Windmill Reflections

Having started by reflecting on the art of sailing and being led to the work of the Holy Spirit, I now come to some reflections on the nature & purpose of a windmill. [if you’ve not read the first post, I recommend you do so before continuing]

This weekend I visited the windmill mentioned in the earlier post. – see the photos included right & below…

[These are personal reflections, representative of my own particular circumstances, offered here in case they’re useful to anyone else.]

There are some similarities between a sailing boat and a windmill, as both have sails to catch the wind and both convert the power of the wind to put it to use. There are many distinctions between them, but the one which has proved most significant to me is this: a sailing boat is about a journey & having a destination in mind, whereas windmills are about industry & productivity.

I felt God challenge me about the work of the Holy Spirit, then lead me to further reflect on the Windmill. So what message did He have for me? What did He want me to understand?

A windmill harnesses the power of the wind, but just as with a sailing boat, the sails must be ready to catch it – so I believe the first lesson is about preparation; be expectant & prepared.

In order for the windmill to be effective when the wind comes, it is important to ensure that the machinery is in good working order – so the second lesson is about systems; ensure the right systems are in place.

In anticipation of the arrival of the wind, with the sails set correctly and the internal systems in place, for the windmill to be productive, you must have a plentiful supply of wheat. The mill only turns when the wind blows, you can’t store the energy for later. So the third lesson is about the product; gather in the harvest.

One final thought which has felt significant as I’ve been reflecting, that is that once the corn has been milled, the product of the milling is pretty useless on its own (though it makes a pretty good explosive!); the milling is not the end of the process, the product of the milling then needs to be added to other ingredients to find its purpose. So perhaps the fourth lesson is about commission [specifically, ‘co-mission’]; there is still work to be done.

As one period of ministry comes to an end, I believe this is a lesson & a challenge for the next season. More on that in a few weeks…

Bradwell Windmill

Bradwell Windmill

Sails Safely Stowed

A few months ago, whilst on a retreat day, I was out walking, thinking, praying, listening to God, and taking photos. I was less than a mile from my childhood home, but in an area I’d not explored previously*.

[* I had tried to explore it previously, but had been shot at by a farmer – it has since become open park land]

I stumbled upon a sailing club, and was struck by the boats, which were moored with the masts still erected, but their sails safely stowed away.

Haversham Sailing Club at rest...

Haversham Sailing Club at rest…

I felt God challenge me about the Holy Spirit, and started to reflect on the boats and what it takes to sail them. Of course they are powered by the wind, totally reliant on it, but there was more than that. In order for the wind to be of any use the sails must be unfurled, raised and kept trim. To sail is an intentional act. Though sailing is for pleasure, there is usually a destination in mind and a course planned to reach it (more true in open water, less true on a sailing lake).

Scripture refers to the Spirit of God as ‘ruach’ meaning breath or wind. So I continued my reflection, specifically considering the Holy Spirit as the wind and the sailing boat representing individual Christians or the church corporately. If we are to harness the power of the Holy Spirit, we must be ready. We need to be intentional about preparing & we must be expectant.

Initially my thoughts were that the wind determined the direction, and therefore the destination. But of course there are constant adjustments being made to the sails to make best use of the power, and it is possible to correct the course using the rudder too. We cannot simply prepare & await the arrival of the Holy Spirit then sit back and expect to arrive at our planned destination.

This may all seem very simple and very obvious stuff to you. But it was a helpful reflection for me, as I seek not just what God has in store for me & my family, but where the destination might be. It felt worthy of further reflection. Am I anticipating the coming wind, and are my sails unfurled and ready to harness the power?

I didn’t realise it at the time, but this was just a preamble to a further challenge to come.

Bradwell Windmill

Bradwell Windmill

As I turned around, away from the view of the boats, I noticed a windmill in the distance. It is a windmill I remember well from my childhood (though since restored), but I was still surprised when I saw it.

God stirred me once more, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. I was left with a strong sense that the windmill was significant.

I moved on to two further locations along the north of Milton Keynes, and caught a glimpse of the windmill again from each, the feeling of significance grew each time.

In the month which followed I reflected on the windmill and the wind of God. Those reflections will follow…

Prophetic Photography?

Prophetic Photography? by easyrew

I took this picture in 2007 whilst at MK Summer Camp in St. Ives. As I was wandering around the town during some very rare free time, I spotted this row of cottages and took a photo. I remember thinking at the time how I’d love to return to St. Ives without the responsibilities & constraints of Camp and stay here [stunning location]. Next week, by chance, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing, in this very property. It’s been booked for a few months, but as I looked on the website this afternoon, I suddenly realised that I recognised the property. After a quick look through my photos from 2007 I found this. Small world after all…

Peace Pagoda

The PointRecently I’ve been challenged about the use of an inappropriate image for a Christian project. What follows are my reflections on whether or not using the image was wise or appropriate.

When setting up a new project recently (Hope MK) and putting together the website, I selected a number of images which unmistakeably represented Milton Keynes. These each featured iconic scenes or landmarks from across the city: Xscape building, the Point, the central railway station, road signs, inside the shopping centre, the Stadium:MK (home to MK Dons).

However, one of the images caused a bit of a stir: the Peace Pagoda at Willen. I had selected this as the main image which was to feature on our earliest promotional material.

When our first ‘teaser’ cards were handed out at one youth group they asked why we were using a Buddhist Temple to promote a Christian event. An interesting question. We had a brief discussion within the core planning team and didn’t see a huge problem with it. Then a few weeks later we received an email in relation to the project which, whilst otherwise supportive, made it clear that they didn’t agree with the use of the Peace Pagoda image as it ‘portrays the wrong image for a Christian event’. At a later meeting we discovered that another individual had reservations about the image, and had initially dismissed being involved in the project as they assumed (based on the image) that it was an ‘inter-faith’ project.

All this led to lots of discussion and a great deal of reflection.

Initially the ‘problem’ image was chosen without much thought to the fact that the Peace Pagoda is a Buddhist monument. It was selected because it is one of the most iconic MK landmarks, with a beautiful sunrise which I felt inspires awe towards the Creator God & signifies the coming Hope (light of the world). It was that simple. A little naive perhaps – but as a lifelong resident of MK, to me the Peace Pagoda is simply a landmark and has no strong religious connection.

I had almost dismissed the earliest comments on the basis that the pagoda is not a Buddhist Temple (as had been stated) but just a monument. As I thought about the issue further, I also did a little research and realised that the pagoda is symbolically significant in relation to the Hope MK initiative too: being the first Peace Pagoda in the Western world, it was ground-breaking and a powerful unifying symbol (both things we aspire to for Hope MK). Of further significance is the fact that behind the pagoda is the ‘one world tree’ which is covered in prayers and messages of hope – a symbol of people’s faith and hope for a better world.

Xscape MK Central

After plenty of reflection & discussion, I decided that personally I don’t have an issue with the use of the image. The fact that it’s a Buddhist monument doesn’t cause me any alarm. A Peace Pagoda is a monument designed to inspire all races, colours & creeds towards peace – that seems to me to be something that Jesus, Prince of Peace, encouraged and indeed prayed for (John 17).

The creator of the pagoda was committed to non-violence & reconciliation – a man of peace. He campaigns against nuclear weapons, for world peace and social and moral justice in the world. He sounds to me like the kind of man who is working towards Kingdom goals without even knowing the King. In Mark 9 Jesus said ‘whoever is not against us is for us’ (v38-41). Admittedly Jesus wasn’t specifically referring to a Buddhist monument – but I think it is applicable in this situation. We’re hoping to work in partnership with some non-Christian organisations in order to serve the city. On other projects, I’m happy to be associated with people & organisations who don’t share my faith, but believe we can work together towards a common goal.

There’s one final Biblical precedent which came to mind as I’ve been reflecting on this issue, and which more directly relates. In Acts 17 the Apostle Paul uses a secular statue to communicate the Gospel. Paul refers to a statue which has been dedicated to ‘the unknown god’. He had no fear of affording the statue power or credibility by using it/referring to it. He seems absolutely convinced of the sovereignty of God, and instead uses the statue to point the ‘locals’ to the God that he knows instead.

But whilst I didn’t have a problem with the use of the image, we still had to discuss and resolve the issue of the misunderstandings the image had caused about Hope MK. As a result we decided to stop using the image (once pre-printed materials had been used).

Stadium MKOn a slightly flippant note, I suggested that if we rule out the peace pagoda on the grounds that it doesn’t give the right impression to use a non-Christian religious symbol to represent/promote a Christian event, we should probably also stop using the Stadium:MK image (on the grounds that football is practised as a religion by many), the Xscape image as it is a shrine to Capitalism , and the image of The Point as it is home to a bingo hall.

What do you think?