Books

In Your Own Words

Creative reflections on various biblical themes with space for your own musings, doodles, scribbles and sketches.

The Introduction

Most days I post a short, creative, biblical thought on Facebook and Twitter; and from April to June in 2019 I posted a series on some of the great themes in the Bible. Grace, laughter,  hope,  work, kindness, money…  you’ll find  a different one at the start of each chapter here.

At the same time I had also been scribbling my way through a journal containing readings from The Message translation of the Bible.

So I wondered about bringing the two together: my thoughts on some of the great biblical themes, with space for you to add your thoughts on the same themes.

And that’s this book. 33 chances to let things out. Feel free to argue, to talk back, to agree, to wonder, to dream, to question, to fear, to doubt, to joke, to praise, to sketch, to dream, to pray, to ask the tough questions. All with your pencil/pen/nail/crayon/twig-dipped-in-tree-sap.

Some of the pages are lined, others blank. Please feel free to do with them what you will. This is a book for doodling, scribbling and drawing. Feel free to wander off the subject if you like. It’s all up to you. And may the doing of all that help you pause, think, reflect, be honest… and sense God in all of your muddling.

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An extract from the book

Doubt

‘I believe, help me in my unbelief…’
Mark 9 v 24

The loss of certainty as life shifts and blurs, and ambiguity beckons, the questions becoming more important than the answers. It’s a language we can all speak. A way of making sense of our world when laughter and loss, smiles and sorrow jostle for their place in the same moment. So we may voice these questions, belittling their power, and place them on the same platform as faith.

‘They worshipped him, but some doubted.’
Matthew 28 v 16-17
* * *
The disciples stand and stare at the empty space. The space once filled by the one who has lived more than they have ever lived. The one who has felt the bite of nails, and whips and a Roman spear. The one who has torn open a coffin, and a tomb, and made dead men walk again. The one who has scanned a seething crowd of thousands and not batted an eyelid when he heard their stomachs rumbling. The one who slept through the fiercest of storms, and then, his eyes still bleary from his rest, stood up and boomed peace across the grim, deathly waters. So many memories, so many moments never witnessed before, by them or anyone else. And now, the final jaw dropping miracle. The man melting before their eyes. Rising up and slipping from one dimension to another. Gone. Even as they watch, even as they will him to stay and do everything for them. Gone. The final whisper of his life carried away by the gentlest of breezes. And yet, and yet, knowing all of this, knowing he really is the one his stories hinted at all along, knowing the Palm Sunday crowd were surely right, knowing that Herod and Pilate together couldn’t hold a candle to his power and authority… yet… yet… some of them doubted. Questions persisting, refusing to stop crowding their cluttered heads. They have seen… and yet they wonder. As is the way with us folks of contradictions. Miracles and muddles. Trust and torment. Courage and questions. And perhaps those first faithful followers hate the doubts that chase the certainty around their minds. Perhaps they shake their heads in a vain attempt to shoo the wonderings away, to tip them out of the nearest ear so that they are gone forever. But it cannot be. And so they trudge back to the city. Trusting and questioning. Belief and unbelief squatting side by side in their souls and bodies. And even as he slips away he is well aware of what he leaves behind. Flawed heroes who will always need his help. He knows. He understands.
Matthew 28 v 16
* * *
Have you ever considered bringing your doubts to God as worship? When the disciples watched Jesus ascending to heaven we are told that they worshipped but some doubted. What an honest appraisal of the situation! And they felt it worth recording in the Bible! We can be worshipping and doubting at the same time. In Psalm 137 (that of the famous disco classic By The Rivers of Babylon) their worship includes the line – ‘How can we sing of God in a strange place?’ Worship is not only about praising God for who he is, it is also about offering God our time and attention, in all kinds of situations.
Have a think about the various elements of your life at the moment, the good and bad, and make a list if you like, then offer them as worship to God. You could write them as a kind of prayer, or just as a list. Have a look at Psalm 137 too, see what an unusual worship song that is…

What do you think?

(The paperback version of this book contains space here for your own thoughts.)

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Love

‘That’s the power of love…’
Huey Lewis

The patience, the kindness, the faithfulness of another. The forgiveness, the willingness to let us start again, try again, even though we may fail again. Someone always with us, through the good and bad, gritty and glorious times, in the froth and the foolishness, in the laughter, hope and tears.

‘Love is patient and kind, doesn’t give up on us, doesn’t look for the cracks and the crud. Believes in us and calls us on.’
1 Corinthians 13
* * *
As the blacksmith hammers away, the metal blows raining down on the sharpening spikes, he has no idea. No idea that these callous bits of iron will one day pin up a three-dimensional, sweating, bleeding, holy mosaic. An image captured for all time, pinned on a craggy wooden canvas, set there so that others can go free. He is not an artist. At least he does not think of himself as such. But he does a good job, takes pride in his work. Makes the best of the vocation he has. Hammers and scorches and blasts in the heat. Time and again. Until his creations satisfy his keen eye. Then the work is passed on. To some who construct and others who tear down. To builders and soldiers. Construction and crucifixion. He has no idea what these nails will hold up right now. Could be a shelter for a family in need. Could be a criminal for the sake of justice. Or an innocent man for the sake of something bigger than justice. But he doesn’t know that. He sees glowing spikes emerging as he pummels them. Would not think of them as the channels of ultimate love. Extreme compassion. Total sacrifice. Has no idea how many will be inspired to live and die down the ages, how many will spend themselves and find purpose and love and meaning because of his three nails. He hammers on.
Isaiah 53
* * *
Love gets a bad press. I reckon anyway. We love chocolate and three-minute pop songs and cars and curry and sporting events and movies about people in multi-coloured tights, masks and capes. Nothing wrong with any of the above of course. I just remind myself of an old saying, God made things to be used and people to be loved.
Look up the word and this lot comes tumbling out: an intense feeling of deep affection, e.g. ‘babies fill parents with feelings of love’; a great interest and pleasure in something. Synonyms: deep affection, fondness, tenderness, warmth, intimacy, attachment, endearment, liking, weakness, partiality, bent, leaning, proclivity, inclination, disposition. Sex even gets a mention but I won’t bore you with that.
The Bible has several words for love – eros, philia, storge. Basically sensual or romantic, family, and sisterly/brotherly friendship. Then there is Agape. Oh yes. And that’s a whole other story. The love of God. Love like no other. Love that is hard to define. May you know it, that old letter writer called Paul once told us, even though you can’t fully. So a contradictory love then. A love we all need, a love to be known, and a love too big, too endless, too extraordinary to fully know. A tunnel of love that never ends. A love that takes a lifetime to discover and then you’ve only just started. But also a love that carries great cost. A love that is deeply shocking when you consider how Jesus demonstrated it. Loving, forgiving and accepting so many folks that we might well struggle to love, forgive and accept. Crossing boundaries. Offered to the little and the bad, as well as to the great and the good. Oh yes and to the also-rans and the stragglers, the rebels, mavericks and those not trying hard enough.
A love that picks us up, shakes us down, dusts us off, disturbs us with one hand and comforts with the other. An annoying and heart-warming kind of love. A love that defies description in a few lines like this. A love to be lived more than talked.
When you hear ‘love’ – what words or phrases come to mind? What do you think about Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 13? Is the bar set too high?

What do you think?

(The paperback version of this book contains space here for your own thoughts.)

Buy at Amazon (£4.10)