When I started this occasional journal of my journey I said something akin to the fact that I would post “ when I feel God is prompting me to, or when something significant has happened in my journey.” I’m not sure that it gets much more significant than finding out where we are going to spend the next four years, so It’s probably time to update you. A few weeks back the Bishop asked us to investigate the possibility of continuing my training by serving as a curate at St. Mary Magdalen in Sheet from July 2014. I think is was fair to say that it was as a relatively nervous couple that Suzy and I headed off to meet Richard, the incumbent, and his wife Jo soon after. We could not have been made to feel more welcome, and we quickly felt at peace with Richard, Jo and this opportunity. They have a great background in ministry and we came away feeling that not only could we become great friends, but that there was much we could learn from them. Very soon after we met some of the elders of the Church, in what I affectingly termed ‘death by quiche,’ although there was no quiche in sight. What we did discover was another great welcome from a group of people who obviously have a desire to see God’s community grow. So in the last couple of weeks both Richard and I have thanked the Bishop and the team for their care and prayer in this process and have accepted their offer. This was announced in Sheet yesterday and frees us up to share the great news with our friends. So what have we learnt from this process? It seems to us that God has had His hand on this whole process, and perhaps a little more faith from us would have been in order. Over the last year we have been wondering just what was going to happen about a number of issues. Firstly it seemed that were a limited number of places in the diocese, that were similar enough to the environment that we were use to, for my family to be looked after; and yet different enough for there to be a opportunity for me to learn. God ticked the ‘ye of little faith’ box on that one with Sheet. Next there was the small issue of the fact that Suzie’s Mum lives in an annex attached to our current home. A responsibility that I had not realised weighed quite so heavily on my shoulders, until it had been resolved. Without going into details God smashed through the lack of faith box and provided an answer that seems to be a win situation for all involved. Those were the biggies, but there were many more hurdles that have fallen away one by one over the last six months. I just hope that when we go on our cruise holiday later this year there isn’t an middle eastern figure asleep in the rear of the boat. Because right now I would have to trust Him big time if we hit a storm. So it probably goes without saying that we are very excited as a family about this opportunity God has placed in from of us. There is now of course the small issue of actually finishing the college part of my training over the next year, and then preparing to move house in July of next year. However if I have learned anything through this process it is to have faith that God has that in hand. After all it’s difficult to argue with His track record.
I am a poor reflection of Jesus Christ I have decided, but God is showing me a little more day by day. This comes to mind because of a recent revelation on my train journey to work. There is this chap who gets on the train, who I avoid eye contract with at all costs, just in case he sits next to me. He’s not aggressive, he doesn’t smell, he doesn’t frighten me, he is just a bit odd. Every day when he gets on he engages whoever he sits with in conversation. the conversations are trivial and inoffensive, but oh how embarrassing if I was that person on the other side of the conversation whilst the whole carriage listened in. In a brief burst of self-awareness I understood this stems from a desire not to be seen to be foolish myself.
That’s when it hit me how absolutely hypocritical my actions were.I am not sure how the others in the carriage view their life, but my guide book suggest that I will be willing to be foolish for my God. Last night I read a reflection that suggested that I had a particular role to help men find their path in life. Finally my God talks of how every time I speak to or help the lonely it is as if I am speaking to or helping Him directly. Foolish, men, lonely, foolish, men, lonely. I am a bear of little brain sometimes, but even I can see this chap probably is a man who is lonely, what gives me the right to feel foolish if I am able to speak to him? Sometimes we just miss the opportunities in life even though they are put in front of us every day. How I hunger for my actions to reflect more closely the words that come out of my mouth. A long time ago a chap called Paul, commented on this human condition. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” If I want my actions to reflect my words there is but one person who has the ability to do that. When I do get the chance to speak to the chap on the train next, I don’t think I am going to feel half as foolish as I feel right now.
For my fellow second year students and I it’s an odd time at the moment. Most of us are in the back end of our second of three years of training, and have just started our last module for this academic year. The last module is a placement (work experience) in an environment away from our home Church. That feels fairly odd for me, which I guess it is supposed to, as it’s partly for preparation leaving my current Church in just over a year. The separation from the people I know and love, and who have seen me grow, succeed and fail over the years, is a little more heart wrenching then I mike like to admit. Then there is the actual move itself, and all that entails.
It wasn’t just my life that got turned upside down when I started on this path it was my families as well. Over the next couple of months a few good people are going to try and discern where they believe it is best for me to serve out my curacy and the next four years of my life. This is very likely to mean a move of house, and the problem there is that curate’s houses don’t tend to come with grannie annexes. It’s a pressure that has been constantly in my mind over the last few months, and one that I have little control over. When I took on the responsibility of my mother-on-law’s well being, I didn’t take it on lightly. I know that both her and I expected her to live with us for the rest of her life. She is healthy, and we are in the position, if need be we will be able to sell our house and buy a smaller home for her to live in. But that’s going to be odd for her, and for us. Yet it’s important for me and my family that I serve in the right Church with the right training minister, and that decision cannot be impacted by a geographical limitation, or housing. Did I mention that I have near zero control over this?
As we know control is an issue for many of us, and it’s just possible that letting go of control is something that I might struggle with. For this and other reasons and although it’s a little bit of a cliché, Proverbs 3 and in particular 5-6 have become very real to me over the last couple of months .
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
It’s all well and good preaching about it, or theorising about trust in an essay, but this is where I have to hand over control to God for real. So it’s a time of trust. Trust that God put me on this path, trust that He knew I had a family, and responsibility for other people. Trust that He will guide those in control of the decision-making. Trust that I have done all I can, to be open to his guidance. Trust that where we end up will be the right place for the whole of my family, including Mum.
Trust is hard, isn’t it?
So it’s that time of year when we the Cross family sit down and ‘not’ write our Christmas cards to you our friends. It’s been a little while now that instead of sending paper messages we have put our card money to what we hope is better use. We still wish you a Happy Christmas as we celebrate the birth of King Jesus. We hope that you are able to relax and enjoy time with friends and family, and yes you know we pray that you might come to know our Father God a little more through the celebration of his Son’s birth. For many of our friends 2012 has been a hard year and so as we reflect on that, know that we are praying better times and peace for you. For others 2012 has been a time of joy, new life, and new adventures. We also celebrate the good times with you.
This year we gave our ‘card’ money to Hands Of Love, which to quote their website is a Ugandan “home for over 806 children age 3 to 19 years. It was started in 2005 by Pastor Elijah Sebuchu and his wife Ruth when they and their own children had little to eat themselves.” It is small charity, and I know the trustees personally and can vouch for their integrity and wise counsel. Which means I know the money is put to good use, and the tough decisions about where to place the limited resources is in good hands. You can of course goto http://handsoflove.org.uk and learn more about them.
So we do wish both you our friends and the children of Hands of Love a very very Happy Christmas on the birth of the ‘Main Man’.
I visited the almost holy ground of the Apple Store the other day. It also started with the realisation that my home button on the iPad was occasionally failing, and I was heading towards the end of the warranty period. So I headed off towards the appointment, a little rushed as I had left later then I anticipated. My mood starting taking a dive, as I realised the traffic was heavy and it was unlikely that I would make the appointment on time. Bright idea, lets phone the store and give them a heads up I’ll be late. Ten minutes later still stuck in traffic my mood continued it’s downward spiral, not helped by the fact that the store assistant had politely, but never-the-less firmly explained that if I was late it was unlikely that I would be able to see anyone, as they were fully booked. I finally arrived at the store, thirty minuets late and headed towards a young lady with a, ‘how can I help you smile on her face.’ I explained the situation, ‘I know it not your fault, but, I live a long way away and I wonder if you can help me?’ ‘No.’ OK she said it very apologetically but that was the outcome. Attempt number two, same words but in a different order. Response number two, same word, ‘No.’ Attempt three, same words, different order, exasperated tone. Answer three, ‘No.’ Couched in the terms of, ‘we have no-one who can help and whilst we would like to there is nothing I can do, and why are you being so mean to me?’ I mumbled something to the young lady twenty years my junior, which was less then encouraging and walked away. As I did, I noticed what appeared to be three Apple employees standing around doing nothing, (at least in my eyes), one of who was obviously some type of supervisor. Ah ha, my opportunity I thought. I walked over and explained that, ‘I have just been told that no one can help, but there appears to be three of them having a party, whilst my world ending catastrophe of a broken iPad is not getting the attention it deserves.’ OK the words were very slightly different, but the sentiment was there. The ‘supervisor’ looked at me with eyes that said, ‘we are perfectly in our rights, and we are just following the correct procedure, but I can see you are trouble.’ The growl faded and she said, ‘Please take a seat sir and Ill see what I can do, but it may be a while.’
Thirty minutes later I leave with a refurbished iPad. Triumph I win! Well no, not really. You see during my wait I had the joy of listening to another Apple employee induct a couple, into the purchase of their new MacBook Air. During the time it takes to set up a new computer they discussed many things including travel and software. Also for some reason the employee introduced how, ‘religion causes pain and suffering around the world, and certainly most of the wars.’ As you can imagine it’s an area that I would love to have had some input on, and I was just about to enquiry why he felt that, when it happened. I felt the gentle voice, in my head say, ‘after what has just happened, do you really want anyone here to know you are a Christian?’ My behaviour had disqualified me from witnessing the grace and love of Christ to these three people. It didn’t matter if I had all the arguments down pat, or the desire to show them that what they believed was God wasn’t the God I knew. I simply had not behaved in a way, which allowed me to talk to them as a Christian, with integrity.
Later that night we laughed with family and a friend Adrian, as we eat dinner together. I was able to laugh with Adrian and the family, because they know me from old. They know I have done much worst in the past and they know on the whole I am a better person then my visit to the Church of Apple would suggest. So why discuss this here on the journey of discovery? If I’m honest there probably is a small amount of the confessional about this post, but I think mainly it’s a reminder that we all stuff up. Agnostics stuff up, atheists stuff-up, Christians stuff up, even Apple store employees stuff up, although perhaps not in this case. I am glad that the Bible does not suggest that as a Christian I have arrived, but that we are all on a road to becoming like Jesus. The Message paraphrase of the Bible renders 2 Corinthians 3:18 as; ‘All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.’ I am glad that I am becoming like him, and not that people should judge who Jesus is based upon my actions. I am glad that I get a second chance, to be the person I, and Jesus would want me to be. I am mostly glad that my salvation is not based upon my performance in the world, and particularly in Apple stores.