Phew what do smell like?

Nose

Nose (Photo credit: World of Oddy)

For those of you who have just joined us –welcome. Let me explain the things us ramblers are chatting about. We are looking at the way God is bringing us from an old culture into a kingdom culture. To help us do this we are looking at the Philippine culture and seeing what God is saying to us through it.

Smells

Every country smells different. The different fauna, food eaten, spices used and manufacturing going on. In the Philippines there are the lovely smells of food and the most beautiful flowers, and then there are the less pleasant smells of rubbish, open sewage and the exhaust fumes from all the traffic. Banana bunches smell quite strong, the chlorine from the swimming pools, the smell of heat in the air, the sweet smell of pineapple and I love the smell of a wood stove with something delicious cooking on it. The fragrance on the air can change quite dramatically in few steps and then change to something else in another few steps.

Philippines has such colourful, large flowers. The national flower is the sampaguita a type of wonderfully scented pure white jasmine. The smell is very strong and is carried on the air quite a long way from where the plant is situated. You can’t help but be arrested by the smell in the air after a thunderstorm when the air is fresh and the frogs have all woken up, swam with the running water to the river below and started their frog chorus. This noise is so loud it sounds like car engines revving.

For too long I have smelt unpleasant smells in ‘churchiness’ :the smell of frustration, the fragrance of sweat and toil, the odour of grease and dirt. Perhaps in the air there has been the whiff of staleness and putrid rottenness. Sometimes their is the artificial smell of an air freshener trying to cover up a smell that shouldn’t be there, something unpleasant. Then there is the smell of sparks flying as people with chips on their shoulders clash in relationships.

Yesterday I listened to a talk on worship by Jenn Johnson and she talks about people not being real in the church. They are trying to be perfect so when they make a mistake they don’t know how to deal with it. “Everybody poops, so everybody needs to flush. It is just in the church there is a lot of poop lying around”. I guess that might smell a lot! You can listen to it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?=3mIOnVpJDnY&list=PL330BDC3EE47414D9A

This new kingdom culture has a fragrance of its own. It comes a beautiful smell of freshness. The air reeks of freedom and excitement, liberty and power, creativity, acceptance and love. There is no smell of striving but of finding fulfilment. There is no air freshener of cover up but of beautiful unity.

I don’t know if you have ever been gathering worshipping before the throne before now and actually smelt heaven. It has happened to me a couple of times. I have wanted to hold my breath to keep the sweetness of the fragrance in my lungs. It smells of heaven, of beauty, of holiness and purity. This kingdom is heaven come to earth –it is the smell of heaven.

You know what else I smell in the air at the moment? – revival coming. There is the whiff of it coming like the strong aftershave announcing the arrival of a man in pursuit of beauty. In our travels What is so exciting about exploring this new kingdom culture is that so many people are talking about it. They may not talk about it in the same terms I am using, that doesn’t matter. Having spent time travelling and talking to people over this last year I have met people from different backgrounds, nations and Christian streams. I get the same impression –something new is happening. Many talk about a near revival, many are seeing healings like never before, many are seeing a new heart connection across different church tribes bringing unity, many are experiencing afresh the Fathers heart, or times spent soaking in the Spirit. From Australia, Philippines, Norway, India, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Rugby, Wolverhampton, USA, Canada, Congo, Italy – I have spoken to people from all these places (and more) and felt something new.

Can I take you back to the Sampaguita flower? It stands for purity, simplicity, humility and strength – how beautiful. Imagine a church full of purity, simplicity, humility and strength and what a beautiful fragrance they would carry in their towns and cities. I feel these are the keys to fill the atmosphere with the fragrance of heaven.

Today: What fragrance are you giving off? What do your relationships smell like?  What smell is filling your atmosphere? Is it beautiful, sweet fragrance of heaven?

A new way of being

Egypt: Gizeh

Egypt: Gizeh (Photo credit: Brooklyn Museum)

We looked yesterday about how God called us out of Egypt. Let’s take a closer look today at what that means.

Egypt in the bible is a picture of worldliness :  materialism, fashion, keeping up with the Jones. We find competition, striving, control, petty mindedness and selfishness. We see Solomon was warned by God about having horses and chariots as it represented strength in power and riches, fighting for yourself and being proud of your own achievements.

The tragedy is Egypt creeps into the church. There is control, labels of position, traditions, loneliness, keeping up with the Jones, striving,  judging each other, religion, apathy, self-loathing, depression, selfishness, jealousy, tussling and tribalism. Members of different groups say I am a Baptist, I am NFI, I am Catholic, I am Vineyard –each believing themselves to have the keys to revelation.

God is calling us out of churchy and worldly culture into a kingdom way of being. He is re- aligning our hearts to the ways of heaven. He is giving us space and room to learn a kingdom culture – a wide and open place of exploration. Coming out of one level of understanding into something new

I have had so much re-learning to do at the moment. This adventure is life changing and dramatic. Come and walk it with me.

The challenge of culture change

Tea Time

Tea Time (Photo credit: Maia C)

I have travelled to various places in the last couple of months – the Philippines, Wales and England – soon America and Ireland and I have been challenged in my thinking. I am amazed how soon we presume that we have the normal way to approach life. We settle for the ways of doing/being that we are used to. We become short sighted and narrow minded. We think our way is the sensible way maybe even the only way. When I walk into a different culture I find little things that challenge my concepts. Simple things perhaps like making a cup of tea. I have experienced in the last few months Yorkshire tea bags in a mug (yes in Yorkshire), Lady Grey tea in Manchester, tea in a cup and saucer in Wales, fresh mixed tea leaves in Rugby with hint of Earl Grey, Chinese tea with lime juice in the Philippines, lemon grass iced tea in Palawan and strong plain unsweetened iced tea in Singapore airport. I mean how many ways can you make a cup of tea? I even got to youth tonight to find a lovely leader with a china pot and teapot and some fresh Darjeeling!

Our life’s journey means different experiences, cultures and different tastes. For the next week or so I will be chatting with you about the concept of culture change. I will be expanding my thoughts on a word preached locally. I want to unpack the implications of these thoughts for our lives,  pass through the initial clash of cultures and onto a new path of being.

You are welcome to listen to it whilst relaxing to a lovely cup of tea -however you chose to make it. The title is Changing Culture Changing Us and you can find it here- http://www.community-church.co.uk/media/audio