God is good – all the time

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God’s been good to me this week. Ok, I know God is good every week, but this week, I actually noticed.

It was my turn to lead worship this week, with my trusty MP3 player. Up until now, it was a task I dreaded – the technology had me tearing my hair out, nothing was in the right key or tempo and frankly trying to find cheerful carols had me almost ready to jump ship.

However, a few things happened this week to encourage me…

Firstly, we decided to pick up a Bob Goff course in our life group – Love Does. Watching the study introduction, reading a bit about Bob’s work and the little internet trail it led to, had a good vibe. It helped me make a few decisions, turn the corner from a season of overload and shake off some dust (literally). And it’s not like I’d never heard of Bob before, but God decided it was time for me to pay attention to his message.

So with Bob’s optimistic vibe, I cracked on with planning the worship.

Then some timely resources came my way, with some positive reinforcement and encouragement attached – a heaven-sent combination. One of these was a website I had looked at before, but when I tried to create an account last time, it asked for a US land address and I gave up. This time, (God made me do it) I ignored that section and just pressed “submit” – geddit? – and it let me in! Ha! This turned out to be an amazing mine of information as well as offering free streamed music to help me decide what to use. A mini-epiphany of its own.

With approval from Natasha for the music, I decided not to fight the technology but take a couple of easier options, had a bit of a practice in my car (teen taxi) during the week and lo! the worship was sorted.

One of Bob Goff’s recommendations is to “quit something every Thursday”, which was the homework for this week. We wondered in our life group how much Bob must have had on his plate in the first place, to be able to continually quit something every Thursday. Then we thought – if he is anything like us, what he quits on Thursday he picks straight up again on Friday! Like us, he may have been working on the same things for a while. Maybe he is including “quitting” putting something off that we know we should get on with; or stopping worrying about the same thing over and over again. Maybe he is not talking about giving up chocolate, but giving up boasting or criticising others, or putting ourselves down; instead of leaving a job, giving up suffering in silence (or moaning loudly!) and asking for some help.

Over the last few sermons, God’ s signs seem to be pointing us to take stock and incubate ready for the next season; to spend time trying to hear and see what he is showing us and consider how to respond. I’m a bit worried that this will involve adding to my multiple “to do” lists but maybe I just need to add more to my new list entitled “to stop”. Then I’ll have a chance to notice that God is good – all the time.

 

 

Easter Eggs in the shops

easter eggs in shopsWe struggled with having tinsel in the shops in September and the festive pop on the radio since mid-November, then we snap our fingers after Christmas Day and there are Easter eggs in the Co-op *sigh*.

But it’s all very well for us to tut and roll our eyes at the shops having Easter eggs already – look at this week’s Bible reading. Two weeks ago, Jesus was born in a manger, last week he was a toddler being visited by magi and this week, he was a grown man, about to start his short but illustrious preaching career and being baptised in the river Jordan. Talk about moving swiftly on!

However, far from skipping straight to Easter, Archdeacon Guy Elsmore explained this Sunday that thirty years had passed “unremarkably” for Jesus whilst he grew up, learnt his earthly father’s trade and matured into the role His heavenly Father had planned for Him. He spent this time preparing for what was to come.

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If you remember or listen again to Natasha’s sermon from 6th January, she was encouraging us in this season of Epiphany, to hold on to the whole point of Christmas – God’s gift to us and the transformation this brings. Over the next few weeks, we are asking ourselves what we can give to God or to others around us, in return for this Great Gift? Later this term we will be exploring this in a sermon series called Paraclesis, but in the meantime, give yourself some preparation time and give God a chance to remind you of your gifts. If you took a treasure box home, make some notes and store them to be revealed later…

And just to keep Christmas in our hearts a little longer, here are a few photos from Christmas Eve:

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7Up: Meeting Jesus

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7Up meets on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month in the coffee shop and is growing in strength and number every term, thanks to Simon’s leadership and Natasha, Susanne and Tara’s support. They have arranged to have one hour sessions once a month, meeting for the whole of the 10.30 Family Service, to look at a subject in more depth. Simon shares a bit about their last session…

The theme for last time was Meeting Jesus. We looked at different ways in which Jesus has been portrayed in art over the centuries and on the internet more recently.

We each chose a picture showing the Jesus we would want to meet and have a selfie with, and shared why / what that picture of Jesus meant to us. Oliver chose Jesus on the cross because it showed what Jesus has done for him. Alistair, Mariam and I chose two figurative, one more abstract, of Jesus stretching out his hand or arms to us to welcome or help us.

We then chose one of those pics for us all to have a selfie with Him – did you notice he is in the picture at the top?!

It was great fun of exploring how we individually relate to Jesus.

We ended the session with creating (max 4 word) prayers to Jesus in magnetic letters on the coffee shop fridges, while listening to Jesus Be the Centre and shared more about those prayers with each other.

What a privilege!

If you or someone you know is in Year 7 or above and would like to come and join in this fun and supportive group, please contact Simon via the church office for more information, or turn up to St Andrew’s at 10.30 on a 2nd or 4th Sunday of the month.

A Christmas Day Message: Remember…

by Revd Natasha Brady

Now Christmas day is finally here, what do we do now? Do we just stay indoors, and snuggle up close to a fire or under a warm blanket, eating those Christmas chocolates we bought on special offer for the ‘big day’, or should we be plotting and planning our summer getaways for 2019? Dreaming of warmer climes and crystal blue seas.

I find the few days rest between the chaos of preparing to meet with Jesus afresh and the New Year can give us a precious moment to just remember who we are, the place we inhabit on this earth and the capacity we have within us to be the creative, gifted, people of God, Jesus came to free us to be. Yet, this gap in our calendars can be seen as dead space, the no-mans land between Christmas cheer and New Years Celebrations, where nothing much really happens. Its a dormant space, like the winter season it sits in, but I wonder if we can use this fallow time, to remember. Remember that as people we all have the capacity to feel, make, assume certain roles in life, roles that maybe even we either live up or down to … that is what others think or expect of us.

I want us to remember  that, as people, we have the capacity to see the beauty of the natural world around us and marvel at its intricacies and anomalies.  Just think of a spiders web, hanging on a door frame, on a chilly, crisp Winter morning.  It looks like lace work of the finest quality, yet it is so fragile and temporary. Isn’t it amazing how generous God has been to our little arachnid friends (and I use the term “friend” loosely, because I struggle to love spiders ) to plant within them such a gift of creativity?  And for what purpose is this creative gift for, why has he endowed them with such skills? To catch food.  What extravagance!

I want us to remember that we too have gifting and talents just laying there, as dormant as the sleeping trees of winter, waiting to be awoken.  All we need to do to reactivate them is to remember who we are.  We are the wonderful creation of our Father God …. made in his image, loved unreservedly, and called to be his lights in this dark and dusky world.  Once we have grasped that then we will have a much stronger sense of who we are and why we exist.  We will remember, why it was a so important that God sent his Son down to earth, on that first Christmas day.  We will remember that he did that to rescue us from a dormant, dead life, that leads nowhere, and inspires no vibrancy or creativity or appreciation of beauty or gives us any sense of peace.

Because it is from that renewed memory, we will remember that we are meant to be be intricately connected to God.  That connection brings with it a knowledge of and understanding of what God has given us, from before we were even knitted together in our Mother’s wombs … and that is God’s inner radiance and strength. Which sustains and renews us not just through dark nights and short days, but every day.  So let us remember, to use this opportunity of being in this fallow time, to draw closer to the source of all life, God the Father, and continue to remember the coming of his Son, whom he sent in love to save us, and be inspired by His Spirit to be all that God has created us to be.

Merry Christmas and God bless – Revd Natasha x

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Journey to Christmas

Following on from Messy Advent, we continued our journey towards Christmas, preparing for Jesus’ arrival in many ways…

We sang Carols on the Green to spread the Good News

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We tidied St Giles’ churchyard (my word, what a lot of leaves!)

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Parties for every generation – our Senior Citizens’ Lunch and Tot’s Praise Christmas Party

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Last but not least, we sent Mary and Joseph on their long journey to Bethlehem via a few families who were kind enough to welcome these weary strangers into their homes and shared their experiences with us.

Complete the Christmas Journey and join us for a service or two. Bring family and friends or anyone else you’d like to be there!

Christmas Eve

3.30pm Pre-School Carol Service

5.30pm Family Carols by Candlelight

11.30pm Midnight Communion

Christmas Day

10.00am St Giles’ Family Communion

Men’s Group Dinner

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The evening of Friday 23rd November was very special!  Not only did we have a record number of guys (64) who enjoyed an excellent meal at our Men’s Dinner, but our speaker, Charlie Styles is a great friend (if you did not know Charlie, he was the curate here for a few years).

Charlie in action Dinner Nov 18

Charlie shared with us many interesting and challenging things that have happened in his first 5 years as Rector of St Mary’s, Lutterworth in Leicestershire and how our mighty God has sustained and used him in so many situations that he has encountered.

We were also delighted to welcome so many guys from various churches in the surrounding area, especially from Britwell, where Charlie also spent time as a curate.

If you would like to hear about the next event arranged by Stoke Poges Men’s Group, speak to Nigel Lowe or Tony Shortman (at Stoke Poges Free Church) or keep an ear out for notices on Sundays.

 

One of Nigel's jokes Dinner Nov 18

Messy Advent

I’m letting the pictures do the talking this week… it was messy!

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We had a tasty advent-themed menu and lit the first Advent Candle.

Fun for every generation…

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Joseph and a very pregnant Mary set off on their journey to Bethlehem via Stoke Poges. Join us next week to see what they found on their travels…