wanting this I still struggle with this and often seek my value and identity in other places, perhaps especially in roles, jobs and responsibilities. Roles, Jobs and responsibilities are good and great things and allow us to outwork the gifts and talents that God has given us. But if, when, they become all consuming and form the basis for meaning I am forced to really question the validity of that approach.

The theme of identity and character has been a recurring one in my life, especially it seems in the past week or so. Today I heard a brilliant talk by Jenny Baker exploring the value and importance of looking at who we are as well as where we are and what we do.

I was also shown this profound article in relation to priorities and parenthood. It cut to the heart as I reflected on how I as a Parent and a Husband have sometimes gone through the motions rather than really cherishing the opportunities to be with my amazing family in a full and committed way.

Then just yesterday I spent a brilliant morning with colleagues hearing about loads of truly amazing stories of transformation. It caused us to be asked the question: What kind of people do we want to be or become? What does that profound question mean? It can be easy (or at least appealing) to try and compartmentalise life into boxes… but it just does not and must not work like this.

We reflected on the book of Philippians. In reading, in hearing these stories and reflecting on those questions it became clear that whole life discipleship will involve struggle, cost, conflict, frustration, agony and pain as well as great joy, reward and fulfilment. One without the other is not real life. One without the other is not really possible it would seem.

Its in the struggle, the mess and the honesty that life is done in all its fullness. So I want to take more steps in the discipleship adventure but to do this rooted in my true identity. God, Family and then the rest can follow. Who is is that I want to become. A person who Loves God, seeks to form character and deep rooted values. Who loves his wife, children, wider family, friends and neighbours and who from that place can then seek to outwork life in the wider sense having first and foremost that deep rooted

I will struggle and make a mess of it, but I want to do it, knowing that Grace and restoration is at hand.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Change, Food, Journey 2

 

Journey 2 Day 33 – Stop

A Story of great inspiration

Today I had a truly amazing morning. I stopped to listen to a whole bunch of stories of transformation. One of which is in the video above. I stopped to think about the question of character. Who is it that we are becoming? And how in the whole of life, work included, this is vital to operate with integrity. Who we are, how we operate and where we find and outwork our identity is important. It was great to stop and hear about so many stories and signposts of hope. We then did this in the Context of Philippians Chapter 2. What a great passage of scripture to reflect on in the context of character, working together and laying aside agenda’s.

The third sermon in the Less Stuff More Life Series is also on the theme of Stop. Its a must listen unpacking the importance of Sabbath and its potentially positive implications for our lives.

There is also a great song (not by the spice girls or Erasure I might add) called Stop.

The problem and challenge I have is that stopping is often quite hard! When I do it I realise how important it is, how refreshing it is and how it puts so much into proper perspective. Action is often my more natural orientation and default response. There is a time for action. But oh how there is a time to stop and reorientate heart, mind and priorities.  I need to do this more.

Thank you God for opportunities, people, readings and stories that encourage me to stop and gain a true perspective of your world and your goodness.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2012 in Journey 2, theology, Work