on being empty, an essential question

15 Feb

eq: how can emptiness build trust?

When I was head of school, a parent came to see me one morning at 7 am. (Without an appointment. Her child, Jasmine, was living with the grandmother as the mum had some life controlling issues.) In the South Bronx this visit was quite unusual. Parents of high school students, in general, rarely came to school even when we requested a visit. Jasmine’s mother had given her a pair of UGG boots for the child’s birthday the week before. Mom had come to school to take the boots back. She wanted them that day.

… When I looked at Jasmine’s Mother, I thought, last week, the Mother gave just about everything she had to her daughter. She emptied herself but the anxiety of being empty filled her and she needed the boots back. She could not sit with the emptiness. Then I thought to Remus Lupin of the Harry Potter series. Here is he on emptiness,

“You can exist without your soul you know, as long as your brain and heart are still working. But you’ll have no sense of self anymore… no memory …anything. There’s no chance at all of recovery. You’ll just -exist. As an empty shell. And your soul is gone forever…lost.”
(Remus Lupin is speaking about a dementor’s-kiss)

I once heard someone say, “you must know nothing before u can learn something, and be empty before you can be filled, Is it not the emptiness of the bowl what makes it useful?”

All objects are empty of inherent existence.

They, we, may seem full and yet we are empty. Only the Spirit of God with God’s word can truly fill us. Then all the Judas’ of the world can never empty us with a kiss.

Jasmine kept the boots. She never knew from me that her mother came.
Fill us oh Lord, fill me O Lord.


temple thoughts, a powerful reminder

11 Feb

Isaiah 6:3 have seraphs, angels, flying around the Lord’s throne in the temple,
“And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
And they were calling to one another:

My question, so why aren’t they singing out,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth and all of heaven is full of his glory.”

My answer: they are speaking to each and to Isaiah a powerful reminder: everything in the earth sings of His glory, speaks to His glory, reflects His glory. (Psalms 95 and 96)

The seraphs voices are us: stop, see, listen reflect. He is everywhere.

family update

26 Jan

Hi friends and family

So after the late last 2015 lulu we sent out on our visit to the States and then (now) our return to London, I would like to share facts interlaced with prayer concerns. Please excuse the bullet format, but so much has occurred that this format is best for me at this time.

+ My father is home in Staten Island, recovering from a very near bout with pneumonia. At 89 the long extended time in hospitals watching and waiting for my mother’s open heart surgery did not help his condition. He misses his wife of 63 years tearfully. He spoke last week to her on the phone, (she is alert and conscious) stating ‘get well soon…I am lost without you.’
+ My mother Joan has always been a fast, quick talker; now -two weeks after her ‘successful’ open heart surgery,- she is a step down ICU unit breathing through a ventilator. She can’t slow down her anxiety enough to breathe deeply and slowly. Our prayer: that she breathes deeply and gets off the ventilator. This week I am feeling is a key week.

+ My brother, Donald, sister, Susan, and father Donald have a number of key, family decisions to make. Pray that as we speak and meet His spirit will lead.

+ me: a number of you have called and texted. emailed me. Truthfully, I am not quite up to responding individually at this time. Today I saw a counsellor and she helpfully pointed out that being ‘sad’ and even at times being angry was ‘alright…normal.’ She also pointed out that the past comes in for all during these end days, the good as well as the poor times. My prayer request: to allow myself to feel without judging myself as a person, son, brother, father, Christian.

Thank you all


22 Jan

Flying home to London from NYC Tuesday, I was standing in the BA aisle waiting for the people to fill in my row before I took my assigned seat. The steward and I began talking and they asked me where I was from and my business in London. Hearing their accent, I asked where they were from and she responded ‘Newcastle.’
I then said, ‘you are a Geordie.’
They were so impressed that I knew Geordies our conversation continued and as I moved to be seated they came to me and moved my seat on this slightly filled airplane to first class.
God Bless Geordies!!

a late lulu

8 Jan

a late November/December lulu

As the Osewalts are now in 2016 (I hope you all are in 2016 also) this is a very late ‘catch-up lulu.’ Here are our highlights and prayer requests as of 8 January:
• We visited Deardra’s and Bert’s new son in October, Hero. He looks like his mother and her mother, beautiful.
• I had through Stewardship 5 weeks Annual Leave. We went to NYC for our first Thanksgiving (spent with my twin brother and his family) in 3 years.
• The series I composed ‘Advent Wonder’ was well received by 14,000 individuals as of 15 December and 501 churches. (Sermon notes)
• Priscilla and I went to MOMA in NYC with Elizabeth, Sarah, James, Charlotte and Samuel to see the brilliant Picasso sculpture show. The grand kids loved it more than me.
• I caught up with a number of RPC (Redeemer friends) I missed all you so.
• My family had a night of “7 fishes” (look it up) on Christmas Eve dinner at my Dad’s and Mother’s home in Staten Island. It was great to have a family plus fellowship. More on this time in prayer requests.
• Priscilla and I saw the musical ‘Hamilton’-Go!!! (but tickets are difficult to come by…try the lottery)
• We had family and friends over to our house Christmas day. Lovely time.
• The James’ and Elizabeth’s children, our grand kids, slept over New Year’s Eve and we all played ‘Volcano’ together. This is a game I made up where you take and unopened bottle of seltzer water; shake well; open and shout ‘Volcano!!’ The kids loved it!!! (The adults not so much)
Prayer requests
• Priscilla fell a block from our house in NYC and broke her right wrist for the second time in a year. She got the cast off two days before we left and she seems to be healing well. Pray that she does heal
• My mother is not well. I took her and my father to a hospital 28 December after seeing her on Christmas Eve. (She was difficult to convince) She was in congestive heart failure. The hospital in Staten Island admitted her but we moved her to Mount Sinai in NYC on New Year’s Eve. She had open heart surgery the day we left for London, Tuesday/Wednesday of this week. Please pray for her healing as she is in intensive care today, sedated as she recovers.
• Please pray for my family as we all try to prayerfully cope with these events. Our family all agreed for us to return to London at this time as there was little we (Priscilla and I) could do beyond what we had done at this time. My brother, sister and my children are managing with a dear RPC friend. We will know more on Monday-11 January.
Thank you all for reading, praying
Charles and Priscilla


23 Nov

This Sunday 22 November I spoke on Ephesians 4: 17-32. In my talk I used both the NIV translation and The Message paraphrase. The editor’s heading for the NIV text is, The New Life. The Message heading for the same text is ‘The Old Way Has to Go.’ Opposites. One positive; the other negative. I used both texts.

Why? And how did I design the talk, and my reflections? I form two steps.

  1. Because when I teach now I no longer used three points, I get it down to one essential point, a key word or phrase. For this passage I used one word: new

Essential word: new

2. I take this word/phrase and form and essential question:

Here the EQ: How do I keep the newness, the freshness of my faith? How do I keep this first love new? Revelation 2: 1-4

There is a two step approach to my answer to this essential/how to question.

A. First, I read the text in two different translations. I wash myself in His word. Ephesians 5: 26 (Both translations I used NIV & Message are below)

B. Last, I think, reflect about being thankful. This is the ‘message’ of this passage in Ephesians. Paul wrote two letters to churches while he was in prison. The overarching message of each is: be content, be joyful in all circumstances. Be thankful. The Message paraphrase of 4:30 puts it well ‘Don’t take such a gift for granted.’ This is the gift of the Holy sprit; the gift of new life in Christ.

How can I be thankful? Reflect on ten things you are grateful for; then expend to twenty; then grow to forty. It will be hard at first as you practice you will become more specific. then, it becomes easier. Thankfulness keeps things new. It keeps me in my first love, Jesus. Be Thankful. Love.

 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”[a]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

17-19 And so I insist—and God backs me up on this—that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.

20-24 But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

25 What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.

26-27 Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.

28 Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can’t work.

29 Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.

30 Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.

31-32 Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

3rd Mark study

17 Nov

Mark 12: 14-44

Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him.
Marriage at the Resurrection
18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
24 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”
The Greatest Commandment
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Whose Son Is the Messiah?
35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’[g]
37 David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”
The large crowd listened to him with delight.
Warning Against the Teachers of the Law
38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
The Widow’s Offering
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
g. Mark 12:36 Psalm 110:1
Essential questions: In this chapter Jesus is asked three different questions by first the Pharisees and the Herodians, then the Sadducees and finally by a teacher of the law. How does Jesus frame his responses to each? Specifically, how does He use questions in his responses? Finally, what does question does He use to “delight” the crowd?

the 2nd part of the Mark bible study Mark 10:35-45

30 Oct

Mark 10:35-45 The Message (MSG)

Essential Question: Jesus brings the disciples together to resolve a conflict due to James and John’s request to sit at Jesus’ right hand. He speaks about: 1. becoming a servant in order to become great and then 2. Becoming a slave. What is the difference between a servant and a slave in this text? With whom is Jesus challenging his disciples to be a slave to? With whom is he challenging them to be a slave for?

The Highest Places of Honour

35 James and John, Zebedee’s sons, came up to him. “Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us.”

36 “What is it? I’ll see what I can do.”

37 “Arrange it,” they said, “so that we will be awarded the highest places of honour in your glory—one of us at your right, the other at your left.”

38 Jesus said, “You have no idea what you’re asking. Are you capable of drinking the cup I drink, of being baptized in the baptism I’m about to be plunged into?”

39-40 “Sure,” they said. “Why not?”

Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you will drink the cup I drink, and be baptized in my baptism. But as to awarding places of honour, that’s not my business. There are other arrangements for that.”

41-45 When the other ten heard of this conversation, they lost their tempers with James and John. Jesus got them together to settle things down. “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,” he said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”

Essential Question: Jesus brings the disciples together to resolve a conflict due to James and John’s request to sit at Jesus’ right hand. He speaks about: 1. becoming a servant in order to become great and then 2. Becoming a slave. What is the difference between a servant and a slave in this text? With whom is Jesus challenging his disciples to be a slave to? With whom is he challenging them to be a slave for?

Which is the more difficult to do? Can someone do both? Why? Why not?

How did Jesus do both? What is his ultimate work/mission?

Finally, why does ‘he give away his life’?

a two part Bible study from the Gospel of Mark

28 Oct

Below is the first of a two part study from the middle of the Gospel of Mark. There is only one question, an essential question, at the beginning of each study. Essential questions can and should have multiple responses. There is no ‘right’ answer. My thinking/responses to both study questions will posted at this site after both studies go live.

Essential Question: Why does Jesus sigh deeply with people?

Mark 7:31-37New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Heals a Deaf and Mute Man

31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Mark 8:1-13

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand

8 During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”

His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.

“Seven,” they replied.

He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.

Essential Question: Why does Jesus sigh deeply with people?

40acts wins Jerusalem 2015 award

14 Oct

Stewardship wins a third Jerusalem Award for 40acts Challenge

Last night the team behind the 40acts Challenge for Lent were thrilled to accept a Jerusalem Award in the Digital Campaign category.

This marks the third Jerusalem Award that the campaign has won in as many years, but this category was newly created in 2015 to specifically recognise digital campaigns of excellence.

Alexandra Khan, project manager for 40acts 2015, said, “There were some fantastic campaigns shortlisted for this award, including projects by 24-7 Prayer, Premier and the CofE.

“I know I can speak on behalf of the whole team when I say we were incredibly humbled to have won this year. It’s a privilege to continue to inspire so many people with a simple message of generosity throughout Lent.”

40acts will enter its sixth year in 2016, starting on Wednesday February 10th. The seven-week sermon resources for churches will be released by the end of October 2015. Church leaders can enter their details below to be given early access to the materials.

To sign up for 40acts as an individual, click here.