About Me

Friday, 30 April 2010

A Calling?

Having a calling, as in from God, not your kids shouting down the stairs at you, seems to be one of those Christian sticking points. For years I frankly cringed when someone said, 'God called me to this', or 'God told me to do that'. I think you either understand it or you don't (I mean it's almost in the marmite category). I very definitely did not 'get' it, but then I guess there's a lot of things about Chrisitanity I didnt 'get'. I bet God is having a good old laugh at me now actually, saying and doing things I would have scoffed at others for doing before! So it was a surprise to me that shortly after being saved I felt like God was calling me to something - although I couldn't actually put my finger on what 'it' was or is, I just know he is preparing me for something. Now I haven't admitted this anywhere except to my husband (& on here, for the whole world to read of course), but one of my first thoughts about Gods plan for me was about going into ministry. Where this came from I have no idea (ok well, apart from the obvious, duh). I mean I am not the kind of person you would imagine being a vicar, I cannot see myself in that kind of role and so on... however I would like to study theology - that's more my kind of thing. Getting my teeth into some good studying and critical analysis. I can see me doing that, God willing...

I had a lengthy chat with our parish priest (not at the church I attend) after the drama of getting saved and he asked me if I felt called to anything, so I said yes, but not sure what. He, interestingly, told me he felt called to ministry very soon after being saved, like a few months, which kind of made me feel better, like I wasn't being too 'up myself' thinking God had a plan for me so soon in my journey.

So this thought has been occurring to me every now and then, but honestly I just can't see it happening, I mean apart from anything else, what a responsibilty, how many years studying? I am approaching 40 for goodness sake.

Last week when our curate came over to talk about the baptism he told me that he felt my role was to be in ordained ministry. I laughed. a lot. The the other chap with him said to me 'you need to listen to him, he has a prophetic gift, what he says usually happens' or something along those lines... I stopped laughing pretty quickly. I think I probably did one of those comedy 'gulps'. But still although I was a bit 'worried' I still thought, well, really? it's just not me...

Last night at a church meeting (ok so I did get some God time) I was chatting to a lady I didn't know about work and I made some comment about changing jobs soon and she just said straight out 'are you going to go into ministry then?', there followed another comedy gulp, louder this time.... This lady doesnt know me and I had not given her any reason to think this (especially as I still don't believe it myself!).

So today I was very interested to read Lesleys blog here, where in part she talks about her initial calling to Ministry. In particular this sentence stood out to me:

It all started when I thought God was calling me to ordained ministry. I couldn’t admit it, because I was so determined that my role was to be at home with my kids and be a 'good' wife. I was also uneasy about women being ordained and I could not believe what I felt God was saying to me.

This sums up where I am I think. I can't and won't admit yet that I think that's where God wants me. I really can't believe that I am even worthy of such a calling and I'm not sure I want to give up my business for that. I wanted to give it up to spend more time being a mum; and to focus on my faith, yes, but really? to go into ordained ministry? And I too, despite being a 'modern woman' am not sure I like the idea of women priests, sorry Lesley, I am sure you are wonderful!

Maybe I am not quite ready to hear it or maybe there really has been a string of coincidences (I hope) and I intend to put it right out of my mind, so that if it is what God wants me to do he is going to have to show me in a pretty bloody obvious way. But now I have got off my chest all those nagging thoughts. They are down in print and I can move on. Please Lord, don't make me eat my words... :)

the after glow...

This week I have been basking in the after-glow of my baptism renewal. Despite the freezing water it was a totally awesome occasion, which I will never forget. It has been an amazingly busy week as we have an event opening tonight at work (actually I'm writing this in between customers. In fact as it is all up and ready to go this is the first time all week I have been able to just sit and do something for myself - hence no posts in the preceeding 4 days). So it has been busy... and there has been little 'God-time' but in the after glow of the baptism I have felt bathed in his love, on a complete high, and it has been wonderful. In complete contrast to the usual stress and panic pre-event opening. Hope this feeling will linger a bit longer.

Now, having been deprived from blogging this week, of course I am champing at the bit to write so there will probably follow a flurry of posts....

Sunday, 25 April 2010

What happens next?

So.. today has been the culmination of an interesting week. There have been highs, there have been lows, I have felt far from God and then very close to God. Today I renewed my baptism vows at church with a full on dunking, and suddenly it has all come into place...

The week started with me consumed with anxiety about the future of my business. I have written before about my desperate desire to do Gods work that He has planned for me, to just live for him and to do his will. I thought I had handed over my business worries to Him, but this week I realised I was still striving for answers under my own steam. Tuesday was a day of learning, of letting go, of realisation. Draining! at the end of which I just let go and gave it all to the Lord (really this time...). Wednesday was enlightening. We shared some time with people from church, one of them spoke some prophetic words about my life and my path with God, my calling. The other talked about so many things that are relevant in my life. All of these things spoke to me in volumes. The prophetic words were not a surprise, all things that I have spent time thinking on, yet had not spoken to others about. Thursday was a day of confirmation. Receiving the word from my friend which I mentioned on Thursdays post and mulling over all that had been said the night before. I prayed for a day clear from attack and just to be consumed by faith, and that's what I got! I felt so close to God all day. I look back at this week and I know now it was a journey to get me to today, to the renewal of my baptism vows.

I have ultimately surrendered all to Gods will. I am waiting on him now. I could have sunk into despair about those words on Wednesday but instead I feel enlightened and secure in knowing that God will guide me to those places, even though they seem so far away...

So today I approached the service clear in my heart and my mind that God is in control. When I said those words this morning - 'I believe and trust in him', I wasn't just saying it out loud, but in my heart too.
The preacher this morning talked about our roles, using the gifts God has given us and particularly for those that were baptised/renewed their vows: what comes next? As we shared testimonies this morning, one girl said she felt like this was the start of a new journey and the preacher expanded on this. I connected with that completely. It's like everything that has happened over the last few months, this was confirming it all. and for us to stand up there and publically declare it was like us taking the next step, saying, yes Lord, we want this life, take us forward with you. I am excited about what the future holds in this journey guided by Him.

We had a few cards given to us today which was lovely and one I really liked had this quote by Jerome K Jerome:

Nothing is more beautiful than the love that has weathered the storms of life.

I just love this because although it wasn't written as a reference to Christian love, it just sums up our journey perfectly and it will surely still sum up our journey in 40 years time...

Incidentally my daughter (unbeknown to me) videoed my dunking on her phone, so I will try and post it on here if I can suss out how to get ot from there to here... watch this space!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Emerging from the cocoon.

'Butterflies' card by John Dilnott (www.johndilnot.com)

I love it when God gives us a bit of encouragement, sometimes it's just one word, as for me today...

Been a bit of an emotional week as I have a fairly big decision to make and it's come to a bit of a head this week and I needed a little nudge! It's not something I have to decide right now but I do have to think about it in order to plan out the next few months.... (when it's all sorted out I will post about it in detail). Then, on Tuesday I went to a new prayer group, it's really for teaching and learning, just learning to listen to God, to know when we hear him. Several things came up that I really felt God was pointing at me, relating to this decision, and it was a bit emotional as I shared what I felt. As well as this, one girl said she had a picture of a cocoon and a butterfly emerging from the cocoon, and she was saying how coming out of the cocoon is a struggle, but its worth all the hard work in the end. I felt like it was a good analogy for the situation I'm in at the moment and the decision I have to make as well as a metaphor for faith and learning. So yesterday I was thinking on this a bit and thinking how it was so relevant for me. Then last night we had 2 guys from church over for dinner and one of them mentioned the very same analogy, talking not only about butterflies but emerging from the cocoon too. When I went to bed I was writing some notes about this 'coincidence' in my journal and when I shut the book I noticed, (and I hadn't noticed this before) that in the design on the cover there are butterflies!

Then today I had been feeling like I should text a friend of mine to see how he's doing. He texted me back and said he had been thinking of me a lot yesterday and 'butterfly' was the word!!! I think my words were 'no way!'... love it when God does stuff like this, it was just what I needed, just a bit of confirmation...

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Friday, 16 April 2010

Note to Ron !

In reply to Ron’s comments on my blog on creation and evolution... It’s a rather lengthy reply so I’ve posted it as a new post rather than lots of comments. Feel free to add further comments. I am genuinely interested. I have just read back what I’ve written and I do rather go off the point a bit, but there you go… Must do further reading on the subject then re-post!

Hi Ron
Thanks for you lengthy (!) reply. And actually I found it very interesting. It’s always good to be challenged and to learn from other peoples points of view. I am actually interested as to what your profession is – looking at your own blog there are many religious references, presumably related to your self-professed atheism? (although, and I don’t wish to be pedantic, from what you say it seems like you are more agnostic than an atheist, from my understanding an atheist is someone who actively denies the existence of God, you seem to say there is no evidence either way).
But back to the point, the way you word your scientific references seem to have an educational touch to them, put in simpler English than any scientist, so I presume you must be interested in science rather than having it as a profession? Do correct me if I’m wrong – I’m simply interested.
I must admit first of all that I haven’t studied this subject enough to know the answers to many points, but I have actually just ordered Darwin’s Theory of evolution and intend to read it for myself. So my response to your post is mainly from a personal point of view rather than any kind of academic one. I am not, as you can probably tell, someone who finds science an easy subject but I am interested in it and would like to get a better handle on this and other issues.
Dawkins first, as you say... I haven’t actually seen him speak, all I know of him is from his own writings, articles and such like, so I have not been biased by anyone other than myself. I’m not sure I will read his book but thanks for the recommendation, simply because from the things I have read of his, I don’t like the way he writes and I’m sure there are plenty of other writings on evolution and so on to look at instead.

I liked your point about theories/facts/truth. One of my own arguments about many scientific discoveries is that some scientists and ‘experts’ refer to theories as if they are the truth, which in many cases is misleading, particularly to those not able to tell the difference, the media is very guilty of promoting this attitude and it does irritate me, but that’s for another discussion!
In terms of Christian belief, you are right in saying that theists hold their truths to be absolutely true, but indeed there are Christians out there who hold beliefs that are not true, whether it’s from religious dogma, mental imbalances or otherwise. (I don't think it's fair to put all those who call themslevs Christians in the same bracket - rather like we cannot say that all Muslims are fundamentalists). My point of view is that all 'Truth' in a Christian sense comes from the Word of God, the Bible. Again we could get into a lengthy discussion about the validity of the Bible, but that is not for now. What I mean is that as far as I see it, any Christian truth I believe has to be backed up by scripture. For example those who kill in the name of Christ in my opinion cannot be true believers. Jesus did not preach this – he told us to love our enemies. So undoubtedly there are those that call themselves Christians who would not be deemed to be so by God himself.
Equally I agree there are ’facts’ that many would disagree about, and this can only come from their own minds. The individual mind, which is of course a product of every individuals experiences of life, whether a Christian or not. However again I say that often those who believe a point fervently as a fact are not in fact as well informed as they should be (the Daily Mail brigade come to mind). And sometimes those who believe so fervently cannot be dissuaded in any way from their belief that a fact is true or untrue in a certain situation. I am aware of course that this sentence could equally be applied to Christians, but I prefer to think of that in terms of a spiritual relationship between Jesus and the individual, rather than that person being swayed by outside influences or the media.

I accept that in general scientists like to have hard evidence or proof to make theories become ‘fact’. However science and Christianity need not be exclusive of each other, there are some well known Christians who use science in their ministry very well (Louie Giglio springs to mind). And in fact I am an example of someone who takes on both. I absolutely believe in Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, and to do that I need faith, but in science terms I am quite an analytical person – I will not accept one side of an argument or debate without listening to the other. Many Christians are the same – because they accept Jesus in faith it doesn’t mean they just accept any old theory by faith too!

I am grateful for your admission that ‘science can never prove something beyond all doubt’, indeed I’m sure there are many ‘facts’ from previous scientific discoveries that can now be disproved by more modern methods of testing. In fact your phrase below was particularly interesting:

‘…But when a fact or theory has such an abundance of evidence supporting it, and no reasonable evidence against it, then scientists are prepared to call it true’.

Because in a sense that same sentence could be applied to Christianity. There is actually an abundance of evidence supporting it, and by this I mean ‘Evidence as: ones basis for belief or disbelief; knowledge on which to base belief’. Historically it is agreed to be a ‘fact’ (by non-believing historians) that a man called Jesus of Nazareth existed, and I do not mean in the Bible, there are historical and contemporary references to a man of this name being sentenced by Pontius Pilate for blasphemy in more than one place. So in terms of the man, we can assume that he existed. There is also evidence that he was a Holy man with a band of followers. The Bible whether you believe it as the word of God or not, is also a useful historical document. It stands up against other contemporary writings and if I recall correctly (will try to remember where I read this!) there are more copies of the early Bible than any other historical document of this era. I won’t go into reams of info here but you can see that in historical terms certainly there is a lot of evidence to show that Jesus certainly existed, that he had a band of followers and those who wrote about him. So either he was who he says he was or he was ‘deluded.’ an early schizophrenic maybe? I for one chose to believe the former. So in that sense you could say that as the ‘theory’ of Christianity has much evidence supporting it, and no reasonable evidence against it (is there? I don’t know of any – that’s the point of faith, you can’t prove or disprove it) that we would be prepared to call it true?

Ok so on to the issue in hand – evolution – something which Christians all over the world disagree on! As I said I haven’t yet read Darwin but I am looking forward to. My understanding so far is that the main point of ‘natural selection’ cannot be proved to the extent which the theory implies. eg: an animals tail length or markings could be changed over generations with the right breeding, but that for a new breed entirely it is simply ‘impossible’ (probably not the best word to use in a science discussion…:) ). And indeed I accept that evolution happens and has happened over the centuries, but not that everything came from the 'big bang' and that we are all descendants of organic matter, all of us, every living thing on this planet. I mean really? I think the example that is often used is that of the human eye – that there are so many different aspects of it, in order for it to work, it needs every single on of these parts, so what could it have evolved from? In order to be a functioning eye it had to have so many bits even initially. I liken it to people who say that if you put a bunch of monkeys in a room with a typewriter eventually they will produce the works of Shakespeare. I don’t care how many theories of probability that you can produce, does anyone actually believe that could happen? And even then they only have one goal – with one typewriter. Evolution assumes that we all, every living thing evolved from organic matter. So that’s not just producing the works of Shakespeare, that’s like writing out all of his works in every language known to man 10 times over (or possibly more…) Do you see where I am going? Am I rambling..?!

And on Shakespeare:
You said: ‘If we ever think we have found an underlying reality, how would we know there isn't something else just beyond our scientific reach’ which makes me think of a line from Hamlet:

‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,Than are dreamt of in your philosophy’

Which is one of my favourite lines from Shakespeare, and links in to your line above. No matter what we discover there is so much we can’t possibly know and we would be foolish to think that we did.

In terms of evolution as I said I don’t have a problem accepting that things evolve, what I struggle with is the beginning – the creation – so how did everything evolve from the big bang? That’s what I would like to know from a scientific point of view. Can you help me out? I have read arguments disputing bits of the original research but until I have read it for myself I will hold fire on repeating those.

So on to Chrisitanity (again!). You said:
‘theologians are keen to tell us what God wants from us, but when we enquire about God we are told he is unknowable, beyond our capacity to know. Well, if that's the case how come theologians feel at liberty to claim to know just enough for their purpose of determining how we act?’

I think this is slightly unfair! Of course ‘the church’ at large does have a lot to answer for and 'The Church' and Christianity should be thought of in separate frames really. I don’t know what your knowledge or experience of church or theology is, but as in anything there are good and bad theologians and priests out there. Anything that theologians tell us should, as I said before, relate to scripture. And mainly this relates to a good moral code and not 'God is telling me you must give all your money to the church' or ' we must go to war against that nation...' or other notions which have been used in history... I won’t get into denomination, but I am an Anglican, so I don’t go in for confession or anything along those lines. I don't go in for the dogma or rhetoric that surround Christianity other then what I have personally experienced. Anything that comes from the church should, as I said before, refer back to scripture and not from individuals. Being a Christian is about having a personal relationship with Christ, Christ as part of the Trinity of God the Father, God the son, God the Holy Spirit. It is perfectly possible to have a relationship with him, and I do mean personal. And that is through prayer and studying the Bible. I believe there are things that only I and God know about me and that has been demonstrated to me any number of times recently. A non-believer might say well that’s just coincidence, but I can tell you if that’s the case I must be particularly lucky at the moment.
Of course there are things that are just too unimaginable to be able to understand, just as there are in life in general. For example if you look at the universe, scientists just have no idea how far it extends, it is talked of as ‘infinite’, because we simply don’t know yet how far it extends. Future generations of scientists may have made probes or space craft that can travel further and faster than we have been able to yet, but for now, it is unfathomable. Equally the human mind – we can only know so much – but to really delve into how it works in great detail – scientists only have part of it sussed out. And imagine if you’d said to someone 100 years ago, ‘in your life time, we will see man on the moon’ – what would they have thought? Probably they would have found it unthinkable too. So I don’t think it is wrong in essence to say that parts of God and the way he works are unknowable, because there are many things in life like that too and we cannot understand them all. But you can know him through his Son Jesus Christ, who is a part of him too. Happy to expand on this if you are interested…

You said: ‘Theists often claim scientists are arrogant, that scientists claim to know stuff as fact.’
True, but then some of them do… :) as with any large group of people, one can make generalisations: Atheists often claim that Christians are deluded, doesn’t mean they are…!!

I seem to have rather gone off the point – but I hope I have answered some of the points you made without being argumentative! I really am genuinely interested in the subject of creation vs evolution and as I said, I know I need to read further (haven’t looked at your other suggestions yet but will do.) I also do not wish to be one of those Christians who make it their personal mission to argue with any non-Christian point of view. That is not where I am coming from, so I hope it doesn’t come across that way. A good debate should be just that – good conversation, and an interesting debate.

Red x

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

creationism vs evolution

Thanks to a possibly, slightly heated debate, with my brother I have been looking into evolution and what the standard Christian response to it is. Sadly there seems to be no standard! Even within the church there is a division over who is right and who is wrong. If even the bishops and top scientists can't agree, what chance do I have? I, possibly rather naively, assumed that the biblical account of the 6 day creation is the truth. Ok so some of the bible is symbolic, Jesus taught in parables but really is creation another example of that?
I don't know, but either way I didn't have the knowledge to debunk my brothers theories, hence the research now. What I have discovered, even just in a few hours online is that actually Darwins originally theory is way out of date (not surprising seeing as he wrote it some 150years ago). Even renowned scientists have agreed that many parts of his theory are flawed (and 'theory' should be the key word here). Yet it is in many places still expostulated as 'gospel' ('scuse the pun).
Of course I have come across Richard Dawkins theories too and although I have to be honest and say I have never read one of his books, I have only read articles and theories posted by him, but he does seem to be, frankly, a total prat, who only succeeds in getting his point heard by shouting over everyone else. This is the thing with some scientists and those who find it easy to retain a lot of information, they think they have all the answers and are so smug about it, when in reality all they are doing is fooling themselves. Although I like to think of myself as an intelligent woman, I know I would be no match for Dawkins. Does that make me wrong and him right? No! It just means he is a better communicator and can recall stuff from his brain easily (not something I can do - I always did better in coursework than exams!)

But anyway, back to the point, I'd love to hear other peoples theories on creationism vs evolution, or some recommended reading, to help me out in my research!
thanks :)

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Vision

My goal is to live a big life for God. I don't just want to live a good Christian life, I want to be out there, doing great things for Him. And over the last few weeks I have been worrying about whether this is my desire or Gods. It is hard to know whether I am listening to him or still following my own ideas. I am someone who strives for what she wants. I am a go-getter. I do not sit on my butt waiting for stuff to happen. So you see, it is actually quite hard for me to listen to someone elses path for my life. Don't get me wrong, I want to. I want to live my life for God, but I just get confused sometimes about what he wants and what I want! (yes I know, confusion is not of God...)

Anyway, I just finished reading 'Beautiful' by Beth Redman. A lovely book, which I did enjoy and she has a great writing style, but I wasn't really feeling the love for it, if you know what I mean. That is, until I got to Chapter 9. This could have been written for me. She talks about wanting to live a big life for God. She says:
'I really really want God to use my life' and she says shes on a mission to 'know him more, to love him more, to become more like him, and to make him known to others…'

I could have written that myself...
and the thing is she goes on to point out that this is good, that God has works prepared for us, if we are willing to surrender to him and do them.
The funniest thing, when I knew God was talking to me was this:
'a little person in a small town, or a tiny village can end up making a mark on history and affecting peoples lives forever.' (that's me, in the tiny village BTW)

So, thats what I want. I want God to use me in a mighty way. and I don't mean that in any vain attempt at bigging myself up, or that I want to be better than the next person. I just want to do Gods planned works for me, and I think they will be big ones. I'm sorry if that sounds like I'm stuck up my own rear end, but I mean it in the most Holy of ways. It's not about me, it's about Him.

testimony update

A quick update... last night I shared our testimony at prayer group. It was great! I got through it without blubbing, people sympathised at the right places and laughed at the funnies. I played my songs and although I felt like my voice was shaking as I was so nervous everyone was very positive about them. Someone even suggested I sing them to our worship leader! (not sure I am quite ready for that!)I have been trying to post one here but I only seem to be to post videos so I will have to try and work on that!

It was so lovely to be able to share our story and everyone was so lovely about it aftewards. They shared some beautiful prayers for us, which was really touching.

I just thank God for everything he is doing in our lives and for these amazing people we have shared with.

Thanks for all those who prayed for me in advance, I really appreciate it. xx

Saturday, 10 April 2010

it's all in the preparation

Currently preparing to share my testimony on Monday at my prayer group. Will involve speaking for 45 mins and playing 2 songs I have written... eek!! Now on the third run through with my husband (who is being very patient and supportive!) more tea needed..... and lots more prayer!

Funny thing is I have had to speak in front of lots more people before, with a previous job, and it has never been an issue, I can adlib if need be and don't seem to be phased by the experience. This however is different, seems so much more important somehow. And until now I have to admit that I have been rather blasé about it - 'Oh yes I'll share, of course, yes I'm used to speaking in public...' that kind of thing. Of course, I am now, frankly, crapping myself!

Friday, 9 April 2010


I am so hungry at the moment to know more about Christ. I may have blogged about this before, can't remember... I just can't get enough. It's been like this since our journey began just a few weeks before Christmas. I am reading the bible every day, reading lots of 'God books' and have spent the debt of a small country on Amazon recently... I just want to seek him out, to know him more.
Lots of people have said to me, 'oh it's so nice to be around new Christians, they are always so hungry, always so on fire'. But I don't want that to end. At what point does it become common place? At what point will I no longer be a 'new Christian'? I keep praying for it not to end, I don't want to lose this hunger, this fire, so do I have to? I have described it as a bit like falling in love - how when you fall in love you want to be around that person all the time, you want to talk about them, think about them, it is so all comsuming and coming to faith has been a bit like that for me. However when you fall in love, it generally calms down a bit, when you get comfortable with each other, and then you settle into a new pattern in your relationship. Should I not desire that with God? If I stay this hungry will it stop me from moving forward? I don't think so, I hope not... I just don't want to be one of those Christians who becomes a bit complacent and it just becomes part of their life - I want it (or Him) to BE my life not just a part of it.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. 1 Chronicles 10-11

Thursday, 8 April 2010

when is a sin not a sin..?

School hols means v. little time to blog, let along think of blog. However you may all be amused to know that Son mentioned in Sundays post for lovely note has now written in indelible biro on his wall I 'heart' God (as in I love God - but he drew the heart). So how do I react? I was of course angry at seeing the pen, then melted on seeing what he had written... ( he had also written various cricket references, which as a fan myself I also found hard to discipline...)

Made me think though about what is wrong, or what is a sin. I mean if the sentiment is right, if the heart is in the right place, but the act is wrong, does that still make it wrong? Obviously line must be drawn somewhere, will not start on crusades, holy wars and so on... answers on a postcard please...

Monday, 5 April 2010

traditional vs modern, part 1.

For some reason this doesn't seem to have appeared on my blog, so I'm posting it again. apologies if you've read it already!

hmmm, now how to address this without putting peoples noses out of joint. Well firstly, sorry if I do and hey it's just my opinion. But lots of things have happened recently, relevant to me, about different types of worship format. So I am going to write about it. I have had lots of conversations with people about this and I think I just need to get a few things straight in my head and get them off my chest. So here follows a few posts on the subject (maybe more if I really get going...). Feel free to ignore, I think this is largely for my own benefit! But I really would welcome any comments...
So... I have attended village churches throughout my life, for most of my 36 years. All fairly traditional, lots of liturgy, hymns, you know the standard kind of thing. However in all that time I never felt like I had any real faith, so my view is a bit clouded to say the least. I feel like I only ever got half the picture and partly this is down to the church. The traditional CofE approach seems to gloss over so much, but particularly Satan and spiritual warfare. Someone recently suggested to me that maybe they were talking about this stuff, but that I just wasn't open to it, so maybe I didn't really hear it. Of course this is possible, I mean I talk about my eyes being opened, so why not my ears too? However I still doubt this! So my issue is not with the traditional approach per se (althought it is not for me right now), it is that they don't give the full picture. You tend to get a nicey-nicey view of Christianity, baby Jesus in the crib, isn't it lovely, sort of view. (I know this is a sweeping generalisation...) And how can you have a real view of Christianity or faith without having the whole picture?
(Incidentally, I am deliberately not going to mention any names of churches. This is my view and I do not wish to be openly negative about anywhere in particular. Equally I do keep my blog relatively anonymous, although not entirely and a little digging would give any answers that might arise, but I do prefer it that way - not that I am being particularly contraversial but I don't want to feel I should temper what I write. I do not actively invite people to my blog, if they find it they are totally welcome, but only a couple of people that actually know me read it regularly and one of those is my husband...!)In my opinion parish churches also seem to perpetuate the myth that it's ok to just go along on a Sunday morning every once in a while and just forget about God for the rest of the week... I mean for 20 years I went to a parish church, not really believing and certainly not living my life for Christ. I look at people from my old church who I once thought were totally committed to their faith and now I wonder, well are they? Not that I am judging them, but it's just that now I really know what real faith feels like, that it is changing my whole life, then I realise that others who I knew, maybe aren't living their life completely for Christ.

So then I wonder about the congregations of other parish churches. From my own experience, there are lots of people in parish churches who attend for many reasons other than a committed faith. Maybe out of tradition, or duty, or for their children or a host of other reasons. Again I am not judging these people, I was one for 20 years! So then I think, well if I can attend a parish church for 20 years and really not believe at all, then how could that happen? how could the church let that happen? I am not bitter about it by the way, I know that I needed to go through a lot of rubbish to be in the place where I was ready to hear God eventually, but surely that must say something about what is missing in our churches? For me it is about having the whole picture; its about listening to people who are TOTALLY committed to Christ and actively show that in their every day lives (and I don't just mean the Vicar)... When people ask us why we are going to our church rather than any other I say, because it is child friendly and in fact more than that - the kids are actively encouraged to be part of the service; it has decent, modern worship music, that actually makes you feel that you are worshipping God; the preaching is totally relevant to todays world; and those that attend are, generally speaking, actively living the Christian life rather than just going along out of habit. I actually WANT to go to my church on a Sunday, I don't feel that I have to or should go out of some kind of duty. I do not drift off during sermons, I do not use prayer time as an excuse for 40 winks or to plan the weekly shop and neither do I use the post-communion time for a chat with my neighbour. Yes, these are all things I used to do at my old church.
So that makes me wonder, is this about 'the church' or my faith? With my new found faith, could I regularly attend a traditional church and feel differently about it. Well of course, the answer is yes I could, but I don't want to, because my current church is feeding my faith. If I didn't have regular contact with the kind of people at my new church then I am sure my faith would suffer. I would like to say that of course it wouldn't, it's about what's in my heart. which is also true, but sharing with other believers who really 'get it' is so beneficial to my faith that I do not want to do without it. So then, is it about my faith? I now believe so fervently and with such a hunger to know more, that I have never had before. I look at people from my old church who I once thought were totally committed and now I wonder, well are they? Not that I am judging them, but it's just that now I really know what real faith feels like, that it is changing my whole life, then I realise that others who I knew, maybe aren't living their life completely for Christ.
I know it must be very difficult for the Parish Priest, he (or she) has to cater for his whole parish. He can't say, well if you don't like it, sod off... (ok some might do!). Generally speaking they have to cater for: young people, children, families, OAPS, and so many more, usually all in one service, in most churches the most attended is the mid Sunday morning church - locally it's 9.30 or 9.45. So how can one possibly appeal to all those people in one service? I have only ever been to 2 churches that do this well, but admittedly probably do alienate a few people along the way. Obviously a plant church doesnt have that need put upon it, they can say to people, come along and see if you like it, if not, that's fine, it's not for everybody. But then in this day and age when most of us have access to a car, should the parish church still have to cater for its parish? Most parish churches, except in very rural areas, have at least 3 services on a Sunday, all with the usual traditional liturgy, catering for a very similar audience at each service. SO.... could one of these services be a bit different? to maybe appeal to a wider audience?

I am NOT completely anti the traditional. Approach to worship is a very individual thing, I do realise that. My Dad for example would not in a million years chose to come to our church regularly. BUT there are a lot of people out there who are travelling a long way to go to church on Sunday morning rather than a quick walk or short drive to their parish one, that must say something right?
A friend of mine came ot our church today for the first time and in a email to me tonight she wrote the following:
'I think it's an awful pity in a way that the C of E is struggling so much, and yet it would appear to me (based on my very wide sample of one!) that Christianity is most definitely out there, and that modern people do believe - they just don't want the old fashioned way of doing it. Most vicars would give their right arms for a fraction of the congregation there today. Says something, doesn't it!'

Sunday, 4 April 2010

traditional vs Modern part:II

Part 2:

Q. Are modern/satellite/plant-type churches killing off parish churches?

This is something that my Dad believes with a passion. His view of our church (which, by the way, is officially part of the Church of England and the local diocese, and approved by the Bish etc etc) is that it is drawing people away from the parish churches. My simple answer is, well what does that tell you?

But I wonder, does he have a point? Should that matter? On the one hand I think, no he's wrong, if the village churches catered a bit more for what people need they would be packed on a Sunday too. I mean the very fact that within 5 miles of us there are 2 large contemporary churches that are packed every Sunday, must show there is a need for that in the area right?

But on the other hand there are hundreds of beautiful old churches, across the world not just the UK, consecrated for the very purpose of worshipping God, with a handful of worshippers under their roofs every Sunday. So should we not be encouraging people to support their parish churches?

This is something I do feel very strongly about. There are churches being closed every week, being deconsecrated and turned into houses and offices and even bars. Some of these have been used for worship for hundreds of years. Is this right? If modern churches are having to hire sports halls and leisure centres for their services, then why not use some of these old churches. Even churches in use are often half empty every Sunday morning, so why do they have to do this? It seems completely backward in a way - crazy that on Easter Sunday at the 8am service in a local village to me, there were 20 people. 20 PEOPLE!! and yet down the road there were 20 people just waiting to set up for their service, only to find they had to run over to the local sports hall for help. so that 300+ people could come and worship. I am a bit of an architecture fan and whilst I understand many old buildings are not ideal for big services, it is possible and to me seems overtly sensible. Why can't an outside church hire or use an existing church building for a service on a Sunday? or even once a month? Why can't our church buildings be full every week?

Going back to the original question, in actual fact the congregation of my church is geographically very wide spread so although some people are chosing it over their local parish church, in the case of individual churches I dont think it is making a big dent in any single existing congregation. So then if people are coming from such a wide area, that presumably indicates that none of our local parish churches are offering what the locality needs, whilst the modern ones have to hire sports halls and are packed every weekend. So what does that say?..

Easter Day thoughts...

Q. When is a sports hall not a sports hall?
A. When it's a church...

A slight techinical hitch this morning meant that our church which usually meets in a school hall, couldn't set up as usual (ie:the caretaker didn't arrive to unlock...) Thankfully the sports centre over the road had a free hall (or half a hall - the other half had badminton games going on...) and let us use their hall. The team this morning was amazing - they set up what usually takes nearly 2 hours, in 1, with no hitches, everyone pitched in and no one got lost on the way over!
I can imagine that my first thought on finding the gates locked on Easter Sunday, probably THE most important Sunday of the year, with no way of getting in (and all the equipment being locked in a container on site...) would have been one of mild panic. Actually wild panic might be more like it... It just goes to show:

For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37

And actually maybe there was a reason for it. I mean how many more people would have heard the Good News this morning than usual? Those maybe expecting to go for a quiet swim or a round of squash would have been hard pushed not to hear it, where we were. With the band louder than usual as the drum den was locked in the container, and very echoey accoustics the word surely travelled throughout the building. In fact those playing badminton next door were only separated by a net so they got the full message (and if they were chosing to play badminton on Easter Sunday morning, then they probably needed to hear it...)

My Dad came to our church for the first time today. He usually goes to his parish, very traditional, church. He has never been to our church before, but is rather doubtful about it as he feels it is taking people away from the parish churches, (more on that tomorrow I think...). However the one thing he did approve of was the rousing 'Jesus is Risen, He is risen indeed, Allelulia' which our congregation shouted out with undisguised joy, a far cry from the usual feintly murmured response at his church. At least he found one positive thing to say about it....

I was just thinking how I should finish off todays blog amd my 6 year old has just handed me a picture he has drawn, which says I love are (sic) God. and I love you Mum (except he drew hearts for the love bits). Children have such a simple take on things. Yesterday we talked about what Easter was all about and he has all the info, knows all the days, what happened and he just accepts it, just like that. I haven't told him he should love our God, he just does and he doesn't mind telling people. If only life were so simple for all of us...

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. Luke 18:17

Friday, 2 April 2010

Good Friday Thoughts

So today is Good Friday, the first Good Friday in my life where I have actually truly believed. In previous years I have had no desire to go to the 3 hour long service at our local church, frankly I could have thought of nothing worse. So this year the very fact that our new church was encouraging people to go out and bless their community seemed a great opportunity to do something. We had open house. Stats for the day: 60something people, 150ish cuppas, 7 pints of milk, 150 hot cross buns, 1 vat of soup, 36 boiled eggs, 1 broken picture and a lot of chocolate and daffodills. A lovely day had by all. Great fellowship, fun for the kids, just lovely. Have looked forward to it for ages.
However, now at the end of the day, when the kids are off to bed and we are tidy, washed up and ordering a takeaway, I feel rather like I have missed out. Perhaps the 3 hours of meditation and contemplation would have been better. I'm not sure I have even spared more than 2 minutes in prayer or thinking on what Jesus did for us on this day all those years ago. I know it shouldn't just be about the day, I mean we should remember it always but I kind of feel like I have let him down. and myself.

We're off to watch 'The Passion' (Mel Gibsons version) over dinner, so perhaps that will bring it home. Not sure that is the answer either, but am no so exhausted from the days adventures that I don't now have the energy to contemplate too much...

The bottom line is that I never have enough time for prayer and quiet contemplation, whatever day it is, so perhaps instead of beating myself up I should do something about that...

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Jesus' appearance

At work this morning, and I frankly have neither the energy nor inclination to do any, so I have been reading the papers, online, love it! Haven't read a paper for a while and I was interested to see on Maundy Thursday how much religious input there would be in the press. Well, not much is the answer to that... But what I did find was interesting and a bit disturbing in places. Why is that some people (and quite often its non-believers) have an obsession with what Jesus actually looked like? I mean really, does it matter? Ok so we all have the traditional image of a young bearded man and then there are others who want to push the boundaires and suggest variations, usually based on 'scientific' or 'historical' fact that are way off this traditional image. I mean really, isn't all about the person he was? isn't that what he preached? It's about the person, the heart underneath - he didn't care if people were prostitiutes or lepers, he would speak to them, engage with them, heal them, it wasn't about what they looked like. So what is this obsession with how HE looked? Is it a science thing? trying to prove what he looked like? presumably so they can then disprove it also...?

I start on this because there's a bit in the press about the Turin Shroud, I guess because it is about to go on display again. There is, again, such obsession over whether it is real (and I will not go into that here..). Some American scientists (and I would like to say this is from yesterdays paper so it's not an April Fool) claim they have produced a 3D image of Christ, using the shroud as their reference point. see here:


Ok so in science terms this is quite a feat: using a 2D image they have created a 3D one, and I am not disputing that this is possible, but why? why spend all this time and presumably money, on an image that may not be Christ at all, just some other poor soul who was crucified (or maybe not even that, although I believe current thinking has 'proved' that it is a shroud of someone who has been crucified).
More here:

And of course then there are the comments too, that follow all online articles. Those who so ardently have to prove their point, and usually do so by alienating themselves to the rest of the readership. For example:

'Duh! cynical attempt to restore some credibility for the church by using a known (but famous) fake to stir the gullible masses. The surprising thing is the masses still ARE so gullible'

'Is there anybody in the world more gullible than a religious person? They'll believe anything. '

Frankly I find this offensive (although not surprising). I am a well-eduated woman, who has more than an ounce of intelligence. I will not 'believe anything', quite the opposite in fact. If I want to know about a subject I look into it, research it, and only form an opinion when I know all there is to know. Faith is not about being gullible, on the contrary it is about believing 'The ultimate Truth'. Surely it's far more gullible to believe the lies of the enemy, espceially when they aren't questioning them...? I liked this comment though:

'Wow, I'm amazed at the hatefulness and vulgarity spewed in these comments... It seems that if a fake image of Jesus can get under people's skin, it's pretty indicative of the spiritual battle going on in their hearts. '

So, then, does it matter what He looked like? It certainly seems to bother the unbelievers....