All posts by Lindsay

A ‘missionary pastor’ with a passion for integral mission and its practical and theological implications. Enjoys trekking, science and nature and studied GeoScience as a first degree. Lindsay has a passion for justice issues. Before becoming a Baptist pastor, Lindsay led on projects relating to prostitution, homelessness and substance misuse primarily in the not for profit sector, but also on secondment to the Home Office. Lindsay was also involved in consultancy relating to community safety, neighbourhood renewal and social cohesion.

Just So Irresponsible..

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I’ve upped and left….got into the car and driven off into the sunset…no laptop, no iPad. It’s all very irresponsible (or is it?) but I did it anyway….and I’m glad that I did.

Sometimes life gets in the way of spending quality time with my closest, most amazing friend. I don’t skip time with him intentionally-it sort of just happens. So I consciously try to make time for us to have a chat and spend time together. It feels naughty-as if I’m sneaking away with an illicit boyfriend or something, but how did it ever become that way??!

Society tells me that ‘busy, busy, busy’ is what it’s all about. The often conflicting demands of ministry makes me feel that if I’m not ‘there’ that something bad will happen…and to be honest it often does….but even so, does that make it right to deny ‘The Lord and Saviour’ of my time?

He doesn’t actually need me in order to survive, (as if?!) but nonetheless he wants me to ‘hang out’ with him 100% of the time.

Conversely, I can’t actually survive without Him, but do I actually want to hang out with him 100% of the time? I like to think that I do, but an honest assessment of my ‘to do’ list suggests that may not always be the case.

Quoting from a conversation I had with my friend earlier today…

‘I’m sorry Lord. I know that we don’t get enough time alone together. I guess I’m coping OK with the externals, but my interior life is in perpetual danger of crumbling! Without your breath, I am nothing. Enthuse, inspire and enliven every part of me with your Holy Sprit – so that I rise or fall to be no more and no less than you have created me to be.’

I’ll leave the rest of the day’s events between me and my friend. Too much self-disclosure on-line is seldom a pretty thing! However, it maybe that my words to my friend might offer you the words that you need to say to him today.

Written whilst on retreat April 2016…

Just So Irresponsible…

I’ve upped and left….got into the car and driven off into the sunset…no laptop, no iPad. It’s all very irresponsible (or is it?) but I did it anyway….and I’m glad that I did.

Sometimes life gets in the way of spending quality time with my closest, most amazing friend. I don’t skip time with him intentionally-it sort of just happens. So I consciously try to diarise time for us to have a chat and spend time together. It feels naughty-as if I’m sneaking away with an illicit boyfriend or something, but how did it ever become that way??!

Society tells me that ‘busy, busy, busy’ is what it’s all about. The often conflicting demands of ministry makes me feel that if I’m not ‘there’ that something bad will happen…and to be honest it often does….but even so, does that make it right to cheat my Lord and Saviour of my time?

He doesn’t actually need me in order to survive, (as if?!) but nonetheless he wants me to ‘hang out’ with him 100% of the time.

Conversely, I can’t actually survive without Him, but do I actually want to hang out with him 100% of the time? I like to think that I do, but an honest assessment of my ‘to do’ list suggests that may not always be the case.

Quoting from a conversation I had with my friend earlier today…

‘I’m sorry Lord. I know that we don’t get enough time alone together. I guess I’m coping OK with the externals, but my interior life is in perpetual danger of crumbling! Without your breath, I am nothing. Enthuse, inspire and enliven every part of me with your Holy Sprit – so that I rise or fall to be no more and no less than you have created me to be.’

I’ll leave the rest of the day’s events between me and my friend. Too much self-disclosure on-line is seldom a pretty thing! However, it maybe that my words to my friend might offer you the words that you need to say to him today.

Written whilst on retreat April 2016…

CRAZY PAVING!

As an eighteen month old baby, I remember sitting in the back of the car whilst my Mum collected some large flagstones from a man called Mr Greene, had them put in the boot and then drove home. I don’t remember anything else from that far back, but for some reason I do remember that.

I don’t however remember the next bit, but my family tell the story more or less as follows:

‘All was quiet and still as dawn broke in the little village where the little house was where ‘The Shaw’ family lived. Suddenly the silence was shattered by a crash, bang and a wallop! Daddy and Mummy Shaw arose to find little Lindsay with hammer raised high above her head delivering another blow to the newly laid hearth stones. The beautiful 2 piece hearth-stone now resembled crazy paving and a couple of the stones waiting to be built into a fire place lay in pieces!

Dad and Mum must have been quite upset at the time. I had certainly ruined all their careful handiwork. I think they must have felt a sense of horror combined with laughter as they saw me ‘trying to help.’

They painstakingly cemented each bit together until the hearth and fireplace were  complete again…. Flawed, yet complete.

As I grew up, I never once heard them moan about it. It’s a part of my family story and it worked perfectly well for decades!!

Fireplace image

N.B The hearth has now been replaced, but this is the fireplace. Note some of the small fragments of stone. These are the product of my handiwork.

As a child of God, there are times when I have wrongly tried to ‘help His plans along; there are times when I have made wrong choices and times when I have tripped and stumbled because I’ve still been toddling in some areas of my life. He knows and yet, like the perfect loving Father, he graciously picks me up when I run to him and he helps me to begin afresh.

Even when I have wilfully chosen a course of action that was not God’s way, He has sent his Spirit to call me out, but not so that He can throw me ‘into the fireplace of life’, but so that The Master Craftsman can work with me to painstakingly restore me bringing each piece together until my life resembles a beautiful and complete crazy paving!

God is the expert at creating beauty from brokenness….

Easter Poem

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The Word gave up his majesty

To show us true humility

To dwell amongst humanity

And die upon a tree

His death that seemed a tragedy

It broke the chains and set me free

He took the blame instead of me

With what can I repay?

~~

Buried to bring new creation

Rising to grant full salvation

Binding he that brings temptation

And trampling death and hell.

My heart cries out in jubilation

To Christ who is my vindication

To Christ who’s made my reparation

There’s nothing left to pay!

~~~~

(Lindsay Caplen 2016)

Darkness cannot drive out darkness-Be The Light!

Based on a Sermon on 22nd November at South Woodham Evangelical Church.IMG_0839

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:19-21

This morning after a time of silence in our worship, we read ‘Blessed Be the Lord for he has shown me his love in a besieged city.’ (Psalm 32:21) It makes me think about the wonderful way that many have chosen to respond to the Paris attacks, not by retreating in fear, but by extending a welcome to the stranger who may be sad, lonely and dispossessed.

It has been sad on the other hand to see people stirring up fear, Islamophobia and even xenophobia in the wake of the attacks. I do understand that fear and I do understand those feelings. ….But we must never play into the hands of terror….of hate and of evil.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all look back to Abraham for the origins of their faith. They are known as the Abrahamic faiths and are all monotheistic (that is they believe in one God).

Abraham lived amongst people whose faith, ethics and practices were alien to his own. Yet he did not go around smashing idols. He did not impose his faith on others. He did not hold people of other beliefs to the same standards of ethics or holiness that he felt called to observe. Yes, he held them to account for seizing his well, but that’s a common ‘moral’ law issue, not directly related to religious ethics or faith.

Abraham’s nephew Lot moved to a place called Sodom. According to Genesis 13, the people of Sodom were wicked and sinned greatly against the Lord and yet Abraham is not once mentioned as having criticised or condemned them. In fact when he heard that a severe punishment was headed their way, Abraham pleaded one of the boldest prayers in the Bible by calling upon God to spare the people.

His contemporaries sense that there is something special, perhaps even godly about him. Melchizedek, king of Salem, salutes him with the words ‘Blessed be Abram by God most high, Creator of Heaven and Earth (Genesis 14:9). The Hittites say ‘You are a Prince of God among us.’ (Genesis 23:6.)

These men did not know God the way Abraham did and yet Abraham gained their respect by the way he lived, not the way he forced, or even urged others to live. He sought to be true to his faith whilst being a blessing to others regardless of their faith.

This deep love between Abraham and God has in various ways inspired Jews, Christians and Muslims to see themselves as Abraham’s rightful heirs.

Surely then, all who embrace Abraham as their father must aspire to live like Abraham. Could anything be more foreign to the spirit of Abrahamic monotheism than what is happening today in the name of jihad?!

The brutal murder of the innocent. The cold, brutal killing of those with whom you do not agree. The pursuit of domination in the name of empire (or caliphate) and the idea that you can impose truth by force. These are pagan ideas and must have no place in the life or faith of anyone who is a true heir of Abraham.

Let’s have some hubris here. The Christian faith has not been immune to imposing its’ views on others. Christianity was certainly not above reproach during aspects of The Crusades, the Inquisition, the Reformation and whilst burning witches! We may well say….yes, but that wasn’t proper Christianity. Scripture was misinterpreted for political ends…for power! Can the same not be said for this extreme form of Islam?….For the beliefs and practices of ISIS or Da’esh – that few Muslims would recognise as being Orthodox Islam? Let’s remember that by far the greatest loss of life amidst the current atrocities has been amongst Muslims themselves…Muslims who do not agree with ‘them’.

There are difficult texts in the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Qur’an and the Hadith. Applied directly without careful interpretation…some of the texts from all of these faiths can and have and will do great harm! The advent of the internet and social media permits extreme interpretations to rapidly gain adherents! This is particularly true for Islam, though fundamentalist and extreme christian views are also getting far more publicity than they should. Westboro Baptist church for example is a church that many of us would struggle to recognise as Christian.

Psalm 24:1 ‘The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its’ people belong to him.’

Everything – the land, its’ produce, its’ power, its’ people and life itself. They all belong to the Lord. We may possess the land, but we do not own it. Human beings are stewards called to act on God’s behalf. ISIS and other similar extremist organisations-they’re not acting as stewards. They have declared that they want restoration of the Caliphate and the application of their twisted form of Islamic law in all the lands where Islam once held power from Israel through to Spain. These are political objectives. They have nothing to do with the God of Abraham. The God of Abraham does not accept human sacrifice. When religion turns men into murderers, God replies as he did to Cain ‘The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.’

As Christians, I believe that we need to remember the values within our own faith that make true Abrahamic monotheism the humanising force it can and should be. These include the sanctity of life; the dignity of personhood, the upholding of justice and mercy, the responsibility of the rich for the poor, the commands to love the stranger and the insistence on genuine listening. With these values perhaps the church can be the salt and light in this situation that the she is called to be.

The use of religious language by any faith to justify the current wave of heinous terror crimes is not faith, but imperialism.

Unless we are careful, the victims of terror will not just be the dead and maimed, but also the values upon which a free society is built. Trust, security, civil liberty, tolerance, the willingness of a country to open its’ doors to the stranger. We must not let those values be eroded! True faith never needs terror to make its’ voice heard!

The God of Abraham has the power to rescue the powerless. God Almighty turns his face and inclines his ear to the poor, the lonely, the marginalised, the refugee, the one who has no earthly might. Above the noise of war and hate, God hears their strained cry……. and so, if we follow him, must we.

In the Middle East, the advent season has already started and in just one week we too will be looking forward to the coming of Emmanuel, God with us.

God who came to be with us in a way that was so mind blowingly unexpected.

The one who was all powerful who

‘made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness and then who being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
(Philippians 2)

Jesus – God squeezed into human flesh, entered into a hostile world…an illegitimate baby who whilst still a toddler had to flee a murderous political-religious regime and become a refugee in a foreign land.

What a contrast between the way that God came down to establish his Kingdom on earth and the way that King Herod sought to establish his earthly Kingdom! God turns our understanding of power on its’ head….and that same subversion of power continued through Jesus’ life….and continues today.

When Jesus became a man instead of taking the lives of those who didn’t agree with him, he died in their place at the cross of Calvary! But we know more of that story don’t we……..?

…..We know that because of his birth, his life, his death and his resurrection that His love can not only overcome, it can counter savage cruelty, assault, murder, rape, persecution, genocide, injustice, slaughter and hate at their very source – the human heart.

God’s love through Christ can change hearts in a way that no other force can. God’s love alone can stop the cycle of violence…

Of course we must resist evil. Of course we must protect victims of violence. But love alone must shape the heart attitudes from which we respond. If fear and hate shapes our heart attitudes more than does the love of God, then terror will have won a victory in our lives too.

‘Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ (Martin Luther King)

Let us like Abraham win the respect of others by the way we live our lives, not by the way we force, or even urge others to live…and then maybe ‘the other’ will see something godly about us.

Surely that it what it means to be a light in the darkness – A light that is extinguished if we compromise our faith by fighting hate with hate; by fighting human power with human power instead of allowing God’s power to be released.

This advent ask Christ to let his image burn so brightly inside your life that it will consume the fear, the hate and the darkness within your own heart so that we his church can carry the light wherever we go! The Church of Jesus Christ fully alive to his life transforming power is the hope of this world.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not and will not overcome it! We are the light of the world!

Slow Down My Beating Heart….

Last week, I had an investigatory procedure at hospital. I had been a little anxious about the day as I wasn’t quite sure what it would involve and whether I would need further ’work’ done. When the consultant walked in, it was a man that I knew. Our church organises long distance walks/adventure activities for the public. It was on one of these that I met the man who was now leaning over my hospital bed and talking me through what was about to happen. Whilst I’m sure that a stranger would have done the job just as well, I felt hugely reassured and grateful that it was someone that I knew. I felt a sense of peace and perhaps even an inner joy.

In preparation for the procedure, I had, for the previous few days, taken a daily vasodilator (to lower my pulse). The consultant said that this hadn’t had much effect, so he gave me some intravenous beta-blockers. Still my heart rate was too high for the procedure, so I was given a further shot to ‘slow down my beating heart.’ I won’t know the results for a week or two, but I was told that initial indications were positive. I was hugely thankful for this and felt a sense of joy.

The next day I had scheduled to have off work, so Andrew had booked a B & B at the last minute for me to recuperate. (Lots of Brownie points!!XXX ) The room was small, but clean and the bed was really comfy. Bliss! I was hugely grateful and had a deep sense of joy inside.

The next morning, my breakfast was yummy, but what really touched me was that the waitress said that if we wanted we could have our coffee outside on the patio. ‘Wonderful idea’ we thought and went out into the glorious September sunshine to drink our cafetière of coffee. The weather and the coffee on the patio felt like a grace gift from God. I was really grateful and felt a sense of joy.

We then went on to the RSPB reserve at Minsmere. I didn’t want or need a busy or super-active day, but at Minsmere I could slowly mosey around and just ‘be’ a part of nature. It was a beautiful peaceful wander. I was so thankful to be there and felt a sense of joy.

Finally in the evening, I had some extraordinarily delicious Thai food at a street café. In spite of the people sitting next to us being ‘a tad odd,’ it did nothing to ruin the evening. You see, I was so grateful for my food and I had this feeling inside – a sense of joy!

I noticed something wonderful in those two days….I found myself praying without even meaning to because I was so thrilled with God’s blessings…even the small ones like a comfy bed and a nice cup of coffee in the Autumn sunshine!

I’m not entirely sure why some of those things made me so much more thankful than usual and I don’t think it was entirely because of the medication! It has made me think though…..how can I cultivate a grateful, thankful heart in my every day life….even for the small things? Then, I will find myself praying without even trying and I am sure that I will have a greater sense of inner joy day by day!

Live Courageously & Speak Truth To Power – Say Establishment?!?

‘Happy Wedding Anniversary’ said an unfamiliar voice across the table. This was not to be an intimate dinner for two. Instead, courtesy of Andrew’s role as President of The Law Society of England & Wales, we attended The Lord Mayor’s Banquet.

Also attending were many well known figures of the British Establishment. I am not one for pomp and ceremony, but amidst the stunning surrounding, fanfares, sumptuously dressed tables, toasts and speeches, it was clear that God was very much at work.

Sometimes Christians feel that there is little sympathy for faith at senior levels within our nations leadership. That can cause:

1) A siege mentality where we either fail to have any impact on the world or
2) Negative campaigning that can appear as bigotry (but perhaps is sometimes born out of fear?)

The powers of darkness have nothing to fear regarding the former and the latter can simply give rise to a harder form of secularism, even perhaps resulting in the establishment of bad case law.

Well, what I witnessed last night blew my mind!

David Cameron spoke of the phenomenal work that churches are doing. In his speech he spoke at length about how the church is the most effective agency of change in local communities, even amongst hard to reach communities.

The Archbishop of Canterbury claimed that as a nation, we had much to be grateful for regarding the work of DFID (Department for International Development.) He spoke about the significant DFID money being given to Churches and Christian Charities. The reason? It is widely acknowledged that the churches have the community ‘know how’ at home and abroad and can bring sustainable grass-roots change.

The Late Lord Mayor, Fiona Woolf, herself a former President of The Law Society, said that a major highlight of her Mayoral year had been in St Paul’s Cathedral where there was a service to celebrate 20 years since the Ordination of women as Anglican priests. She said ‘Glass should be in the windows, not in the ceiling!’ Last year in her speech as incoming Lord Mayor, she challenged the Archbishop to work to raise the number of women in senior levels within the church. This year, the Archbishop cheekily responded by challenging ‘the city’ to raise the number of women board members in FTSE 100 firms to reflect society! 😉

Opposite me, a highly decorated top ranking Police Crime Commissioner leant over the table to ask what I felt about the role of religion in politics. What ensued was a stimulating conversation about the importance of a degree of separation between church and state (which was interesting given the setting). We discussed the need for the church to have a prophetic role ‘speaking truth to power.’ He argued that the church needed to have a greater voice and he asked me ‘where is the Baptist voice?’ Shouldn’t Baptists be in a better position than the Established Church to speak truth to power? ‘Perhaps’, I thought, but it got me thinking once again about the fact that in our desire for decentralisation, we could be in danger of losing the power of a unified public prophetic voice.

Knowing that I was a minister, the guy to my right-a retired stockbroker and a liveryman tried to get a rise out of me by speaking about the ‘phallic nature of the table decorations’ (I have to say it wasn’t the first thing that crossed my mind!) He then moved on to state that he didn’t really agree with women bishops. Still not getting the rise he anticipated, he started asking various probing questions about the nature of ‘call’, experiential faith and why there was a need to respond to Christ if Christ has indeed ‘already done it all.’ Halfway through the evening, he asked for my business card saying that I had been the first person courageous enough to straight talk with him about his need to respond to all that Christ had done.’

To my immediate left was a wonderful senior female minister in the Church of England. The gentleman to her left opened a conversation with us both by saying

‘Wow – you two don’t look anything like church ministers used to when I went to church as a child.’

We both smiled politely….having heard something similar many times before.

He then asked us what we found to be the most frustrating aspect of ministry. We both spoke about how apathy and fear within the church hinders the work that God wants to do in individual lives and in the the world through the church. He said that he felt that this was a generation that generally lacked courage. He then challenged the church to take a lead in this nation by showing it how to live courageously! He left saying that he had been immensely inspired by the conversation!…..So had I!

As a woman, life in ministry (not least getting into it in the first place) has presented a catalogue of difficulties. However, there are many amazing advantages of being a woman too! One of these is the ability to take people by surprise precisely because you don’t look like they think a typical minister looks! Perhaps it is the novelty factor or just curiosity, but if it provides an inroad to the Gospel, then I am not complaining! These comments often lead almost immediately into deep questioning and sharing from both men and women.

Last night was also a reminder that God is at work in profound ways within our nation that perhaps we do not often see.

‘The Establishment’ were the ones setting the church a challenge – to show leadership by living courageously; to speak truth to power; to continue to bring transformation in our communities.

All I had to do what to open my mouth and respond to what The Holy Spirit was already doing in lives within that room!

And so…..If you are praying for the leaders of this nation-be encouraged! If you are not, then you should be – so get down on your knees in prayer and then get up off your knees and live courageously!

Church-we cannot afford to be fearful, complacent or apathetic. There is a world waiting for spiritual leadership and there are national leaders calling for the church to lead by example!