‘Citizen’ by @AwakenRob

1794824_10154732177950161_9058088988011595710_nSo, I met Rob earlier this year at Spring Harvest, and it was a nice surprise to receive this in the post a few weeks ago with an invitation to read/review… this morning I picked it up, and read it quickly, and appreciatively!

The overall question that Rob is asking is what does it mean to live as a citizen of God’s kingdom, living as ‘resident aliens’ (Hauerwas’s term) on earth?

I was struck by Rob’s questioning of what was a ‘successful’ life, as he sought to live a life true to God’s leaning, discern his passions, and to ensure that prayer was accompanied by action, challenging the gospel of individualism – aka ‘Golden Ticket Theology’ (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory style), which focuses the question on ‘if I died today, where would I go?’, and doesn’t challenge our life on earth too much. Using the character of Frank:

He has not allowed Jesus’ gospel to permeate his being. Instead, Jesus has become an add-on when Frank has run out of options on his own, a go-to in times of trouble. Frank is trying to live the “Western dream” and bring Jesus along for the ride as well. (p27)

Rob’s emphasis is that yes, Jesus died to save you from something, but also for something. We are looking for transformational living, not just of our own, but also as a part of community (especially those who wouldn’t set foot in a ‘traditional’ church). We are called to reimagine our lives, reposition our values, re-identify who we are, and re-centre on Jesus (p29) – and in this – lose our fear – we should be the biggest risk takers on the planet… but we prefer safety, comfort, routine, etc (p100)

We long to be noticed, to be listened to, to be known and understood, and our identity – the way in which we see ourselves – is affect by all of these things. (p49)

Giving us a sense of citizenship through both his own journey from the States to the UK, and notions of citizenship in Jesus’ time, as they affect our identity – although this ideally should not be dictated by our present circumstances. As we claim our identity in Christ, we claim a solid identity – which breeds security. We gain an understanding of the word ‘ecclesia’ as it was in Roman times – an exclusive, and how Christians reclaimed the word to make it an inclusive meeting. Rob emphasises the importance of friendship in identifying the beauty of others, but also in ourselves, and cautions that in a modern world, it’s easy to have many friends and be incredibly busy, but avoid deep friendships.

On p70-71 Rob highlights the difference in the way we introduce ourselves. In Biblical times (and still in many cultures) people are introduced as part of a clan and identified as part of a line of descendants, whereas in contemporary Western culture we are introduced by what we do. What we do achieves us certain material goods and lifestyle, but we, as Christians, are unlikely to be satisfied by this because we were not made for this (and you know, having decluttered strongly, and done a lot of work on values, etc. this is far more satisfying = less things to maintain/upkeep!). Rob also challenges the denominational model that so many align themselves with: “What matters is that each of has found Jesus, and our citizenship is now in heaven” – however much the denominational lenses may differ. We spend too much time and energy arguing about our differences, than focusing on our unity… and that much of church growth is done at the expense of other churches, rather than a joint venture. Christlikeness does not happen by osmosis, but by practice… note Mahatma Gandhi… if we are Christians, it is part of our identity and therefore should inform how we live (see some thoughts on this from a talk I gave at Spring Harvest) – see also p139 re sacred/secular divide.

Rob talks about the dangers of inoculating the world with mild Christianity – we give the impression it doesn’t matter to us/makes not difference to our lives, so they go about their business. If we compartmentalise our lives, we end up living Pharisaical or secret lives. We like taking the benefits of living with Jesus – but often don’t see the full picture, thinking nuns/monks, etc. are those who need to do the full thing. This is all part of a process of sanctification of ‘becoming more like Jesus’.. a proactive, not a reactive process – one that involves spending time with other ‘citizens’, being honest, asking hard questions and examine your motives with more mature Christians. On pp 127-129 Rob calls on Rich Wilson’s session on discipleship in a digital age – noting that what people feed on tends to dictate who they become, that the world/information moves so fast that we have no time for questioning the ethics and impact. The top 0.05% of users on Twitter are celebrities, but are read by approximately 50% of users. They become ‘the cultural disciples of our day’.

I love Rob’s example of counter-cultural notions of success as p142 outlines – when choosing what grade to aim for at theological seminary, the tutor noted that those with other responsibilities such as family, should not be aiming for an A, as family was a higher priority. We are challenged as to whether we have an ‘association’ or a ‘relationship’ with Jesus – have we given into the priorities of the world? If we follow religion rather than faith, we echo actions and behaviours of others and feel that we are ‘doing it right’. WE need a life of intentionality.

These disciples became citizens and observers of the Kingdom way of life as they walked and lived with Jesus. He modelled for them what heaven on earth was to look like, and then he took them aside to explain it to them. (p158)

We are challenged that we should not be ‘outsourcing’ evangelism, but looking at what we as a community can do. We need to consider how many programmes, activities and Bible studies we are involved in, giving us no opportunities to be part of the wider world. The gospel is not just something you speak/profess, but something that you live and act upon. We need to identify what is broken in our world and begin righting the wrongs, even if it is at our own cost – God continually identified with the poor, and so must we. See Isaiah 58:3-9 in The Message.

Inspired? You should be … to read the whole book!

Enjoyed Reading ‘Year of Biblical Womanhood’ by @RachelHeldEvans


I have really enjoyed reading this book over the past week (thanks Bryony for lending it to me) – had me chuckling and thinking at alternate moments, and occasionally reaching for the iPad to take note of a particular paragraph, as outlined here:


Early morning prayer? How can I expect to have a civil conversation with God?


Be yourself. Take risks. Work Hard. Make mistakes. Keep Going. Surround with cheerleaders.


Faith is believing in the midst of uncertainty. Don’t wait for certainty.


Women should not have to pry equality…


Thinking about what we buy… and how it affects others… (one of the most impactful Lent things I did was give up purchasing in supermarkets & seeking to ‘shop local’ more – changes eating habits a lot!)


Remember the historical context in which the Bible was written.


Church – an off-putting place for women?


The Bible isn’t an answer book, set of rules of a self-help manual, but a sacred collection telling God’s story


Do we find what we’re looking for?

Thanks Rachel – lots to chew on (as someone who came from a Brethren background!)!

Godslot Series for @UCBMedia

The following 7 1 minute ‘Godslots’ will be played for at least 6 weeks on UCB Media from 4th August:

#Luke2Acts: Luke 6/7 and #ForgivenessChallenge


Luke 6 – Finally having seen the final in the series of #Rev this morning (I say finally, because was avoiding reading people’s posts about it since last night!) – so the Beatitudes jump right out at me, having watched Adam curled up on his bed, reciting these to himself, feeling that God is a long long long way away.

Is it helpful that I often think of this series of verses:

41 ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?42 How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

when I am thinking about the whole question of ‘tweeting in church’. So often people think that people are playing on their phones, etc. whereas often people (well, I can definitely speak for myself) are focusing in on the sermon, and sharing it with others, possibly querying something heard in a truly interactive way. If someone is paying attention to what I’m doing, what does that say for where their attention is, as it’s clearly not with the sermon?! However, who am I to judge what they are doing? :-) 

We need to understand our values, our faith, and understand what our lives are built upon, which will inform our thinking and our behaviour… to which we are answerable to God in the ultimate.


Luke 7 – Having been looking at a bit of Shane Clairborne recently – especially thinking of the title of his book ‘What is Jesus really meant everything he said?’ – there’s plenty of challenging stuff in Luke, including this chapter…

It’s interesting to look at the interactions of the people – some said, it’s enough that you give the word, other’s wanted some kind of reaction from Jesus … and the outstanding verse – those who have been forgiven much also love much!

Last year we started talking about plans around Stephen Cherry’s book Healing Agony re working together in discussions around forgiveness – possibly with The Forgiveness Project … so interesting to see this from Desmond Tutu – starting in 5 days:


#Luke2Acts – Luke 5

Source: The Worship Cloud

Source: The Worship Cloud

Luke 5 – The chapter starts with Simon in the boat – he’s been fishing all night – it seems pointless, then Jesus says ‘just try one more time’ … and then there were SO many fish. Jesus then says that they are to become ‘fishers of men’ – sent out with a real sense of encouragement.

There’s then a sense of busyness, crowds, and lots of healing action – but to survive all this – Jesus takes time out to spend time alone in prayer…

31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

#BIGRead14: Amen #Luke2Acts

Image Source: The Worship Cloud

Image Source: The Worship Cloud


The final poem in Stephen Cherry’s encouraging but challenging series for Lent – starts and ends with ‘Amen‘ (so be it) – as it is ‘over to you’, and we think where we go next.


Luke 4 – For 40 days (the length of Lent, once Sunday’s are removed), Jesus wandered the desert eating nothing (something that challenged Keith Hebden this Lent as he sought to highlight food banks this Lent). I found a day of it hard enough!

Then a powerful series of stories about Jesus resisting temptation, preaching, teaching and performing miracles.. and as things do today – news of this was spread by word of mouth…

#BIGRead14: Dying #Luke2Acts

Image Source: The Worship Cloud

Image Source: The Worship Cloud


Only two certainties in life, right? Death and taxes? Today’s poem deals with dying, and the sense of ‘slipping away’ … although Ernie’s comments earlier today that death for many isn’t such a comfortable time… although what most would hope for – slipping away in sleep! I loved hunting out the image above though … a comforting potential … which reminds me somewhat of the stories of Narnia – when the Pevensie family die in a train crash, but don’t feel anything – and are transported to Aslan’s country.


Luke 3 – There’s a lot in today’s reading – John proclaiming the coming of Jesus, the strong promise “every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire”, the instruction – “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same”….

Makes me think of Shane Claiborne’s Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus really meant what he said? - lots of uncomfortable challenges.

We also have the baptism of the Holy Spirit – a third of the Trinity that we tend not to focus on too much – aside from at Spring Harvest this year! There is also a long genealogy, which can be tempting to skip through – but traces the line from Jesus back to Adam, and therefore back to God.

#BIGRead14: Breeze #Luke2Acts

Image Source: The Worship Cloud

Image Source: The Worship Cloud


I have to say a breezy day (preferably a warm, breezy day) is one of my favourite kinds of weather, so I love the fact that Stephen’s poem today looks at the breeze:

When the breeze comes;
we rise to life.

I am currently pretty tired so ready to be pretty still, but then awaken at the next breeze… so I may not be all that cohesive!


Luke 2 – There’s a huge amount of thinking here from @zugzwanged – so enjoy! How do we gain this level of excitement ‘When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child’?, or the faithfulness and devout belief of Simeon and Anna … Having been talking about my book for the last couple of days, the thought of a 12 year old disappearing – I can just imagine the parent’s panic… but Jesus simply said ‘where did you expect to find me?’ … exception rather than the rule, as always… 

#BIGRead14: Joy // #Luke2Acts

Image Source: The Worship Cloud

Image Source: The Worship Cloud


Death and taxes .. the only certainties in life, right? Today’s poem on ‘joy’

Unpredictable, undemanding joy, let me
dissolve into your abundant
sufficiency, your limitless
expansiveness, your eternal,
redemptive fullness.

I have had a day of ‘joy’ – recording God Spots for UCB, lunch with Lynne, recording a longer interview around #digitalparenting with Paul Hammond, then on the train to London catching up with Rev, before an evening with lovely friend Karen…


Luke 1 is focusing on a number of miracles, foretellings of Jesus, as the story starts. Throughout, my brain seized upon “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us”, right at the beginning … which in my head connects with the message that we as Christians, as the ‘face of God on earth’ may want to share the things that have happened to us – choosing whether it’s the good, the bad or the ugly we share, but demonstrating our wholeness… 

#BIGRead14: Reconciliation

Image Source: The Worship Cloud

Image Source: The Worship Cloud


Today’s poem focuses on ‘Reconciliation‘ – a tough topic, that we can all too easily skim over. Having just spent the day on an excellent ‘emotional intelligence’ course with Andrew Scott, one of the standout elements of the day was his passion for the stories/narratives we weave around ourselves, and – particularly – around others … which then tend to become self-fulfilling prophesies – especially dangerous if those are ‘negative’ stories (“he never listens”, etc).

I have made an other of you.
And you have made an other of me.

Stephen has done a lot of work on forgiveness (including the difficulty of being able to truly forgive, and the damage that can be done by being forced to say you forgive when that stage hasn’t been reached mentally) – and encourages us to truly see the person behind the picture we have drawn:

to read the hope, the aspiration, the desire,
that makes no sense to us,
no sense at all.

to seek reconciliation and relationship. It feels a bit ‘Miss World’, but would ‘world peace’ ever actually be possible with a bit more of this…


#BIGRead14: O Thou

Image Source: The Worship Cloud

Image Source: The Worship Cloud


Today’s poem can be hard to read – because Stephen appears to be trying to articulate something that’s hard to articulate:

O beginning!
O beauty!
O brilliance!

O wonder!
O presence!
O silence!

O mercy!
O wholeness!
O healing!

O energy!
O darkness!
O glory!

O friend!
O end!
O thou!

I chose the image above because it draws out the wonder of the intricacy of the smallest details (and believe me, as may occasionally be noted publicly – I’m not a detail person!)….


This morning, I have been watching Ruth Daniel explaining how she is changing the world, through music, through creativity, through co-operatives. I was fortunate to get to know Ruth when I worked at the University of Manchester – and Facebook has kept us in touch. Watch this and be inspired:

#BIGRead14: Embracing the Mystery

Image Source: The Worship Cloud

Image Source: The Worship Cloud


Today’s poem

Help me to be clear about this at least:
that I know little;
that I miss more than I see;
that I am surprised more often,
far more often, than
I ever admit.

… reminded me of a postcard I used to have on my wall – which was something along these lines:


The focus of the poem, however, is upon the mystery – which the first description in Wordnik is “One that is not fully understood or that baffles or eludes the understanding” – and that is the power of Easter Sunday – the mystery of the ‘One’ who came to earth … (and having given a talk which included a section on ‘reason’ versus ‘faith’ – cannot imagine a world which is limited by ‘what we know’, in which there is no mystery).

LATER TODAY – Come join us for an Easter Service online.

Don’t forget that Lent is officially 50 days … so Stephen’s poems continue until the end of the week!

#Do1NiceThing: Love Your Street street party – keep on your #Do1NiceThing challenge

Maggi Dawn

Thank you to Maggi for Giving It Up over Lent, the last day of which is today.

Tanya Marlow on Facebook this morning shared this piece for those stuck on Easter Friday, and can’t feel the joy of Easter Sunday.

Maggi gives us John 21: 1-14 – the sense of uncertainty for the disciples after Jesus’ ministry appears to have ended … not sure what they are supposed to be doing, going back to their old trades – in this case Peter’s fishing (an aspect of their lives I hadn’t really thought about before) – but they can’t go back to what they had done before - everything had changed… 

Lent is over …. Easter has just begun!

#BIGRead14: Contemplation

Image Source: The Worship Cloud

Image Source: The Worship Cloud


Well, after a day which has been mostly about not working (although setting up online service for tomorrow has taken a tad longer than expected), this poem seems appropriate in a day of ‘waiting’ and ‘silence’, in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday:

I remain in your peace.
I absorb your peace.
I will rise, in due course,
to live your peace.

#Do1NiceThing: Visit a local shop you have not visited before or in a while (support locally!) // I do this a lot :-) Ever since I gave up supermarket shopping one Lent, it opened my eyes to what else is out there..

Maggi Dawn

John 19. A day of living in the shadows, a sabbath day, in which the disciples had seen the man they believed to be their leader suffer a punishing death, and appeared to have lost the hope of the future that he promised – they did not yet understand about the resurrection. Sometimes we just have to hold on … until a glimmer of light appears on the horizon.

#BIGRead14: Mysterious Cross #sh2014 #eastermeans

Image Source: Mysterious Cross

Image Source: Mysterious Cross


Today’s poem focuses upon the Cross, and the complacency that so many of us of us have towards it because of its familiarity – and an encouragement to re-engage with its mystery:

Mysterious cross,
you hold my stare, reflect it back.
your unfathomable eyes, like the blackest
of holes,
draw me in, draw me deep.

As we were preparing the video material for this, Stephen drew our attention to a small/quiet Cross in Durham Cathedral, that many don’t notice – the sabachthani cross… see him in front of it in this video, and earlier in the series, he reflected that there are also many people that we don’t notice… (again, this was done in front of the cross).

At Spring Harvest final Big Top celebration this morning – the Cross that had been there all week, appeared to come more sharply into focus as we prepared for communion …


and I still remember the beginning of the week, when a cross covered in denim jeans pockets was placed, and people encouraged to place the things that got in the way of their confidence into the pockets – literally on the cross…

And check out this video:


#Do1NiceThing: Put spare change in a charity box // still remembering my Tearfund charity box..

Maggi Dawn

Maggi (in Giving it Up) encourages us to spend time at the Cross … there’s a time for mourning (which are today/tomorrow), and then Sunday we celebrate the resurrection. A powerful discussion of religious art, and the way that it encourages us not to engage with the true pain of the crucifixion, and what a torturous method of death it was [I'm thinking of Mel Gibson's The Passion].. and to check out the work of Brazilian Sculptor Guido Rocha ‘The Tortured Christ‘.

Christianity is not comfortable, conventional or respectable – and can be painful – are we prepared to take this on?

Twice this week, I’ve partaken in a mini-‘drama’ in which we hold our arms out in a Christlike pose, and look down at the crowds below, to the left/right to see the other’s hanging there, then up to God, then down with ‘It is Finished’ – powerful – and surprisingly painful to hold your arms up – so the thought of how powerful that would be with no chance to put arms down with nails driven through… that’s still resonating with me as I approach home via a long train journey…


There’s a number of people posting what #eastermeans to them on Twitter over this weekend – I’d encourage you to join in, and share ..

#BIGRead14: Too Difficult

Image source: The Worship Cloud

Image source: The Worship Cloud


Today’s poem

Yes, it is too much to ask.
Yes, it is too difficult. that’s the point.
Give me the grace to do the difficult thing

Not even really time to think about it, as today is my ‘packed full’ day at Spring Harvest … prayers, lecture prep (for afternoon lecture “There’s no place for faith in our public life“, that just didn’t want to fall into place – truly a difficult thing!), culture space, lunch, lecture, sit in on digital safety session, book signing, grab tea, big top/prayers, hosting, pack bag … zzzzz

Maggi Dawn

A theme echoing throughout .. Jesus entered the world in a borrowed room, and his final meeting ‘the upper room’, was also in a borrowed room .. he truly lived ‘in faith’!

#BIGRead14: Monochrome (#SH2014)

Image Source: The Worship Cloud

Image Source: The Worship Cloud


As someone who loves colour, today’s poem is a challenge, particularly:

Let me be, then, more
black and white in who I am,
what I say, what I do.


Let me be grey
that others may
colour and be

I loved finding the photo above on The Worship Cloud, as it could take the poem even further – do we become more monochrome so that the Cross stands out?

Maggi Dawn

In John 18, Simon Peter denies Jesus three times…

I’m trying to finish preparing a #SH2014 talk for tomorrow on ‘Faith has no place in the public sphere: discuss’ … so this line from Maggi is particularly apt:

Peter, always the first to speak and act in support of Jesus, and fearless of making public statements about his faith, now speaks just as impulsively in denial, simply to save his own skin. In this moment of danger he attempts what is ultimately impossible – to stay faithful only in private.

With a theme this week at Spring Harvest on ‘confidence’, it’s a great reading, to understand that the disciples also failed at many things, for a variety of reasons, and that Jesus can forgive them all.. .

#BIGRead14: Untie My Depths

Image Source: The Worship Cloud

Image Source: The Worship Cloud


Today’s poem gives a real sense of ‘struggle’, seeking to find ‘meaning’, but getting caught up and tangled in what we are already caught up in:

Disentangle me, Lord.
Unpick my inner knot.
Unravel my complexity.
Unweave my deepest confusion.
Untwist the channels of spirit within.

I’m not one that talks about ‘visions’ much, but when I was doing life-coaching training, I described the thoughts in my head as a huge number of multicoloured strands – very bright and beautiful, but entirely tangled one around the other, so it was difficult to discern a path forward…

tangled sewing threads

Maggi Dawn

With John 12:1-8 … the story of Mary pouring ultra-expensive perfume (nard) on Jesus’ feet, a perfume associated with grief/pain/death – anointing Jesus before his death and burial. Jesus didn’t stop Mary, but allowed her to carry out this once in a lifetime act (it was essentially her life savings). Tonight, Celia talked in the Big Top at #SH2014 re the need to see how other’s value the small things that you give them, often before you give the bigger things – not in an anti-generous way, but recognising that we each only have so much to give, and it’s good stewardship to ensure that our energies/skills will be given to those who will value and honour it.

There’s a reminder from Maggi that often when we are overworked, we try and work a little harder, but actually we sometimes need to get away from it all (either for a nap, as I did this afternoon), or to hang out with those who have known us for a long-time, and with whom we can simply relax and recharge, going forward with creativity…

#BIGRead14: Pain

Image Source: The Worship Cloud

Image Source: The Worship Cloud


Today’s poem, on pain, makes me think of a number of verses in Genesis, where the ground is cursed, labour is cursed, and life is made so much more difficult through our own disobedience…

Yet the truth is that the
pain overcomes
me. It invades, vanquishes and
diminishes me.

I know some of the pain that I experience is brought on by some of my own unhelpful habits … I’m working on a few at at time!

Maggi Dawn

Drawing on Mark 11:15-19, we are reminded that the God of the Old Testament is still very much in evidence … it is not ‘angry God’ of the Old Testament, and ‘floaty Jesus’ of the New Testament … righteous anger is in evidence throughout the Bible.

….you aren’t allowed to get angry, feel passionate or care so much about something that it leads to radical, unorthodox and criminal action.

Maggi emphasises that this is not a call for random criminal action, but to be aware that anger can play a part in our lives.