Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Oral History (1)

 A few weeks ago I was asked by the President of the UK Baptist Historical Society to contribute 5,000 words to an oral history project (which actually will be written!) asking various people who have been Baptists of 'your experience of being Baptist, changes during your lifetime (positive and negative etc.) These written responses would be placed in the Angus Library and available for future historians to provide a more reflective and experiential view of Baptist life in the 20th and early 21st. century.'

The project is not looking for formal material but a record of memories and reflections by those who took part in events - nationally, regionally, in the local church. Accompanying notes suggest that participants say something about: their early life,  development of Christian experience; call to ministry/vocation and how linked with the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB); formation for future work and how they were led to an area of work; details about where they served and work they did; reflections on how they changed and what changes have happened from when they first began. 

Long suffering readers of my blog will know that I have from time to time indulged in blobs of autobiography.  I think the older you grow the more tempting it is to look back and (hopefully) reflect.  As I began my 5,000 words I realized this task would be strongly slanted...describing my life from a Baptist perspective.  Just how much did BUGB impact me?   And how many of my life experiences come from being Baptist?

And I discovered a huge amount of my life experience does come from being Baptist!  Perhaps, it's inevitable when you think how my life started!  I realize some of you may glaze over but I thought some of it might be of interest.... See next posts. 

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Summer heat

My posts are slower and lethargic as this drought and heatwave continues .....we could cope with the heat in the US, courtesy of air conditioning.  Often fierce as you entered indoors.  But here we just drip and drop!  And I know we are not suffering alone.

However, our US family made the visit after 4 years and joined up with our London family for some joyful holiday times in Cambridge.  I think they rated our time on the river, messing about in punts, as one of the best.  Hiring two punts, I blissfully reclined in one, knowing that my two sons would take the strain.  Moving up river to Granchester in temps. of 38 plus degrees, I dipped my hand in the water and gleefully splattered myself . Then, to my joy, my grandsons took over the punting.  For two of them it was a new experience but before long they were propelling us along in more or less straight lines.  Occasionally we visited low hanging branches and reeds and needed the paddle to push us off.

I thought to myself, with a glow of thankfulness, what a special time we were being given. Family togetherness in bucolic scenery with new skills transmitted onwards. My father taught me to punt when I was nine years old and now I see a new generation enjoying themselves.  So, this is a very grateful post.

Hopefully, you also have found some good times and relief these last weeks.  

Thursday, August 11, 2022



Contentment translates a Greek word apatheia which sounds close to apathy, doesn’t it?  Apathy speaks of indifference which is exactly how it was valued by Stoic contemporaries of Paul.  Stoics held that contentment or self-sufficiency was a virtue that an individual gained when they learned to be indifferent to their circumstances.  They gained independence not needing anyone or anything in a state of complete detachment from outside things.  Unruffled by whatever life threw up.   

When the apostle Paul uses this word it could not be more different.  Richard Foster wrote about the state of relinquishment. when 'we begin to enter a grace-filled releasing or our will and a flowing into the will of the Father.....from struggling to the releasing...this prayer is a bona fide letting go, but it is a release with hope...God is not destroying the will be transforming it so that we can freely will what God wants'.  What an extraordinary word! Relinquishment means to release or let go.

I think this radical prayer of relinquishment has much to do with living the second half of life in God's way.  

Today, O Lord, I yield myself to you.  

May your will be my delight today.

May your way have perfect sway in me.

May your love be the pattern of my living.

I surrender to you

my hopes,

my dreams,

my ambitions.

Do with them what you will, when you will, as you will.

I place into your loving care

my family,

my friends,

my future.

Care for them with a care that I can never give.

I release into your hands

my need to control,

my craving for status,

my fear of obscurity.

Eradicate the evil, purify the good, and establish your

kingdom on earth.

For Jesus’ sake,


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

A learned secret


I must make space for the apostle Paul on this subject of ageing. Spurgeon imagines him as 'an old gray-headed man upon the borders of the grave, a prisoner shut up in Nero’s dungeon at Rome'. Looking back over the highs and lows of ministry (and were many lows) he shares some personal thoughts with this fellowship at Phillipi.  In his reflections he makes a staggering claim: I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation (Phil 4: 12). Really? He writes that he has learned, past tense, to live contentedly.  That really takes us to deep places because, sadly, this quality of life is largely missing. Rather, discontentment marks much living – when Rohr's 'necessary suffering' upsets any hope of contentment.  

Paul calls it a secret because it is not obvious. It is not a surface value or experience. Indeed, for many of us it has never rooted within. The first half of life, chasing after goals with disturbing restlessness is marked by busyness and interrupted nights where sillinesses are stirred up out of all proportion seeding resentments, jealousies, and slights to ruffle the spirit and undermine any chance of peace.  How can you really know contentment in any and every situation?  

Yet the apostle says it can be learned. If we take the trouble to be taught about it we can actually grow in contentment.   Spurgeon wrote of the College of Contentment in which Paul had cultivated contentment.  It is unnatural.  Not a natural propensity for our covetousness, discontent and murmuring. That’s normal behaviour. We don’t need to learn how to complain that comes easily. But cultivating contentment requires immense care.  It's nothing less than the new nature of becoming new creation in Christ.  At the beginnings we may call Jesus as Lord but  we need to learn what it means to trust and live in the Spirit more and more.  Spurgeon emphasizes that for Paul it 'cost him some pains. No doubt he sometimes thought he had learned and then broke down. Do not indulge the notion that you can be contented without learning, or learn without discipline. It is not a power that may be exercised naturally, but a science to be acquired gradually'. Only as an older man could he actually speak about learning in the past tense.

Hmmm...learning in the College of Contentment. There's a challenge.