Current Collection: 50 Conversations That Changed Things

John trudges quietly home, his heart shattered. On his arm a woman who can barely place one foot in front of the other. Those words rattle in his mind. ‘Woman, here’s your son; son, here’s your mother.’ In his moments of death he’s concerned for the woman who bore him. John 19 vv 26-27

‘Mary…’ the sound comes to her through the trees, through the sunrise, through the splinters of her pain. Jesus calling her name. Down the ages the whisper continues, though we often struggle to hear; more frequently suffering other kinds of name-calling – destructive, belittling. However, his resurrection voice keeps calling us… John 20 vv 14-16

One sits staring into space. Two mutter darkly in a corner. Three examine the dirt under their fingernails. Four play some ancient dice game, rolling sheep’s knuckles. No one expects what happens next. ‘I’ve seen him! I’ve seen the Lord! Alive!’ They all stare at Mary. She’s gasping, nodding, smiling. John 20 vv 17-18

One mutters darkly to himself. Two play some ancient dice game. Three stare into space. Four examine the dirt under their fingernails. No one expects what happens next. A footfall, a familiar voice. Those hands, scarred from battling death. ‘Peace,’ he says. And he talks of forgiveness, a new vocation.  John 20 vv 19-23

‘Go back and wait?’ Peter shakes his head as they walk. ‘After everything? Just wait?’ ‘That’s what he said,’ ‘Who were those two men anyway?’ ‘Who knows? Angels?’ Peter sighs. ‘I want to do something!’ ‘We are doing something – waiting.’ And so they waited. And then Pentecost day dawned… Acts 1 vv 6-11

Two sons, both lost. One because he ran, the other because he stayed. Dad throws a party when the wayward son returns, his brother explodes. ‘I’ve done everything right,’ he complains. ‘He got it all wrong. Now you’re spending my inheritance on him. I’m not coming to your party.’ Luke 15 vv 28-30

Like a couple of spies they sneak into town, a coded message playing in their heads. ‘’The master needs it, the master needs it…’ that’s all they need say and they won’t be done for stealing. All arranged. Quietly done. They have no idea this plan will draw the crowds. Matthew 21 vv 1-11

They sing at the festival as they always have, Psalm 118, ‘Bless the one coming in the name of the Lord!’ Then they see the donkey, think of Zechariah’s message to the world, and suddenly the scales fall. Here is the king! Right now! The humble man on the donkey! Psalm 118 vv 25-26, Matthew 21 vv 1-11, Zechariah 9 v 9

A strange, quiet anti-climax, he walks into the temple, but nothing happens. He’s looking for conversation with the priests, the scribes, the dedicated, the committed. But no one’s talking. The songs from the crowd outside wash in like waves on a shore, but the religious aren’t singing. He leaves sadly. Mark 11 vv 8-11

‘Peter, tonight you will betray me,’ counsels Jesus, ‘I know you think you’re strong but you’re not. You will run and hide. BUT afterwards, I want you to pick yourself up and…’ Peter does not hear the next words, cannot hear them. His mind is clouded with visions of cowardice. Luke 22 vv 31-34

Pilate’s face is like a glacier, sheer, emotionless. ‘Truth?’ he sneers, ‘Truth? What is that? It’s all relative, didn’t you know? All personal, truth is a million-sided dice.’ Jesus stares at him his cheeks bruised, but his eyes perfectly clear. ‘I came to bring truth,’ he says. ‘I am truth.’ John 18 vv 37-38

He says very little in those dark, deathly hours. Others talk, accuse, snarl, waffle, gloat, brag. But not him. He lets his actions speak. His sacrifice, his servant steps. He lets his wounds and bruises cry for justice. His torn flesh and dying breaths become his unlikely song of freedom. Isaiah 53

‘Father forgive them for they don’t know what they do.’ Ten words, for us all, for all time. Words echoed down the ages. Too simple, too naïve? Yet liberating, sapping the poison that can destroy. The man with every reason to hate brings love to a tortuous, terrifying six hours. Luke 23 vv 32-34

They look bewildered. Again. Can he be serious? Is he really pointing at this child, this curious, laughing, heart-on-sleeve, questioning, mind-speaking, thinking-out-loud, meeting-disrupting, persistent, trusting, wondering, arguing, enthusiastic individual and telling them to be like that? Surely not. They’re too mature. They spend all day arguing about who’s the best. Mark 10 vv 13-16

His clothes are torn, there’s a developing bruise on his cheek, the bile of fear rises in his throat. He stops gasping, holds his breath as he hears them speaking up there. ‘Let’s not kill him, look, traders, let’s sell him.’ So he is spared, and the future twists unexpectedly. Genesis 37 vv 18-28

He talks to the weather. Anyone else and they might wonder. But the weather seems to listen up. Stop it’s writhing and take note. He tells of calm and peace and suddenly the natural struggling subsides. They know the old story. God speaking to chaos and bringing order. Like this. Mark 4 vv 35-41

Joshua can see a figure shimmering in the heat. An apparition perhaps. Certainly, as he draws closer, the man appears other-worldly. His palms sweat, his brain pounds. He has a tough job ahead. ‘Are you on my side?’ Joshua calls, but it’s the wrong question. Whose side is Joshua on? Joshua 5 vv 13-15

He has deeply insulted his father. Shouldn’t have dragged him from the party, or back-chatted him with his venomous speech. The father looks at his lost boy. Smiles. ‘Come to the party,’ he says gently. ‘Your brother was dead, now look – resurrection! This party’s yours too – don’t miss it.’ Luke 15 vv 25-32

He can see death coming right at him. The Romans don’t care. They’ll slaughter him and his family. He picks his way over the rubble. The jail gates hang like twisted wax. ‘It’s okay, we’re still here!’ calls a voice. He can’t believe it. ‘What shall I do?’ he gasps. Acts 16 vv 25-34

Took the truth and twisted it. Three times. That’s what he did. In the wilderness the creator provided miraculous, heavenly bread. In the Psalms he promised protection. In Daniel a good hero arises to rule the world. The tempter took all three, and tried to get into Jesus’s head. Fail. Matthew 4, Psalm 91, Daniel 7, Exodus 16 vv 13-15

Martha shakes him as she speaks, her face twisted with grief and determination. ‘If you’d been here, why weren’t you here…’ ‘Your brother will live,’ he says. ‘Oh yes,’ she sobs, ‘on resurrection day.’ ‘This is a resurrection day, you’ll see. I am the resurrection. I am the life. Today.’ John 11 vv 21-28

That whispering voice is quoting Psalm 91 now. A psalm of hope and protection. The tempter twisting it back on itself. ‘If you throw yourself into danger God will prove he loves you by helping you.’ It’s all the wrong way around. ‘I’ll trust God,’ he replies, ‘not tempt him.’  Matthew 4 vv 5-6, Psalm 91 vv 11-15

A conversation we’ll never know. But Cain hangs his head. Something about his offering was adrift. Perhaps his attitude to the work that produced it. Perhaps he barely saw the need to bring his work as worship. But another conversation begins in his mind. Temptation whispers and crouches near now. Genesis 3 vv 3-7

Ruth to Naomi: ‘I won’t give up on you. I’ll travel with you on this hard road. Wherever it takes us, whoever we might meet. Through days and nights. I’ll stick with you.’ And as a result, on a day far into the future, a redeeming son will be born. Ruth 1 vv 16-18

Jonah’s a grumpy old whatsit. At least he is today. The one bit of shade he found and it’s died overnight. Now he’s cooking. Why did that happen? ‘Really?’ says God, ‘you’re broken-hearted about losing a little comfort? Yet feel nothing about the lives of those people down there?’ Jonah 4 v 7-11

They don’t yet know what’ll happen. Have not visited that garden of gloom, felt the heat of the torches, seen him taken away. But now he’s talking of carrying crosses. Of a road less travelled. No easy A-to-B, a way of detours, difficulties.  A way he will walk. With us. Mark 8 vv 34-35

Joshua can see a figure shimmering in the heat. An apparition perhaps. Certainly, as he draws closer, the man appears other-worldly. His palms sweat, his brain pounds. He has a tough job ahead. ‘Are you on my side?’ Joshua calls, but it’s the wrong question. Whose side is Joshua  on? Joshua 5 vv 13-15

What good is it telling her? Filling her with unbelievable hope? She’s no reliable witness. Not a good idea at all. Others might well just dismiss her. Jesus doesn’t care. He knows, knows her strength, her devotion. ‘Go tell the others,’ he says. ‘Go tell them all the good news.’ John 20 vv 11-18

‘Stay awake, please, pray for me.’ He knows he’ll need it, and even as he stumbles away and kneels, the sweat building on his brow, the internal conversation begins. He recalls the crosses he has passed on the road, the sounds of Roman justice. ‘Please father, if there’s another way…’ Matthew 26 vv 36-41

He doesn’t look at Peter as he gives his reply. He glances at all of them. But his rebuke is not about them as much as his own battle. The wilderness kind of battle. ‘You won’t have to suffer,’ says Peter. ‘Don’t,’ Jesus replies, ‘don’t tempt me to give up.’ Mark 8 vv 31-35, John 12 v 27

‘Look up Abraham, see those lights in the sky, those dots of fire? Your family will number more than those. A family that’ll bless every family on the planet. And ultimately bring more light than those stars.’ Abraham looks up, his old bones creaking a little. Can it really be true? Genesis 22 vv 17-18

‘Don’t be afraid, Mary.’ He says it quickly because clearly she is frightened. Her eyes are wide, her face drained of colour. She’s backing away as he speaks. He’s encountered it before. These humans sometimes fear to hear from God. All will be well. ‘God is on your side Mary…’ Daniel 8 vv 15-18, Luke 1 v 11-12 & 26-30

‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ ‘The son of man, you mean Daniel’s Son of Man? That prophecy? Well, some say it’s Elijah, or Jeremiah, or maybe John your cousin.’ ‘And what do you think about me?’ The penny drops. Peter’s jaw drops too. ‘You! It’s you!’ Matthew 16 vv 13-16, Daniel 7 vv 13-14

Not such a little conversation, but that one goes on for days, weeks perhaps. When the talking is done, when the houses have been circled several times, and the hind legs are no more on the donkey, a transforming encounter. With the Most High, in that place of lowest lows. Job 38

Three words to a world not quite listening. A few listen up, look away from their own concerns to a criminal gasping on a cross. Doesn’t sound like much. Doesn’t look like much. Three words. And the world shifts a little. Changes course. Quietly. In a dying breath. ‘It is finished.’ John 19 v 30, Revelation 21 vv 5- 6

He can still hear the sound of the sea, the water lapping at the boats. How did he get here? With this massive crowd? Yet as the memories wrestle in his mind, the words rise in the fisherman’s chest. ‘Listen carefully everyone…’ Everything changes. And am eternal global conversation begins… Acts 2 vv 14-21

Unhelpful in the extreme. Sowing seeds of doubt. The whole thing tainted with sour questioning. And leering, corrosive rebellion. Not healthy research or creative searching. Not a desire to find out more, or build something new, but a lust for destruction. Insistent, harmful, undermining. ‘You sure? Did God really say…’ Genesis 3 v 1

They look bewildered, once again they have their wires crossed. He’s telling them to be cautious of the corrupt ‘yeast’ that the religious leaders use to influence others. They think he’s complaining they don’t have enough food. He sighs, says, ‘Think, I just fed 5000 people, will we go hungry?’ Matthew 16 vv 5-12

The times are bad, the people are struggling and lost. Jeremiah trembles as his world shifts and the presence of God breaks into his reality. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ God says, ‘I know how you tick, I wired you up, Jeremiah, even before you were born I understood and knew you…’ Jeremiah 1 v 3-9

They wrestle all night, the darkness clinging to them as they growl and sigh. As the dust and sweat settles he looks straight into the stranger’s eyes. ‘Bless me,’ Jacob rasps. ‘What’s your name?’ the man asks. ‘Grabber,’ Jacob mutters. ‘Not anymore,’ says the man, ‘from now you’ll be different.’ Genesis 32 vv 22-30

Thick shadows are falling as the warm breeze drifts across the garden. The sound of familiar footsteps, and echoes of a million heart-warming conversations. But something’s changed. Tonight there is a question hanging in the air. ‘Adam, where are you?’ From the darkness a voice, ‘I’m hiding, I’m scared…’ Genesis 3 vv 8-13

His cousin looks at him, surprise and fire in his dark eyes. ‘You!’ John says, ‘It’s you! You’re the promised one… but you should baptise me.’ Jesus smiles, shakes his head. From above another voice joins the conversation. Folks look up, startled. ‘This is my son. I absolutely love him.’ Matthew 3 vv 13-16

Moses hears the crackling, the spitting of the flames, feels the heat on his face. As he approaches he hears something else. The voice of God. Here, in his barren life, in this seemingly God-forsaken place, the call comes. ‘Moses, it’s time, go and set your people free.’ His heart sinks. Exodus 3 vv 1-10

Peter flexes his muscles, looks at Jesus with fire in his eyes. ‘You won’t die,’ he says, ‘you’re too powerful. We’re too powerful.’ ‘You don’t understand,’ Jesus replies, ‘it’s not power that will change things, it’s sacrifice, it’s weakness. People need a scapegoat, somewhere to leave their pain and failure.’ Matthew 16 vv 31-38

The carpenter’s son looks at his parents’ troubled frowns. ‘Where were you?’ they cry. ‘Why were you worried? I was here all the time in my Father’s house.’ His dad gazes at him, sighs. They feel as if they are looking at him through dusty windows, seeing yet not seeing. Luke 2 vv 41-52

He senses that nudge, that still small voice. ‘Come away for a while, my child. Step aside from the rushing. Be still and know that I am your God.’ Spring’s on the way, new life’s about to begin, there’ll be plenty to do. First he needs time with the Gardener. Mark 1 vv 12-13, Psalm 46 v 10

She can barely see for her tears. Every footsteps feels like lifting weights. The mourners wail in the background, giving voice to the desolation in her heart. First her husband, now her son. What will she do? The she hears another man’s voice, sees him touch the coffin. ‘Don’t cry…’ Luke 7 v 11-15

These empty days, this desert, this time of facing himself, he knows it’s shaping him. When he feeds those thousands with heavenly bread, it won’t be to prove a point or find significance or make himself look good. Out here he’s finding that significance, in his Father. The caring one. John 13 v 3, Matthew 4 vv 1&11

‘See these stones? No not those – these, the bigger, smoother ones. They look a bit like bread don’t they? Fresh food. They’re not of course, they’re fake. But why not make them do? Got to look after yourself. God might let you down. Why not grab some fake sustenance?’ Matthew 4 vv 1-4

Four words. Barely a conversation at all. Yet they will spark a billion, a trillion conversations. Words of such creativity, such grace, such wonder and splendour and grandeur. A whispered call, a gentle bellow, a subtle shout. And the universe huffs, splutters and crackles into life. ‘Let there be light.’ Genesis 1

‘You’re powerful, you’re the chosen one. You shouldn’t be out here, struggling, finding life difficult, you should be running the show. Using your gifts. Don’t you agree? Just bow, and we’ll take it from there.’ ‘I bow to my Father. If he wants me here, I’ll stay here. Now go.’ Matthew 4 vv 8-10

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