Author Archive for John Stephenson

05
Jun
13

Why I stopped blogging (and why I am starting again)!

A quick look at my blog shows you that I have been silent for some time. I stopped for a number of reasons but the main ones were.

1. I was unsure whether I was blogging to see what people thought. My gut feeling is that for blogging to be valuable it has to be beneficial to me.
2. I was beginning to be worried about what people thought about what I wrote. In many ways the blog is a space to develop my thinking and so at times I blog rather like thinking aloud.
3. I wanted to be sure it wasn’t simply a case of narcissism. Believing that I had something worth saying – listen to me I’m clever.

So why am I starting again?
1. It is a good way of processing ideas and helps me.
2. It offers a chance to connect with people I might not get to see too often and share what is going on with me.
3. It offers a good place for debate.

I can’t promise how often I will blog but will do it when it helps me

John

03
Jun
12

Remember your creator

I was recently asked to speak at a school leavers service. An audience comprising 17/18 year olds at the end of their school career and their parents and staff at the school. There were clearly people there with a range of understandings of faith. What I said was warmly received and as I have reflected on it, I feel sure that I pitched it right. The text of what I said is below. Since there were no visuals available I have just reproduced the text. Enjoy!

They came on boats of all shapes and sizes, leaving behind most of their possessions they had set off with their hearts full of hope. For many it was a difficult journey, cramped conditions, lack of food stormy seas. But they knew they were nearly there when they saw the statue in the harbour entrance of the river. That statue, a present from France symbolised a new world of great opportunity, and as they disembarked at Ellis island they knew that their adventure was only just beginning.

In January I spent a few days with the family in New York on holiday and visited the Statue of Liberty and the immigration centre at Ellis island. I was surprised at how small they were. But of course it was not their size that mattered – it was what they represented to those who had crossed the ocean for this amazing new world.

In many ways I am speaking today to a group of leavers who in a similar position. A new world of opportunity lies in front of you. Just like those who travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to America, you are about to enter a new world. What will you do with that opportunity?

Today we have had two readings from the Bible
The first is an old man looking back on his life
He has had everything you could dream of – success, fame, women, stuff. In his day he had it all. What does he say?

‘Remember your creator, fear God and keep his commandments.’
‘Remember your creator in the days of your youth’

King Solomon had everything and yet he realised that it was all nothing compared to knowing his creator.

The second is a young man at the peak of his popularity. Crowds follow him everywhere he goes. They hang on his every word and follow him e everywhere . What does he say?

‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?’

This man, Jesus ultimately died penniless and as a criminal but had more impact on the world than anyone who ever lived.

What will you do with the choices you have before you?
It may not seem like it but over the next few months you will have the opportunity to make choices that will potentially shape your whole future.
Who you are friends with? What you do with your leisure time?
These two pieces of wisdom are really significant pieces of advice to take account of?
Take time to consider the idea of a creator, take time to consider what is beyond the here and now

So as I have been given the chance to speak to you now what would I say?

1. Be yourself
Steve Jobs said . ‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.’
It’s so easy to waste time trying to emulate someone else when what you really need to be is you. After all when there is only one of something it’s precious, and only you can be you so that makes you valuable. God made you to be you – don’t waste time trying to be someone else.

2. Remember God
The world we live in is amazing. But it’s easy to rush by and miss what it has to offer. No-one ever says I wish I had spent more time at the office. So savour life and live it to the full.
Jesus said ‘I have come that you might have life, life in all it’s fullness (John 10:10).
Fullness of life comes when you remember your creator that’s what Solomon realised.

3. Make a difference
It was 31 August 1997. My youngest son came up to tell me because there was no children’s TV on that morning because Princess Diana has died in a car crash. A nation mourned publicly and retold and relived her life. It was a story of tragedy and pain – of someone who never really came to terms with herself, her status and how to make a difference in the world. On the same day someone else died. On any other day this would have made headlines but because of Diana, it went by almost unnoticed and I think that she would have been quite pleased at that. Mother Theresa spent most of her life living and working in the slums of Calcutta with those that nobody else thought mattered. Here we are 15 years after her death and the work she started continues and grows with over 4000 people working in the charitable order she began. She knew that it was worth investing in making a difference in the world.

So what will you do? Will you be yourself? Will you remember God? Will you make a difference?

I want to end with some words that have been credited to Mother Theresa. They were either on the wall of the orphanage she ran in Calcutta or on the wall of simple room where she lived in that same orphanage. They sum up what I would suggest is an alternative way to live that will mean you do those things I have mentioned.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.
f you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway

03
Jun
12

Why I stopped blogging (and why I am starting again)!

A quick look at my blog shows you that I haven’t been here for a while. I stopped blogging for a number of reasons – the main ones being

1. I was unsure whether I was blogging to see if I was popular rather than for genuine reasons. I think for blogging to be worthwhile it has to benefit me

2. I was beginning to wonder more about what people thought about what i wrote rather than using it as a space to develop my thinking.

3. I wanted to be sure that this wasn’t simply a case of narcissism – look at me aren’t I clever

So why am i starting again?

1. It’s a good way of processing ideas – writing stuff down helps me do that.

2. It offers a chance to connect with people I might not see too often and dialogue about what I am thinking and what is going on

3. It’s a reasonable place to have some measure of debate

I can’t promise how often I will blog – just often enough to help me

John

14
May
11

Apologies

Computer problems meant that I have been unable to blog since my last post. Apologies especially if you were following my blog during LENT. Normal service will now be resumed and I have got a few things I want to rant about so be willing to respond!

21
Apr
11

love and obedience – april 19

Reading Matthew 26 36-56

I can’t read this passage without remembering it being brough vividly to life at an out door mystery play in the Museum Gadrens in York. I remember the tension, the fear as the mov got nearer – the noise level and the torches. I remember the actor playing the devil laughing as Jesus is taken away. I remember the dignity of Jesus as he obeyed his father in allowing himself to be taken

It stopped being a nice story – instead it was nasty and violent and unpleasant. But it was real! Jesus knows failure, betrayal and desertion from those he loves. In that moment he must felt so alone and afraid. Yet he faced it because he knew that was what obedience meant.

So nothing I can do can stop him loving me – no failure betrayal or desertion is too great – what an amazing truth

21
Apr
11

who is welcome here? – april 18

Reading Matthew 26 14-35

Jesus brings new meaning to the familiar story as he celebrates the passover with his disciples. A meal that focuses on God the redeemer and whose depth is all the greater through the cross of Jesus.

His blood is poured out for many – so the invitation is for those who want to celebrate God’s recdemtion to come an d take part. In recent times the place of children at communion has been much debated. But then i find myself asking, ‘who am I to decide who should come?’ – it is God’s heart that matters. Are all welcome at this table?

21
Apr
11

Who is Judas to you? – april 16

Reading Matthew 26 14-27

I have often been intrigued by the presence of Judas at the Last Supper. Here is Jesus knowing he faces death, sharing his last meal with his disciples and he shares it with the man he knows will betray him – wow! But maybe thats exactly what love really looks like.

In other parts of the Bible Jesus criticises the Pharisees because they only invite their friends to eat with them – ‘even the pagans do that he says’. I imagine that the pain Jesus felt was immense and yet he still welcomes Judas to the meal.

So then I ask who are the people who have betrayed me and what does it mean to treat them like Jesus treats Judas?