James’s Blog: Another Guest Post from Rev. Ulysses Giblet.

James’s Blog:  Another Guest Post from Rev. Ulysses Giblet.

All right. The Rev. Ulysses Giblet has been e-mailing me every week for the past three months asking when I’m was going to let him ‘…share his great gift with the world’ again, so for the sake of peace and quiet here he is. Enjoy, or whatever.

James has been begging me to write another guest post, so here it is. Today I will be writing about prayer and the role it has to play in public worship.

There are few aspects of public worship as versatile as prayer. Prayer can be used to fill an awkward silence, to give the musicians time to get back into position, to communicate important news to the congregation (“Lord, we pray for the REALLY IMPORTANT SERVICE that we’re having next Thursday, at 7pm, parking is limited so don’t be late.”) and much more! What else can you use to get the whole congregation to close their eyes for a moment while you deal with an embarrassing itch? Being skilled in the art of prayer is crucial for anyone who is involved in leading a church service. Luckily for you, I’m here to offer some gold-plated advice and get you up to speed.

Here are my top tips for public prayer:

  1. DO use as many long words as possible. The fewer people that understand your prayer, the more impressed God is.

  1. DON’T forget to throw in a few ‘Words From The Lord’ every now and then. It’s very easy to do, and keeps the rubes – I mean, congregation – on their toes. Something like “What’s that, Lord? Someone here is struggling with trusting God? We pray for that brother and/or sister.” You can keep it vague, and you’re bound to be 100% accurate, or you can be as specific and detailed as you like – who’s going to know if you’re wrong?

  1. DO use a special voice. Do you really think God is impressed with whatever regional dialect you normally communicate in? Do you think God listens to, or even understands, what you’re saying in your Irish brogue, Texan drawl, or – heaven forbid – Scouse whine? No. Remember, God loves you best when you sound like you’re a 1960s BBC newsreader.

  1. DON’T make your prayers too short. The longer you pray, the better your prayer and – consequently – the better Christian you are. Also, the more time it gives you to deal with that awkward itch. Some people may tell you that Jesus said something about the length of your prayers not mattering, but it’s clear to even the most simple-minded scholar that those verses have been taken out of context, just like all those other verses that people use to disagree with me.

  1. DO use prayer time to let the congregation know about your new book releases and other revenue streams. “Lord, I just want to take this moment to thank you for the release of my new book – Preach and Pray the Giblet Way – which is available at the back of the church at the very reasonable price of £9.99. Signed copies extra.” Again, some naive people might say that prayer should really be about God, but let’s face it, it’s not as if He needs the money.

If you remember these five simple tips you’ll be well on your way to earning your Public Prayer Badge and soaking up some of the respect and adoration that you’re due. You’re welcome.

James’s Blog: Fair Trade.

James’s Blog:  Fair Trade.

This is an edited version of a sermon I once preached (though I’ve not edited it much). It’s a true account, though the lesson I was taught took a while to formulate and wasn’t delivered to me in the divine monologue that I have written here. However, I knew that when I told this story I wanted to present it as something personal that took place between God and myself, because it was…

I used to play a lot of video games. I would fund this hobby by selling games when I was done with them, and using the money to buy new games. Once I was selling quite a few games on eBay and I had plans for the money. I wanted to get this one particular game – a rare and (relatively) expensive game.

That was my plan anyway.

On the day that the eBay auctions were due to end, I was in a good mood. It looked like I was going to end up with enough money to buy not only the game that I wanted, but another rare and (relatively) expensive game that I also had my eye on.

That morning, I was praying.

“Your eBay auctions are doing well, aren’t they James?” said God, out of nowhere.

“Oh no, God. I’m not going to talk to you about those auctions. Let’s talk about something else. How about the weather? It’s a nice day, isn’t it? Good job on that, by the way,” I said.

God ploughed on. “I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you give away all the money that you make from the auctions?”

“I knew it!” I said. “This is why I don’t talk to you about this kind of thing! I knew you were going to say that!”

“Well aren’t you the clever one. So what about it? I think you’ll learn something from it.”

All day I wrestled with this, but I knew there was only going to be one outcome.

“OK.  You win, God,” I said.

That evening the auctions ended, and they ended with me making enough money to buy at least two and a half rare and (relatively) expensive games. There I was with this money, which was God’s, and all these games that I had to ship off to people who had no idea how miserable they had made me.

God must have noticed that I wasn’t my usual bubbly self.

“Something wrong, James?”

“You know what’s wrong, God.”

“What’s the problem? It wasn’t as if it was a huge sum of money, was it?”

“It’s not the amount, God. It’s what it was for. I really wanted that game. I know it’s silly. I know it’s only a little thing, but it mattered to me. If you’d asked me to just give, even double that amount, I would have done it without even thinking twice, but that particular money was mine. I had plans for it.”

“Ah. I think we’re getting somewhere,” said God. “You know, Jesus pointed that out to his disciples. Do you remember the widow who gave her penny to the Temple? Compared to the many who were dumping wealth into the Temple treasury her gift was nothing, but Jesus knew that it was something, because to give that meant that she had to go without. In other words, it meant something to Jesus because it cost her something here. And a long time before that, David, my servant knew this too.

“The land of Israel had wandered from me, and David had been a part of this. I brought my punishment on the people, and David recognised that it was his fault, his responsibility. So he said ‘God, let me make reparation,’ and went to make a sacrifice to appease me. Araunah offered him a piece of land to build an altar, to worship me. But David said ‘No,’ because David knew. David knew that it wasn’t about the altar, it wasn’t about the worship, and David knew that – as the king, as the guilty party – the cost had to be his. He couldn’t make appeasement from what was left over after he had his fill. It had to mean something to him. It had to cost him something here. You know what he said, James? He said ‘I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt offerings that have cost me nothing.’ He was saying, ‘I will not bring to my God worship that isn’t a sacrifice.’

“You see, the sacrifice is not measured in its size or how elaborate is is. The sacrifice is measured in what it costs you here. You’re right. It hurt you to give that particular gift. For many people what I asked you to do wouldn’t be a sacrifice, so I wouldn’t ask them to do it. I asked you because I knew that it would cost you something, truly, where it mattered. Right here. I knew that you would be giving something that you didn’t want to give. I knew that you couldn’t just do it on automatic pilot and throw out a gesture – you needed to make a conscious decision to put me first. That’s the measure of a sacrifice. I know that what it would hurt one person to give would be no big deal for another. If it’s not a big deal, then it’s not a sacrifice. If it doesn’t hurt you to give a million pounds, then it’s not a sacrifice. If it doesn’t hurt you to give up a holiday, then it’s not a sacrifice. If it doesn’t hurt you to follow me, then it’s not a sacrifice. If it doesn’t cost you something here then it’s not a sacrifice. And if it’s not a sacrifice, why should I see any merit in it? Do you think I’m a bird and that you can feed me with the crumbs of what you have left over? Why should I consider it a gift?

“You know, you can’t ever judge the sacrifice of another human being without knowing what it’s cost them here. You can be judgemental, but you can’t judge. You can look at something and say ‘That’s no big deal,’ but only I know whether it’s a big deal and therefore only I know the sacrifice. And I know that it cost you to give me that small sum of money. I know that it really cost you to go without a toy that would hold absolutely no interest to the vast majority of sane, rational people. I know this, and that’s why it was a sacrifice and that’s why it pleased me. That’s why you pleased me. David knew this. David knew it in his heart – and now you know it. This is what you’re getting in return for that money. Not a game, not even two or three games, but this knowledge. Fair trade?”

“Yes God,” I said, “Fair trade. Thank you.”

James’s Blog: A Metaphor.

James’s Blog:  A Metaphor.

There was once a boy who wanted to make a difference. He worked hard at this, but was often left frustrated by how little change he saw. On one particularly frustrating day, he took a scrap of paper, wrote on it TRUST IN JESUS, rolled it up and put it in an empty glass bottle. Then he took that bottle down to the beach and threw it into the sea as hard as he could.  It didn’t really make him feel any better, but at least, he thought, he was doing something.

The bottle bobbed by the shore for a while, before it was carried out into the big, wide ocean. It drifted for many days and nights, around shoals of fish, reefs, deserted islands and one very surprised shark whose life may have taken a radically new direction if he had learned to read. Eventually the bottle washed ashore on a beach in a different place in a different country.

That evening, a man was walking in the surf, bare-foot and reflective. He was meditating on the meaning of life just as the bottle bumped against the side of his foot. He bent down, picked it up and opened it. He pulled out the note and read it: TRUST IN JESUS. Because the man had been thinking, and had already taken his shoes off, he was changed.

Meanwhile, in a different place in a different country, the boy was still pacing up and down, frustrated because he wasn’t making a difference.

Publisher’s Post: ‘The Second Listening Book’ and James’s ‘Ramblings’ Launched

Publisher’s Post: ‘The Second Listening Book’ and James’s ‘Ramblings’ Launched

It was great to celebrate ‘The Second Listening Book‘ launch at Barton Church. James’s books will now be on sale there each Sunday until Christmas, alongside others written by fellow Bartonites. If you can’t make it there to buy copies, get them from the Webbs or the Lewises direct via facebook, the website, or from Amazon, Eden, Waterstones, or from Karl The Wandering Bookseller in Australia.

Reviews very welcome

“What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn’t already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone?”

Second Listening Book

Yes, as with everything else from fridge-freezers to fruit slicers, your review is most welcome. You can see what people are saying already about both Listening Books on the review tab on the website – we’ve just got a nice one from the Midwest Book Review in the US. If you are able to put a review on Amazon, that would be great – it can be as short as Mrs Toledos, but it should probably mention the book rather than bananas.

‘The Ramblings of The Man who Bought a Pear’

These are James’s Blog posts from October 2015 to October 2016.

9780993438387

When we decided to publish the first year of James’s Blog as a real live holdable book, it was Mrs W who pointed us towards the start of the title.  The rest of it is inspired by the award-winning ‘The Man who Sold me a Pear, which long-term readers would have read a year ago on this blogsite. Thank you David – your comment made it to the front cover along with Mark’s marvellous levitating Forelle pear. This book is being sold in aid of Street Pastors.

The Rest of the Year

This week we are running a ‘Listening Day’ at a local primary school based on a couple of the stories from the first book. James is taking an assembly and then there will be a day of workshops held in the neighbouring church for the junior children (aged 7-11). Get in touch if you think a school you have contact with (primary or secondary) might want to use the resources that we have put together for this.

And then it’s Christmas – and you know, these coffee-table books make great presents….

Thank you for your support this year
from Elsa (Publisher)

 

James’s Blog: Fishers of Men?

James’s Blog:  Fishers of Men?

I’m beginning to come round to the idea that there’s no such thing as a shallow person. I think that we all have depth; we all have significant, meaningful needs. What we think of as a ‘shallow person’ is just someone who hasn’t realised just how deep their identity goes, and tries to meet profound needs with shallow, disposable things. Comfort Eating, Retail Therapy and Binge Watching all work, but not for long. Read more

James’s Blog: Do Motives Matter?

James’s Blog:  Do Motives Matter?

I’ve recently been thinking about Ruth’s motives. No, not my Ruth – the Old Testament Ruth. What was it that motivated her to commit to her mother-in-law, leave her country and start all over again in a strange land? The conclusion that I came to is that perhaps it doesn’t matter what her motives were. The important thing was that she put herself at God’s mercy – why she did it might not be important. Read more

James’s Blog: On Being Misunderstood.

James’s Blog:  On Being Misunderstood.

The Second Listening Book is now available from Amazon, and I thought that I should mention this in the blog. It’s another collection of short stories and parables, ripe for misunderstanding. Being misunderstood is an occupational hazard for me. I’ve preached at least one sermon where my sophisticated and intelligent delivery (i.e. being too clever for my own good) was taken to mean that I was saying the exact opposite of what I was really trying to say, with hilarious consequences. Read more

James’s Blog: Annual Review

James’s Blog:  Annual Review

This post marks the first year anniversary of The Listening Book blog. I’ve been scribbling on this page once a week for a whole year now. It would be a good time to stop and reflect on what’s happened over the past twelve months, but I’m not going to do that. “What has happened in the past year?” is a good question, but a more important one is “Am I a better man than I was this time last year?” Read more

James’s Blog: Going Back.

James’s Blog:  Going Back.

They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

John 6:42

I’m not one who enjoys change, but I do quite like new beginnings. One of the best things about going to university was being able to leave the past behind. No longer would I be defined by my school’s social hierarchy – I could reinvent myself and start all over again!

Read more