Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Book Review - Ordering Your Private World, by Gordon MacDonald

Four and a half years ago a friend gave me this book and suggested I read it, one of those occasions when you're not quite sure whether to thank someone or ask what exactly they mean by this action! But to be fair, it's fairly evident to all that know me that I am more of a doer than a reflector, I am more likely to be seen rushing onto the next activity than sat reflecting on the last.

It occurred to me only recently that I am possibly the exact opposite to the proverbial duck that is calm on the surface but peddling frantically underwater, the more frantic I appear on the surface often the calmer I feel underneath.

And so it was that it took me four years to get around to reading this book, then six months to complete the 240 pages, but here I am at the end of that long journey considering how best to review it. Because it is an easy read that regularly includes the trite over the profound, fails in its attempt to connect deep experiences with practical advice, and, on occasions is not unfamiliar with dullness (more than once I have sat down to read, only to awake 45 minutes later having only progressed a couple of paragraphs).

But the truth is that my time with this book has profoundly changed the way I live, the way I relate to God and to others and the way I approach my work, in-spite or perhaps because of the time that it has taken me to complete it I have seen some of the practical, accessible and thoughtful steps suggested by this book either directly or indirectly affect me.

These include journalling for the longest run I've yet managed despite numerous past attempts; taking control of my diary, which has meant a more productive work life, more quality time with the family and a greatly improved sense of well-being (it feels more like wading through life than drowning in it); a return to regular study for the enjoyment of learning; taking notes of important events, conversations, articles and books, recording them and storing them; reading, including fiction for the first time in 8 years; listening to feedback, finding the truth in it and putting it into effect in my life; focusing again on God's voice in the cacophony of voices that surround us; to listen to the stories of those around me and to hold them in prayer; and to take time to stop, look back and reflect on the impact of things (like stopping to review a book).

So I hope you see something of my dilemma in reviewing this book, on face value it doesn't seem to warrant a great review or a recommendation, but that would be to deny the impact that journeying with this book has had on my life and I hope will continue to have. So my recommendation comes with a caveat, if you are going to read this book cover to cover in a few short days then I'm not sure that you will get the most out of it, or even feel like there is anything new in it.

I recommend that if you read this book you take your time, that you let the chapters affect you and your practice, see what works for you and move on having engaged with it, only them can the true value of this book be gleaned.

Quality: ★★★☆☆
Impact: ★★★★★
Longevity: Time will tell
Overall: ★★★★☆

Would I recommend it? Yes
Do I want to ever read it again? I can imagine dipping back in in the future

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Secret History of Our Streets

Soon I will be moving back to South London to work as an Assistant Curate in the Church of England. I have to admit that London was somewhere that we ended up through no choice or design of our own and, though my father was originally from Lambeth, I have often felt like a resident alien amidst the tumult of humanity. However, while on my sick bed this morning I watched this program on the BBC iPlayer:

If you can then I urge you to watch it, especially if you have a connection with London and its communities. It broke my heart to see what has been done to certain parts of South London in the name of progress, the fracturing of lives, families, communities and urban topography (yes I do care about geography, people and places are intimately linked). Hearing the stories of injustices suffered and inflicted, wounds that have never healed and scars that are likely to be with us for many years to come.

I thought it was a well made documentary, you hear from a number of different parties and, although the emphasis is placed on the community, there didn’t seem to have been an attempt to vilify the councillor involved. I was particularly impressed with the small coverage of a Christian pentecostal church where, through the art of good editing, there was an implied spiritual dimension to the consequences of the injustices acted on the community and, at the very end, a sense of hope restored for the future.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Come fly with me...

Off we go on a "Rylett Adventure"! Two weeks visiting friends in Tanzania. Some say we're mad, they're probably right, buy we're excited about seeing what life is like for Andrew, Miriam, Ben and Sam as they work for Emmanuel International. (oh, and maybe a monkey too!)

Thursday, 6 January 2011


I have a label.

Well, I suppose it is technically another label because I already have quite a collection. I am a Christian, a husband, a father, an ordinand... I'm white, british, middle class, state educated, university educated... I'm a preacher, a worship leader, a teacher but I'm also a listener, a worshipper, a student and a son of the King... I'm a forgiven sinner, a friend of God, I am nothing but he is all that lives in me... And now to add to that, I am dyslexic.

What has been suggested in the past, what others have been sceptical of and what no-one ever bothered to consider about me in the past ("he's bright, but he's lazy") was confirmed yesterday by an educational psychologist.

But what now? Does this change anything? I don't suppose any labels actually change the real world, just because I have a label doesn't mean that it defines me or my actions. Yes, I might be called a father and that might be technically true, but that doesn't immediately mean that I know how to or am able to act like a father. That takes grace, patience, perseverance, repentance, acceptance, inspiration, education and a whole lot more.

Ironically I feel like the next step is to read! I want to find out what in my world is the same as it is for other and what is different. I want to learn how I can function more effectively in the tasks that I have before me. I also wonder whether God heals dyslexics? I wonder whether I truly want that or am I hoping that this might make my life easier. Life isn't easy, it's not supposed to be.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Man shall not live by video projector alone...

...nor shall he live by carpets, the removal of pews of the instigation of youth and Children's work!

Lots of people around me at the moment are finding out about their training posts in Churches around the country. I pray that this will be a fulfilling and rewarding time for all of them, but I have noticed that there is an odd correlation in the things that people say.

When asked about the Churches that they will be serving and served by people frequently reply with something akin to the following, "It's quite a traditional Church at the moment, but I know the minister wants to move things on. They are intending on installing a video projector soon." (Or for video projector you can substitute "start a youth group", "get rid of the pews", "install a sound system" etc.)

Other than the fact that it is not necessary for people to justify their choice of training opportunity to me I find it curous that a mark of life in a Church is not seen as a relationship with the Father, faith in Jesus or the moving of the Spirit. Instead of focusing on issues of the heart we appear to see life as a purely cosmetic issue.

I concede that a well ordered worship space, a vibrant youth and children's programme and a holistic mission to the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of the community are, amoung other thing, indeed outward signs of a healthy Church. However, I don't know that health can be gained through achieving these things.

I imagine that it's rather like good hair or clear skin. I'm told that healthy people, people who eat well, exercise and look after their bodies, do have a resultant positive effect on their outward appearances. Many of us try and achieve this healthy look through cosmetics, in the run-up to Christmas television is swamped with adverts promising "healthy looking hair" and "smoother looking skin". Not wishing to get into a discussion on the virtues of cosmetics it does occur to me that these solutions will not deal with the problem but cover is up, they do not make us healthy they merely allow us to give the appearance of health.

There is a problem in many Churches today that is we are trying to look like the healthy Churches (or even those Churches that appear healthy), instead we as Christians need to grow in spiritual health and pray for the spiritual health of our Churches. Then out of this health we might see the signs of life returning to our communities in both familiar and unexpected ways.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Ps 51:10)

Monday, 2 August 2010

Are you sitting comfortably?

Visited a Church last night... don't think it's helpful to use the patented Rylett Five-Star review strategy on people's acts of worship, but I do (of course) have some questions and some opinions...

Gen asked me how it was when I got home and my one-word would be "comfortable". This has nagged at me ever since, and this morning I remembered the welcome offered to visitors: "We hope you will be comfy".

Comfy... does Jesus call us to be comfy? He is the God who comforts those who mourn but I don't believe that there is a biblical precedent to be comfy? So why is the aim of so many of our Church meetings that we might be comfortable? Were the disciples comfortable as they saw demons cast out and outcasts welcomed in? Were the Pharisees comfortable as Jesus challenged and rebuked them? Was Paul comfortable as he moved across the empire speaking of Jesus?

Those who lead our Churches need to stop inviting us to be comfortable and start preaching the life-changing, transforming, healing, challenging, comforting, but never comfortable word of God.

Anyways... I was able to worship the God who is due all my praise and I thank him for speaking to me last night during the word, as a result I have had a rather uncomfortable day and I will worship Him more as a result.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Jesus, Jesus who?

It occurred to me the other day that before we preach it would be helpful to ask ourselves who is the Jesus I'm preaching about today?

There are many facets to the character of Jesus that we can (and should) be preaching about, the victorious Christ, the Messiah, the humble King, the judge, the list goes on and on. The danger is that we can, if we are not careful, preach none of these or worse we can preach a different Jesus, the loser, the pushover, the irrelevant, the docile etc.

So before we preach lets look back on our notes and ask which Jesus the word we've prepared communicates, and if it is no Jesus or the wrong Jesus lets have the courage to start a fresh with the life giving Jesus.