Sunday, August 16, 2009

Celebrating Success Together

I don’t usually endeavour to be ambitious in a blog entry, my process is to write it in a word document and try to keep it to a page. Sometimes I go over, sometimes I go way over, but often I stick to the target. In this case though I am deliberately trying something audacious in combining the following – breakfast, the national identity of my daughters, Usain Bolt’s World Record breaking victory, Paul and Barnabas, Brian Clough and Peter Taylor, the reconciling work of Jesus Christ and my approach to supporting Liverpool this season. Reckon I can do it? Let’s have a go.

So today has been fascinating. I got to spend some time with my children. I educated them in the ways of appreciating Match of the Day even if it is on a Sunday morning. We then enjoyed another of my mother’s sumptuous breakfasts. Seriously people, my mum is feeding me up food and proper I cannot complain – let me just paint the picture for you in words – fried dumplings and fried plantain on one plate, beans and callaloo on another. These are not small plates either, so you know that once I was fed I was sorted for the rest of the day! Authrine and I spent some quality time with our precious daughters taking them out to Hanley and then to the park around the corner. There was just enough time to enjoy a bit of a break at home before Authrine and I were out again for a marvellous afternoon/evening’s session at church.

Our story begins in earnest though with the events of what took place on our arrival back home. Our precious daughters greeted the returning parents with their usual glee and enthusiasm and we entered the living room to see the television showing Usain Bolt’s celebrations at clinching the gold at the World Championships at a world record time.

Now imagine the scene, Authrine: Jamaican; Patsy: Jamaican; My Mother: Jamaican all full grown women technically all making a whole heap of noise at their countryman’s achievements as well as Asaph Powell’s bronze finish. So as that celebration kicks off Abigail and Deborah (both born in England to a self-confessed Englishman … that’s me) started joining in with the celebrations in similar mood to the technically grown up people. To this scene my mother rejoiced and proclaimed that indeed my children were Jamaicans. You can imagine my joy at that news.

There is something to celebrating together, though. There is something to being united in the achievements of others almost as though you achieved it yourself and when we are together and united by a shared bond your success is my success and vice-versa. So it’s a real shame when things happen to prevent us from celebrating success together. For example I am currently reading a memoir on the time a journalist spent with Brian Clough. (Provided You Don’t Kiss Me: 20 Years With Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton.)

The success of Clough – getting two provincial sides completely unfancied to English and, in Nottingham Forest’s case, European glory – was down to his partnership with Peter Taylor. They learnt to celebrate success together because they stuck at it together, recognising what each contributed to the other. Underneath there were issues that led to the sad demise of the relationship n and just goes to show what happens when our focus is taken off together and is more self-inclined.

Just because we see that in ‘the world’ don’t think even heroes of the Bible are immune. When reading of Clough and Taylor I was reminded of Paul and Barnabas. If you read the book you’ll see that Taylor was at first seen as the senior figure of the partnership because of his age and experience, but soon enough the younger guy comes to the fore. Not that dissimilar to how Barney and Saul were before it became apparent that the partnership was more Paul and Barney. For all their successes together and sticking at it together their missionary partnership came to an end in acrimonious circumstances. To read it is so sad again to see how stubborn people can be especially in their opinions of others.

When I talk about those relationships I mean it in the same way that our Creator made us so we can celebrate success together. When you read of how the pinnacle of creation – man meets women in the garden made for them – you are reading something with God saying that is very good – that’s success and sin coming ruins everything – that self-inclination again. We are no longer able to celebrate success together, that’s what makes Jesus’ sacrifice so amazing and so relieving, because now that brings us back together – man and man as well as more importantly man and God – and it puts everything else in context.

Like seeing your daughters celebrate the victory of the fastest man in the world.

Or football.

Now if you know me, you know I love me football and I’m a Liverpool fan. Yet as the season starts I find myself in a funny position. I want them to win the League, I think they can and hope they will. First game of the season wasn’t the best start, but I remain hopeful. For all that, though, I find myself actually weaning off the devotion I used to have for the club. I want to glorify God more in my enjoyment of football and in as much as that calls for enjoying footie and supporting a side, that support doesn’t have to become so precious, so much a part of me that my moods are affected by it and my relationships are affected one way or another. Indeed win, lose or draw the bigger picture can allow me to enjoy football for its positive qualities of bringing people to celebrate success together.

More importantly as we enjoy it, this can be the basis on which links can be made to something even better of eternal value that’s worth celebrating together forever.

For His Name's Sake



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