Friday, 31 May 2013

Neighbours


This morning I have received a text from a family which we supported at Christmas. 
The situation she outlined and with which we met at Christmas, is one sadly I have met many times before.
She had no money to buy food or even to be able to pay to put her heating on.  She suffered from poor health and her husband could not get work anywhere, as hard as he tried.  She had four teenage children and all she kept saying was sorry.
Sorry for having to ask for help,
and sorry that she was in this mess. 
It was a heart rending situation, but as the lady hugged me and my team afterwards, it felt good to be able to help. The only problem is,  now she’s in that place again, in fact worse.   The benefit reforms have hit her massively. 
Thankfully we have a ‘tin store’ which we keep topped up at our buildings in Wetherby which means we can respond in a small way to help out.  Its been said before, but the poor we will also have with us.
It is one thing to pass legislation and law amendments from our big buildings of government and dare I say even the Church, but it is a totally different matter to understand how these decisions impact upon real people trying to survive let alone live.
I read today, More than half a million UK people may rely on food banks, says a study by Church Action Poverty and Oxfam. It blames benefit cuts, unemployment and the increased cost of living for the growth in hunger and poverty.
The motto of the Salvation Army is, ‘with heart to God and hand to man’.   It speaks volumes about how we seek to live. We are called to consider in all things our neighbours.  But I wonder do we even know our neighbours today?  Let alone what they are going through? 
Could they be like the family above, without food or heating?
On Monday I spent time with my neighbour.  Hes a busy guy.  His trees were getting out of control, and seeing as I was having a day tidying my own garden i tidied his for him.  As i cut through the trees which were seriously overgrown, Rob started chatting to me.  It was a good time together.  We spoke about his struggles with teenage son and feeling at his wits end.  I smiled and simply said we've all been there!
I said well I will continue to pray as I have done since his daughter was born almost 7 years ago.  She was seriously ill when born, and it seemed unlikley that she would live.  As my neighbours travelled to and fro from hospital in those days I would enquire and assure them of our continued prayers.  It was good to be able to tell my neighbour that we have continued to pray for them as a family and celebrate his daughters upcoming 7th birthday!
It was a small and simple action, cutting his trees that led to a profound and blessed time together, remembering and giving thanks to God.
These two stories, are very different but each have needs, which I believe God calls us to.
Since Christmas a quote, which the new Pope also used at his induction, has stayed with me time and time again.  Ill leave the quote from St Francis of Assisi with you,
‘preach the gospel at all times.  If necessary use words’.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Climbing Partners

I haven't blogged now for several weeks......Laziness, or lack of inspiration......or not sure i have had anything of purpose to say? 

Well let me start by referencing two things, from the message which was shared at our church on Sunday and through which God spoke to me;

1. We have to be vulnerable leaders
2. We do not climb alone.

The preacher, referenced our scripture for the year from Matthew 5, Sermon on the Mount from the message version.  It starts by saying...
 
Matthew 5 1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions.

Now I do believe in vulnerable leadership.  In fact I believe its the only way to lead.  There is power released when we are weak before God and man.  His Power!  People who have been around me over the years have not only heard me say this but i hope have also seen it in me?

So.....Ive been really struggling!
Struggling to hold onto Gods hand.
Struggling to be the man of God, who God wants me to be.
Struggling to be the husband and father than He created me to be.
    Struggling.....

Ive struggled with what I see of the Church.
Ive struggled with the way I see the SA living out its faith.
Ive struggled with feeling not supported when I have really needed someone to 'hold up my arms', like Moses needed when he faced the enemy and had become tired.
Ive been bombarded with the expectations of man and the spiritual attacks of the enemy. 

And Ive just about been holding on by my finger tips....just about...but holding on somehow I have been.

Now before everyone runs and goes and says o no whatever has happened.  I want to say that God expects us as leaders to be vulnerable and to be weak.  It is truly only in weakness that we can experience his Strength.  BUT the trouble is the deeper I get into Gods heart and the more I try (!) to lead as Jesus did the more I realise just how poor and weak a leader I am.

And yet I DO BELIEVE WE NEED TO BE VULNERABLE TO BE CREDIBLE!  I do believe we need to be weak, to be really strong.  I believe we need to model, a 'I cant do...but because of God i can do', mindset.

So how have i been holding on, when all in me says let go.....

Here is the second point I want to highlight from our scripture, 'Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him.'  If we lead as vulnerable and transparent leaders then we do not hold on, or even climb up the hill on our own. There are those who climb with us!

Thank God in recent days there are people, within the church, and within this organisation who have climbed with me.  In fact I think they have slung me onto their backs (wow imagine their strength to do this!) and lifted me up the hill a bit like firemen!

Matthew 5 in the message is titled Youre Blessed!  You know what I really am blessed.

Im blessed through the prayer lady who knows everything and is holding me before God
Im blessed through the widower who is praying everyday till I come through my present struggle
Im blessed through my church leadership who support me in ways they do not even realise
Im blessed by a Divisional Commander who even though he retires soon, continues to walk with me and be there for me.
Im blessed by the family, wife, and children who love me no matter what and how I am!

I am indeed blessed. 

BUT heres the rub friends,
Im blessed even though Im out of my depth.....
Im blessed in this place where Im having to totally rely on Jesus to get me through.
Im blessed in this place where I am prepared to say this, im vulnerable.
Im blessed because i do not walk or climb on my own....

So friends, Im climbing up,
just....
would i want it any other way.....
honestly probably, no definitely yes.......
but then I would have missed out on the blessings which God has bestowed and will bestow on me.

So please will you continue to climb with me?  Its easier with you and God helping me!

 

Monday, 1 April 2013

Always a winner

So this week I am part of an international rugby tournament.  I arrived last evening, Easter Sunday, to the most unbelievable school grounds and environment. It look me some 10minutes to drive through the grounds and find the 'house' which was the officials accomodation for the week.

Unbelievable.  Given my own passion for education and those most disengaged young people of society, I could not believe my eyes.  This place is simply 'palatial'.

The idea behind this week, if for your high flying referees from several nations, gather together to referee an international under 18 tournament.  They are constantly under observation all day for the whole week and receive critical feedback and and training.  Im there this week as a referee coach, but obviously as one who is still refereeing and involved in the game.  Its going to be interesting!

It makes me smile, so many people know me or know of me!  They love to have a little dig at me, but they also seem to love to talk about what i believe in as well.

So last night, a rather loud assessor said, as I walked in, asked me, so did Jesus win this Easter as well??
I smiled, and replied, of course Jesus wins, He always wins in fact there is nothing further to win!
He smiled back!

This made me think, how blessed are we that we serve a Risen Lord Jesus.  We serve a God who could not be defeated!  Who death could not contain!!  And yes Pete, HE DID WIN THIS YEAR!

How assuring therefore that as Romans 8 assures us, we to are more than overcomers.  We are winners as well!!!    So lets live as victorious and not defeated.



Monday, 25 March 2013

Twickenham!


Its so easy at times to lose sight of the working of God.  Maybe we just take it for granted, or maybe we lose our vision sometimes.  Maybe as Christians we are simply just too busy, or caught up with our lives and living.....
Or maybe yes we have forgotten just how much God loves us and has invested that love in us?
 
I want to encourage you, in a very Andrew Vertigan Way.  Bear with me........
 
So this is my last season refereeing at the level I do!!!  I have had 12 seasons within the top 50 referees in England.  It has been an amazing experience that has taken me all over the world.  Been involved in some great games and met some brilliant people.    But my last season refereeing at this level it is!  I have made this clear to the RFU. 
 
As a reward I have been given as my last game a final at Twickenham!!  (very happy boy)
What's even better is two of my best mates from rugby are running touch for me.  One rang me on Friday so excited, hes never been involved in a game at Twickenham before!! 
 
You can imagine my angst when he said so does it cause you a problem being on a Sunday!   A Sunday I responded, gutted!!! I had not realised.
 
I have never in all of the 12 seasons on the national list done a Sunday game.  Indeed I never played on a Sunday either.  My stance has been clear throughout the years!  I believe that as Christians, sometimes we have to make stands which go against the culture of our world.  Indeed I believe as Christians we are called to be distinct!   A personal view but I cant help but think, we sometimes are far to similar to the world?? 
 
I hope and believe that God has used my faith and stance this to show others what I believe in. It certainly has caused questions over the years and even the odd press article or three.
 
So all of Friday, Saturday and into Sunday I had this internal battle.  Surely for my last game at Twickenham it wouldn't matter??!  Surely I could do my final game on the Lords day?!  Deep down I prepared myself to ring the RFU management on Monday morning to say I could not do the final.  Saddened but......in Holy week especially I needed to stand firm to my beliefs and stance.  Afterall Jesus didnt take the easy option as he looked forward through the week to Calary!
 
I happened to go on my emails late last evening, Sunday.  Imagine my shock to read that the matches on the Twickenham weekend had all been altered!!  The email asked if we could please now acknowledge that our game would be on the Saturday not the Sunday!!!!!!   And were we still available to do it!!
 
Friends you see God has the minute details in his hand and delights not only to bless us, but to honour our steps of faith.  How blessed am I at the start of this Holy Week.
 
May you to know the blessing of God as you each make your stand to be in the world but not of the world.  And may God help you to maintain your distinctiveness!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Leaders. For God or man

Having spent the last few days training and equipping leaders who are considering church planting, I have been reminded that leadership is very diverse.

Its great to see such a variety of personalities and characters.  But I cant help but feel,  all to often, we are shaping leadership, to be 'like each other!'

In my view, we need a far broader demonstration of spiritual leadership, it can no longer be one size fits all within my own tradition, the Salvation Army.

This has massive challenges, cause as I see it we are all to often training people in the same ways.  Training them to be like each other.  And whilst there are components of leadership, within the SA, that are generic, we need to release the latent potential within in people, but i cant help but feel that God does not create us to be the same. 

We need to allow/create leaders to be the leaders God has created them to be.

So as I look around the room, its concerns me, that such a diverse group with massive potential, skills and gifts are feeling that they are all to often processed by our systems, or need to conform to what they are told.  AND that our systems/training do not necessarily encourage leadership to go on a journey of discovery through mission enough.

Shouldnt leadership be an exciting journey of discovery?

But I ask in a army does there need to be a standardisation.  Does leadership need to be the same??

I cant help but think as I consider the leadership I have been blessed to raise up and work with.  As i look at the people in the room, how can we continue to create an environment of learning and experience that will keep them fresh?  And true to themselves?

I think, that it does have to start with the individual leader being true to themselves and the calling God has laid on their heart.  The things they are convicted of. 

Leaders will be held accountable before God at the end of their earthly lives not by man!

We have to be true to ourselves.  After all God 'wired us the way we are?'

And so as I ramble through my thoughts on leadership and how I can help encourage and create environments where leaders flourish and fly, im intrigued what this is going to look like within an 'organised' religion like the SA.

My feel is its going to get messy!

Or  should we say creative?

Friends who read this can I encourage you to be the leader God desires you to be rather than;
  • what you think others want you to be
  • what you are told to be.
I have called YOU by your name!  In other words I want you to be who I have made and called not who man says?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Great Picture

Youve been framed!!!!

I love watching this programme and its amazing how many crazy and wierd things are caught on camera.  I often wonder, was that natural or set up.  Some seem unbelievable, not real!?  Im so glad there was no camera present on News years day when I was on the ice rink and fell well and truly on my !!!! Ouch still sore three weeks later.

Its amazing how often a video camera or phone suddenly seem to appear and take pictures of you when you are caught in 'compromising' positions!'    Then you find that you are all over facebook!

I wonder if a picture was taken of my life what would it communicate?  Ive heard it said the picture doesnt lie!?

Im thinking whether someone could follow me around for a day and took lots of pictures of every aspect of my day what would the pictures all add upto.

Would the picture of my life communicate someone as passionate and in love with what im doing?
Would the picture of my life communicate something very attractive?
Would the picture of my life communicate someone who is tired and overstretched?
Would the picture of my life communicate someone who doesnt enjoy his life and vocation?

I wonder what picture does my life communicate????

Just heard my mate talking about what things help shape our life, our picture.  Most helpful.

He said what constraints are you operating within.   What are your convictions?  What context are you working on?

If i am continually feeling constrained by my context and it does not fulfill my convictions, then the reality is the picture wont be the attractive, that beautiful.

So I thank God that I love my context! Its a beautiful picture and place.
I thank God that I do not feel constrained by my denomination or their expectations which allows the picture to be painted.
I Thank God that my convictions are being lived out and demonstrated through my ministry picture.

So I hope friends and loved ones, as you look at the chaotic messy picture which is my life and ministry you see the beauty and the passion behind it.

53 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem

It might look differently to the picture we all expect.   Do you see the picture? 

Monday, 7 January 2013

All at sea



As I start this new year I have a picture in my head of what its going to be like.  Now Im a very visionary, pictoral thinker so i love images and seeing things visually. 

Im in a large boat setting sail into the vast ocean in front of me.  The only challenge is, the boat seems massive, the sea looks very stormy, quite unerving, scary, and i do not know where the boat is sailing to!   This picture is further compounded for me in that i dont like water and even less being in a boat at sea!

 But this is the way I have to go!

What im having to do is hold onto all the building bricks of faith that I have rested on before not least the affirming words from Joshua 'Be Bold Be courageous'

Now the strange thing is and dont panic about my faith journey, that even though i do not know how, where or why I DO KNOW that Jesus is with me in this boat!   (Mark 4:35)

In the midst of this new adventure, and that is what it is I have been led to Mathew 5:1-12 from the message version.  It has been wonderfully illuminating, as I have read it time and time and time again over the last week.  

You see the boat is the place of Gods blessing for me, even though I would not humanly choose to be in said boat!   But this is where God can and will bless me.


Matthew 5:1-12 The Message
Scripture for the year 2013
You’re Blessed
1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.  “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. 10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company.

So my thoughts as you have read this scripture are.  Have you realised that where you are is where God wants to bless you!   You might not choose to have been where you are but God wants to speak to you and minister to you just right where you are!

You are blessed of God just where you are!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Who am I?

I was walking through the pouring rain this morning and was lost in my thoughts and prayers to God.  When in the midst of them came this clear, statement.

'who do you say that I am?'

Now obviously this question was asked of Peter and we know his answer You are the Christ!  But my question received no spoken or unspoken response from within me.

I simply stood and thought again.  'Who do I say that I am?'

As i restarted walking, I found myself turning this question around to myself, rather than to Christ.  Just who am I?

Im a husband.
Im a Father.
Im a Christian.
Im a Friend.
Im an officer, were some of my responses, but none of them I thought truly represented who I am.

In shot the thought to my head..
Who do you say I am?........Im the Child of The KING!

Thats my true identity.

None of the other roles or expectations can compare or sit against this reality.  BUT if im the child of a King, do I live as such??
Where is my security based upon. 
If everything else was stripped away from me, would I still rest and be secure in who I am?

I see so many dear friends, who build their whole identity around their roles and jobs.  But I struggle, in fact refuse to build my identity around officership.  Im passionate about my calling but its not who I am.  I am Andrew a child of the King, not Andrew the major in the Salvation Army.

I think this helps me.
It helps me because my security needs to be rooted in the King who is able to direct my steps and ways, even when maybe I cannot see them or am uncertain which way to tread.  Indeed this holds me in the midst of uncertainty and questioning, which I am convinced is not a bad thing, indeed it compels me to rely on Him more!

As i enter into this year I need to be reliant on Him, not anyone or anything else.

God, my King needs  to be my sufficiency for the storm and for the calm and for whatever else comes my way.

If I build my reliance and strength in organisations, or mankind then, my roots are not deep enough to cause me to stand.  The only way to stand, is to stand complete in Him truly as He sees me, as his child.

Who do you say I am??

Who do people say you are?

Who do you say you are?

Emmaus Pioneer Journey

Picture the scene. You arrive, on a day off to spend the day with one of your children. To help him out. You're greeted by about 5 t...