About Me

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Receiving compliments gracefully

Can I ask you all something? How does one receive a compliment well? gracefully and yet not puffed up, accepting but not proud? I think this is almost harder for Christians to do, when we do something well, we want (or maybe think we ought) to give the glory to God, but then how to do that without being pious?
Last Sunday I led the service for the first time. It went well, I think ,and we had a debrief this morning that seemed to echo that (with a few minor details for next time, if there is one...). Lots of people came up and said 'well done' to me, people I didn't even know. Which was lovely and affirming too, especially when I had been very nervous beforehand. But I just didn't know what to say to people! Just a quiet 'thank you' was all I managed or possibly a 'well you know it was God working through me, not me' to which 2 people replied, 'well I think it was a bit of you...' to which there is no answer! To be honest I wanted them to just go away (which sounds incredibly ungrateful I know, sorry...) it made me feel uncomfortable. Gosh, I'm not in denial I think it went well, but it was just a few words on a stage, it wasn't anything really meaningful or dramatic. And ultimately the point of the leader is to guide people into worship, into meeting with God, not standing up to be 'seen', so I just did what I was up there to do.

I've never been good at receiving compliments though. Maybe its a girl thing. If someone says I have cooked a nice meal, I seem to have to make a joke about it or make some trivial comment, if someone compliments me on how I look, I make fun of myself. What is that about? I mean I am a confident person, its not that I don't necessarly agree with what the compliment is, but I can't help myself... Is it what is expected of us? because if we accept it too easily then we seem arrogant or proud?

So how does one accept a compliment gracefully? I wish I knew....!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Urgent Prayer Request, please...

I don't usually use this blog for specific prayer requests. Not sure why, just haven't felt do do it really. However I am making an exception. If you feel able or can spare a few minutes could I please ask for prayer for a friend of mine. 'N' had breast cancer last year, underwent chemo and surgery, and was by the end of the year in remission. Throughout the whole thing I know she felt spiritually uplifted and really grew in her relationship with God hugely.
Sadly last week, after suffering some back pain, she went to her GP, only to be sent for a scan which then showed that the cancer had spread to her spine. The prognosis is that, whilst they can treat it, it is not curable at this stage. The best prognosis she can hope for, medically, is to go into remission again, defined as months or years. She is still only in her early 40s.
Tomorrow 'N' has to undergo a further scan to see if it has spread to her liver and lungs. Please could I ask you to pray for her, specifically tomorrow. As a church we will be fasting and praying tomorrow for the following, please join us if you can/or feel able:

1: that N's pain will go and cancer will bow to the name of Jesus in N's body, and for a complete healing and full restorative miracle.

2: that the cancer has not spread any further, eg: to the liver and lungs.

3: that they are able to go on holiday with N's family (due in April) and it does not need to be cancelled due to immediate and necessary treatment. The holiday is signififcant for them as it is abroad to visit her family who they do not see that often, and for family celebrations.

Also, I add: please pray for her family, her husband and 3 children, for them to have strength and comfort at this time. And that God would be with her in a very real and present way, every step of the way.

Thank you for your prayers.

The healing power of God

I've been thinking about writing about my relationship with my husband for a while. I haven't so far in any detail, because it's not just about me but about us. But recently I have realised that our story is a testimony in itself. Having a long chat with a close relative about my beliefs recently, the one thing that really spoke to him was when I told him about our how I felt God had healed our relationship. And it made me realise how important it is to share our own experiences with those around us. It is so encourgaing to hear from others where God has been working in their lives. After all, you can't argue with someones personal experience can you? You might not believe it but you can't say 'that didn't happen' because it is their experience...
Before I start I would like to say that this is just my experience. I am not making statements about marriage as a whole or what I think others should do, this is just what happened to us. And I make no apologies for the length of the post, it could have been far longer than it is!

So anyway... my husband and I will have been married for 10 years this September. We had been together for a few years before that and actually have known each other since we were 10, although only really became friends as teenagers when we both went to the same Church Youth group. We actually got together in our 20s, ( I already had a duaghter by this stage) we went out for a few years before moving in together and then getting married a yeat after that. Although my faith was shaky at that stage, when we said our marriage vows I meant them -  that's not to say that I think people don't mean them when they say them, but I took seriously the fact that I was saying thses vows in front of God and not just to those assembled.
So all went well for a few years, life was good. Then we had 2 more children, and they were a total blessing to us. BUT at the same time we were exhausted, we didn't have much time for each other. The kids took most of our energy and part of this time I was working too. I can't talk from my husbands point of view, only mine, but I felt like I didn't know who I was anymore. In actual fact, I'm not sure I did before - I had gone from college to travelling, to having my oldest (when I was 21). I don't think I had time to work out who I was or what I wanted out of life and then I became defined as a single mother, then as a wife and a mother again.
And I was desperate to get out. My life revolved around nappies and school runs and cooking and washing.... Don't get me wrong I loved being at home with my kids, and I know that so many women aren't able to do that, so I am grateful for that opportunity. However my brain just needed to work! It wasn't content to be filled with baby mush and there's only so many conversations you can have about nappy contents before you begin to go insane. (In fact I think most mothers do go a bit insane in those early years, its probably human nature, designed to focus you on your offspring.).
Anyway I needed something. Just something to get me out of the house. If we ever had spare time my husband wanted to be with me, whilst I wanted to be with no one. I had small people hanging off me and making demands of me 24/7 and I needed some time for me. Selfish maybe but thats the way it was. So when my youngest was 2, I started my own business (I never do anything by halves..). There are loads of reasons why I did this rather than find some part time job or do some voluntary work, but they are for another time. It was probably the worst and yet the best decision I have ever made. It gave me back myself. It gave me some direction, I felt like a new person. But it pulled me further and further from my husband. We now had even less time together and he had to help more at home. Though I should say he was totally gracious in the whole thing, he never complained and was always supportive of what I was doing.

So needless to say by now our relationship was really drifting, except that neither of us would admit it. Eventually I broached the subject. Can't even remember how or why now, but I remember getting to a point and thinking I can't carry on like this. I'm not sure how he felt at the time, I did most of the talking (no change there then..) but we both agreed that things were not good. We managed to persuade our parents to look after the kids so we could get away for a few days. This was lovely but hard. We talked, we cried, we were silent, we were distant. We both felt that there was little we could do to change the situation. A lot of stuff was aired and we were both very honest but at the end of the week all we could do was to say that we wanted to stay together, but that until our situation changed and the kids were older, there was nothing that we could do to change it. We didn't disucss counselling/relate or anything like that but we agreed to just hang in there for each other.

We came home and not much had changed, if anything. We didn't particularly make an effort. In a way as we had both admitted we couldn't change anything until something changed in our circumstances, I think it meant we had an excuse not to do anything, if that makes sense. So we just drifted along. Six months later we had a big renewal of faith, which I have written about here. It was as we shared this experience, that I feel God healed our relationship, overnight. If you haven't got time to read the link above, our renewal of faith was due to a builder working on our house who shared his faith with me. I would tell my husband in the evenings about what he had said during the day. Then finally after a few weeks I gave my life to Jesus and prayed with our builder. The following day I led my husband in the same prayer. He describes it as 'as we fell in love with God, we fell in love with each other all over again', which is a perfect description.
The cynnical among you will say it was becuase we wanted to fix our relationship, or because we were sharing an experience that we became closer. I am telling you that is not how it happened. We had accepted that our relationship was not going to change, we were resigned to that and we were not looking for a miracle answer. And it was the very fact that it changed so quickly. It was as if while we prayed, God renewed not only our hearts but our love for each other. The way we interacted with each other changed immediately. We wanted to be together, which was especially odd for me because I had spent so long not wanting to be with him, but to be by myself! We were able to relate to each other again. We found ourselves reacting to each other in ways we hadn't done for a long time, just holding hands and things like that. Suddenly we were both very much 'together' again. And that has continued until today. So in a way we were right when we said until something changes in our circumstances it can't change - it just wasn't the change that we thought it would be! I cannot begin to explain how I feel about this, about what happened to us, except to say that I know God healed our relationship. For me there is no other explanation.

By the way, yes,  the photo above is us. It's an awful photo of both of us but I love it because it's us, happy, having a BBQ breakfast on the beach, which we both love :)

Friday, 25 March 2011

The curse of unforgiveness

We are currently doing a Lent study at church on Prayer, one session a week until Easter. It's been pretty thought-provoking so far. Last night's session was on The Lords Prayer, and the speaker particularly touched on the issue of unforgiveness. In the words of the Lords prayer:
'..Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us...'
apparently the original greek makes it more like 'as we have forgiven those...'ie: past tense. But the main point being that we need to forgive those who have wronged us. How can we approach God if we have unforgiveness in our hearts? If we want to be forgiven we need to forgive first.

Thing is, most of us would say, 'oh I don't have any unforgiveness stashed away'.'me? no I'm not an unforgiving type, I dont hold a grudge.'. you know how it goes... but the reality is often very different.  Unforgiveness breeds hate and bitterness, and that isn't a particularly Christian teaching, it's just common sense. I mean how often when we are wronged do we feel angry, or bitter towards that person. What if days or weeks later the issue is touched upon? are the feelings still there? It's so easy to build these things up into huge mountains.

But how hard is it to forgive? even when we really want to? last night a couple of examples were given of people who had forgiven others in absolutely awful circumstances, one where a child had been murdered but they forgave the killer. And yet when it comes to the simple, sometimes we fall at the first hurdle.

It was rather ironic then, that today an issue came up for me in a situation I thought had been dealt with long ago and I was instantly angry. In this issue I felt let down by someone, again, that I trusted. I had, I felt, given them an awful lot at a time when I would probably have been justified (although not in Gods eyes..) to be very angry with them. This situation now affects someone else who I don't want to be involved as they would feel bad. So the only solution is for me to back down (I will be out of pocket, it is financial...) and let her get on with it. again. I feel thoroughly wronged. I feel like I have a right be to be angry. She is in the wrong. I know she is. It's not fair.

BUT she is my oldest friend. I know she had her reasons for letting me down before. And I put on her things she wasn't prepared to give, emotionally I mean. I built her up to be perfect, when she isn't, she is human. So how much of this comes from me? I can't really afford to do this, but then actually that isn't the issue, if I'm doing the right thing I'm sure God will provide. The issue is that I thought I had forgiven her, I thought it was dealt with, but the truth is, it still grates. I still feel our friendship has been affected and I honestly don't know if it will ever be the same again. But forgiving does not mean forgetting. Our friendship may not be the same again. But I will not let this fester in me and become dark and bitter. So I forgive her. I am not even going to go into what I am forgiving her for, because that makes me ignore my part of it. So I just forgive her. I will forgive her tomorrow for the same thing if need be. and the day after, and next week. and the next time I feel let down by her. I will go on forgiving because I do not want to be eaten up by bitterness, because I know it is not all her fault, I have a part to play, and above all because I want a relationship with my Lord and I do not want anything getting in the way of that.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Laying Claim...

This was the scene on The South Downs at 9.30 this morning.. bliss :)

Having been a bit of a couch potato recently, due to the stupid virus, this week I am claiming back my life. I am fed up with it and I am claiming Gods promises for me. I have needed this time to have a rest, aside from being ill, and there is part of me that feels God had it planned this way. But having read 'He Loves Me' by Wayne Jacobsen I'm not so sure. He makes the case that Jesus died for all the iniquities in our lives, he overcame death, it is NOT Gods will for us to be ill or suffer or whatever. I'm not sure I have got my head around all that, as recent posts will show. But what is interesting is that he says for many Christians it is far easier to accept that God might be part of something untoward in our lives, feeling that although suffering one is in His will, makes it easier to cope with. He says we should stand on the word and recognise bad stuff is not of God and fight against it.
I don't know... but I do know that I have been feeling heaps better and I know God is prompting me to do a few things. One is to get up early to pray, which I used to do but stopped with the tiredness and the other is to start walking again. I love walking, I always feel closer to God when I am out in creation and it is the one thing that keeps me fit! Having done sod all for months my leg-tone is not what it was, and so when I felt the prompting, I was raring to go! I also felt prompted to go up on the South Downs (about a 15 min drive from our house) rather than go round the lanes as I usually do. And what a blessing it was. I didn't go far (about 4 miles) but it was so beautiful, it was amazingly sunny, the sky was gorgeous and the birds were singing away! (even saw a buzzard). I prayed all the way round. I just opened my mouth and it didn't stop for an hour. Tongues, intercessing, seeking Him. Wow, it felt so free. I just felt like God was really guiding my prayers, like I haven't felt in a while. I sat down in a quiet spot to read and have some quiet time and felt so much guidance. I am leading at church on Sunday (eeekkk!! first time) and have been seeking Him about how and what to say, and this morning it just all came. I think this morning just reminded me to 1: be Obedient to his promptings and 2: Stand on Gods promises.

I know He has a plan for me, to propser me and not to harm me and I believe that with all my heart. The last few months have been hard and I'm not over the virus completely yet, but I will not let it define me. I will not make decisions based on how I might feel. I will be strong and trust in Him...

An interventionist God? Part 3

Third and last part of answering Phaedrus' questions...

When it comes to things like the Tsunami, we can predict with 100% accuracy that god will not intervene in anyway. Why is this? Didn't jesus say our prayers will be answered? as detailed in Matthew 7:7, Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:24, John 14:12-14, Matthew 18:19 and James 5:15-16, etc., etc…?

I don’t agree, we cannot predict with 100% accuracy that God won’t intervene, just as we cannot predict with 100% accuracy the weather or where and when an earthquake will occur.
And, how do we know God didn’t intervene? How do we know it wasn’t going to be worse than it was? Can you say for sure, 100% that he didn’t? Or that he didn’t help save people who may otherwise have died? The truth is we just don’t know. Even for someone who doesn’t believe can you really say that you are 100% sure, that he didn’t intervene?

In terms of natural disasters (I have posted this somewhere else recently!) I think it comes down to the fact that God created our earth, with all its foibles. I am no scientist but I know that if the plates didn’t move the earth would not function as it does. For everything there is a reason (or season…). It still comes down to free will. We know, and have known for a long time which areas of the earth are more susceptible to earthquakes and so on, but we still chose to live there. Now I am not saying it was the fault of the people who chose to live there that they died, not for one second. But we cannot have it both ways. God created the world to work as it does, and when it does, do we blame him for it? That’s hardly fair is it?

In terms of prayer and the references you raise, all of the passages you highlighted are about faith. About trusting in God, Jesus is teaching them, and us, to trust in Him.  I can say with security that my prayers are always answered. They may not be answered in the way I want them to be, I may get a ‘no’ sometimes but I think God is still there listening when I pray. For example I may ask for wisdom, but does God give me wisdom, or an opportunity to show it? If I ask for strength does he make me strong or give me an opportunity to be so? (I read this somewhere recently and would like to give the credit to that person but I can't remember where it was!)

I cannot tell you why some people are healed (and they very much are) and others are not. I do not know why bad stuff happens to good people, or why prayers are seemingly unanswered, why innocent children die at the hands of drunk drivers or why guilty men get off scott free in court. I don’t know, I do not profess to have the mind of God, but I have faith in Him, as a loving God, who has a plan for all of us, a plan to give us a hope and a future.  (Jeremiah 29:11),

I also know that he can use all things for good. (Romans 8:28). Many Christians I know have suffered greatly over the years, but God has used that suffering in huge ways to enrich them and their lives and their faith.

I'm not even going to start on the whole force for evil/fallen world argument as we'll be here forever, but that is another point..;)

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

An interventionist God? Part 2

Part 2 of the questions raised by Phaedrus in my previous post 'What kind of God let's that happen?'

Another answer is that divine intervention on such a large scale would leave no room for free will to choose to believe in god.. - But didn't god and jesus perform miracles of this sort all the time according to the bible?? Did that take away the apostles' free will to believe? In most of these cases the miracles were performed to prove their divinity to their followers. Even doubting Thomas was allowed to see the risen jesus and touch his wounds to confirm his doubts.

Indeed he did and much of Christianity is based on what Jesus did and what has been recorded about him. How would we know he was the Son of God if he didn't do what he did at that time? The apostles were the founders of the faith. Their testimony began the modern church. They did not have the New Testament, they were it! Yet they still had free will to believe or not, and not everyone followed Jesus who met him. Not everyone understood what he stood for or who he was and there are plenty of examples in the bible of people who didn't. Yes Thomas did ask to see the wounds, but as Jesus said

Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:27

I think this is the same today. Some people have amazing experiences where they believe they have seen Jesus or been to heaven, or had angels minister to them. As with Thomas, there are some people who have seen, and some who have not.
That is not to say I don't believe there is a place for miracles in todays world, I do and I believe they do happen. People think that miracles and helaings died out with the apostles but it isn't true, they are less apparent in some time periods or perhaps not reported but in the great awakening of the 18th century there are amazing testimonies of travelling preachers who saw amazing things happen. Earlier than that the Wesleys. John Wesley had amazing miracles happen during his ministry. Even just the fact that he was able to speak in the open air to literally thousands of people, with no modern equipment, no microphones, and yet everyone was able to hear him preaching - and often in the face of huge distraction, people often brought in just to make noise and disrupt the meetings. As I said in the original post, Heidi Baker in Mozambique is seeing huge miracles, even claims of people being raised from the dead - that is not the kind of claim you make lightly. I mean its not an easy one to believe is it?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

An interventionist God? Part 1

After my post on 'What kind of God let's that happen?' I was challenged on the purpose and effect of prayer, amongst other things. It challenged me enough to make me think about the reasons why I pray. And I've discovered I do pray a lot, from my daily quiet time where I really feel I am growing in Christ, to intercessing for others, those that I know and those that I don't, to the quick 'arrow' prayer when I am out and about. 
In this post, from last week, Phaedrus asked me several questions about Gods intervention (or non-intervention as the case may be). I felt challenged to think about this before blasting off my answers. So having had that time, I've been scribbling down my thoughts. The questions are his, and to read the full comment do click on the previous post above or right, but I have included shortened versions. As they are quite meaty I am going to post one a day for the next few days. It would be great to get some debate if people feel so inclined, as I say I felt challenged by the questions so it would be great to hear others view points too.

But didn't he want us to know his plan? Isn't that why the bible was written? So god wouldn't be a mystery? Because he wanted worshipers?

What God wants is a relationship with us, not a bunch of robot worshippers. We worship Him because we desire to not because he asks it of us. Scripture actually tells us that we won't know all of his plan. When the disciples ask Jesus if he is going to restore the Kingdom to Israel in the Book of Acts, he answers:
It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority". Acts 1:7

I don't believe that the bible was written so that God wouldn't be a mystery - He is a mystery. In the Anglican church we use the words 'we declare the mystery of faith...' in standard services, and scripture states in several places that we cannot know the mind of God or always understand his actions. As He says to Job:
"Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?" Job 38:4

If we believe in a sovereign God, then how can we expect to know why he makes decisions or how? Put it this way: if you look at any leader, do you really know why they make the decisions they do? Every leader will have things behind the scenes that they cannot divulge or that we cannot understand, that shape decisions they make. Sometimes those decisions may be unpopular but they have to stand by them knowing they have made the right decision in those circumstances. I think God is a bit like that. He wants the best for all of us and sometimes a decision for one person affects a lot more people than just the one.
Actually, Job is an interesting book because it shows that there is stuff going on behind the scenes that Job and his friends have no idea about and probably wouldn't understand even if they did.

I think the bible gives us an excellent guide to human nature, in that it includes examples of amazing evil or wrong doing, and also examples of amazing good and giving or loving behaviour. It gives us a good moral code to live our lives by. People say the bible is outdated but it is not, my gosh it's like an episode of the Jeremy Kyle show (or Jerry Springer for the US audience!) in places. You can pretty much guarantee that if you have an issue in your life, it's been covered in the bible...

Monday, 21 March 2011

A foray into incense

Yesterday I went to visit a different church. My VC has advised me to go and see some different ones. So I thought I'd start with something at the other end of the CofE spectrum to my own church. That is the very far end, practically in Rome..;) I went to St.Bartholomews in Brighton. Legend has it that it was built on the dimensions of Noahs Ark according to the bible, but I haven't done my research to know whether that is true and most Noahs Ark depictions are shown the other way round - longer and not very high, but anyway I digress....
So I didn't know what to expect. I thought it would be just like God to make me love it and want to go into that kind of church... that didn't happen, much to my relief, I can just imagine my husbands face... But at the same time I didn't hate it. It was actually rather interesting and I came away with a certain amount of respect for the 'higher' church. It was of course very theatrical and lots of incense, and when I say lots, my goodness my eyes were watering at one point, I could hardly see the person in front of me! But it had a real sense of awe and reverence which is sometimes missed in the more evangelical wing of the CofE.  When we went up to communion I actually felt I was approaching something higher and better than me. And the music was amazing. They had a full on choir, singing all the 'in betweeny bits' and the sound was amazing - as it is such a big building, so tall - there are no floors in it, its just one storey, it echoed all around. Quite impressive. Well, very, actually
I totally respect the place this kind of church has in the Anglican church, however, what I did feel was, that to a visitor, someone who had not been before or not often, it was all too rigid. Even the hand out told you where to sit/stand/kneel. Which was helpful to be fair, but I kept getting confused and missing the cue! so I gave up in the end and stayed on my chair. Obviously having been in a more traditional church for some time I was able to understand what was going on, but to a visitor it would have been incredibly confusing. This is my beef with some parts of the church (and not all the anglo-catholic ones either) that church should be welcoming and inviting. People should feel able to come and meet with God whatever their circumstances or knowledge of church. Even I felt awkward yesterday and a bit out of place, what would soneone who had no church background have thought?
I was trying very hard to be open and as I have said some parts I did enjoy, but I have to admit to stiffling a giggle when the Priest started singing the gospel, and it was an incredibly long passage... And another thing which does get me is the ringing the bell thing. I mean what is that about? It's a bit like saying, well the Holy Spirit wasn't here before but now I've said these magic words, hey presto, ring ring, and he's here...  Perhaps someone can explain to me in better terminology what it is really for?
All that said, I know God was there, I could feel just feel His presence, particularly after communion. Which I was thankful for as I was beginning to wonder..;)

Saturday, 19 March 2011

10 Lessons Learned...

This period of rest and recuperation seems to be drawing gradually to a gentle close. Well not a close so much, but I have been having less and less of the nausea and I seem able to do more things now without being exhausted, which is rather nice, to say the least. And on top of that it seems God is calling me into something new and whilst I am a bit worried about getting ill again and doing too much too soon, I know I need to take this leap and trust Him completely. And anyway, what is life without a few risks eh? dull dull dull...

So as I begin to move on, I have been reflecting about what I have learned over this time. If I am not going to make the same mistakes again then I really need to heed those lessons. These are my pearls of wisdom, particularly for women but they could mostly apply to men too! (although perhaps not no.9..):

1. Life should come in this order: God/Family, Church, work, other.
2. If you are tired, take a rest. Even if that is just 5 minutes sit down with a cup of tea.
3. Rest does not mean blogging/reading/housework etc. What it does mean is watching a movie,having a bath or some quiet time (for me this is true, it may be different for each of us. But I found it amazingly useful to actually think about how I relax and what I truly find restful. It was not what I first thought)
4. My relationship with God has grown hugely over this time. In order to keep that as a priority I need to take some time each day to seek Him. I think this is worthwhile for all Christians. After all how we can expect to hear from Him if we don't even give Him time to listen?
5. Just say NO! Sometimes we have to, (I have to), say 'no'. Saying no to a request does not make you a bad Christian, it makes you a sensible Christian and far more useful in the long run. Get over the guilt !
6. Similar to point 5, thinking of ones self sometimes, does not make one selfish.
7. You are not superwoman. Intelligent women often fall foul of this. We live in a world where women 'who can' are expected to work, be a mum and a wife and a host of other stuff all in one, and then become 'More magazine Supermum of the year'. This ideal is, frankly, a pile of crap. We cannot do everything, something will have to give somewhere. And I know for me this was my health, and I'm not suggesting everyone who does all of the above will get ill, but we get affected in different ways: relationships with family/friends/temperament etc.
8. Ask for help. If you are overburdened or need help - ask for it. Loving friends would be happy to help out a friend in need without requiring payback. Those who don't, either have very good reasons for not doing so, or are not your friend. If need be ask again or someone else. Do not try to be the Superwoman from no.7
9. Stop trying to be a man. Sounds stupid but so many women I know try to be all things and all roles. We do not have to be macho to prove ourselves. Women can be strong and solid without resorting to acting like a man. We have great characterisitcs and strengths that most men do not. Use them, rather then trying to take on the mens ones. And for goodness sake if its 'that time of the month' do not feel bad for bursting into tears at the school gate (which of course I have never ever done... ;) ) or some other nonsense. Hormones make us who we are!!
10. TRUST. After all God has a plan to prosper us and not harm us. Trsut in Him to do that, whatever crap life throws at you.

Friday, 18 March 2011

My Friday Group

I lead some worship at a small bible study group locally twice a month (well when I say lead worship, what I actually mean is that I attempt to play my guitar for 20 minutes and sing rather averagely, often after cake and tea which doesn't help...).

I love this group. It is formed of women from several churches, some of whom didn't know each other before attending this group (me included, I only knew 2 of them!). It is a womens group, and what is lovely is that kids are welcome too, which is a total blessing as many womens bible groups are totally non-child friendly. So usually our worship and study is interleaved with wee-stops and nappy changes, which is nice as it breaks any tension. I mean what other kind of group could you pray to your loving heavenly father, interspersed, with 'no, darling mummy is praying right now.... yes ,ok in a minute... err, I forgot what I was saying...  yes Lord we thank you for...... children...'
The nature of this group means that it is different every time, even though we are actually following a study guide at the moment. In fact today started with us trying an experiment as seen on facebook (although not by me of course as I have give it up for lent...) where you try and pop popcorn with 4 mobile phones all ringing at the same time. Of course it didn't work but it was fun trying anyway...

What I love about this group is how we have grown to know each other and our intimate problems in such a short space of time. Women are far more open about any issues they may have and being able to share those and pray for each other, when we know little else about each other, is wonderful. Such a priviledge really. I mean I am ashamed to say I can't remember half of their names each week but I do know when I need to pray for some of them.  We have shared testimonies and stories, swapped recipes and cried together. It is such a blessing to be part of and I thank God for the opportunity to be there.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

A Quandry...

This post is probably just going to be a way of me getting my head around something, so I apologise now if it is a ramble...

So, we are about to have a leadership election at church (bit like a PCC). It is the first one they have ever had, and the election is for 4 members of the church to become, effectively, elders, who will form a leadership committee along with the Vicar & Curate. They have stressed the importance of thinking about this prayerfully and asked people to approach others that they feel should be nominated. I was once on a PCC, and election was a very different affair to this. It was a case of the Vicar saying to me, 'will you join we need some young people' and only one other person stood and there were 2 places. No one else wanted to do it, so we were both in (and subsequently ignored for 3 years but that's for another time...) Now, however, it really is a question of seeking God on this and feeling what His will is.

I have been asked by several people within the church structure to stand, and several people have offfered to nominate me. I would love to do it, I have some time, it's something new, and I love new things, it's a bit of a challenge, it would be great experience and so on... BUT I am just not sure it is Gods will for me. So what do I do?

A few weeks back the Vicar preached about leadership and I prayed that if God wanted me to stand, that someone would come up to me and say so. 2 people did, both had prayed about it and felt to talk to me. A sign maybe? So I went to talk to one of the current leaders, who explained what the role would entail and how much work it would be. That didn't phase me. What did phase me was that she said she was expecting people to feel called to this particularly. At that stage I wasn't sure, so I asked for another sign and I didnt get it. So I kind of left it and thought oh well, it's not for me. then this week I have done a few hours helping in the church office and several people have been bending my ear about it. I made the mistake of saying I felt there needed to be a woman on the committee, to which I got the reply, 'well what are you going to do about it then?'... should have seen that one coming...

On the one hand I think this is perfect, it is a role I could do, it is perfect timing, and why would God not want me to do it? On the other I am rather confused. I believe He is capable of showing me, but what am I expecting? a thunderbolt? (does this seem familar to anyone else...?!) I didn't get one then either...  I wanted confirmation and these last few days I guess I have had it. So why am I hanging back? I want to stand, they want me to stand, what is holding me back? Am I reading too much into this?

As well as that, whilst I am feeling much better I worry that if I take on too much I could get ill again and so I really need to know this of God, because I will need Him in this! Is it a leap of faith or a leap of stupidity? It has been suggested that I stand anyway and then if I am supposed to be there I will get in, if not then it is not of God. BUT He has given us free will, so what if I get in and then find it all too hard or feel ill? I can't blame Him, He would say 'well you made that choice, I gave you the option..'  I am going round in circles aren't I?

The Curate said to me this morning 'is this the best use of your time and gifts for the kingdom right now'? or something along those lines. He does have a way of cutting through the crap and getting right to the point. The answer to that question is, I am sure, yes. What else am I doing> Seeking God, reading his word, a bit of baking... none of which I would have to drop....

Love to know your thoughts, or prayers if you feel inclined. thank you :)


What is anxiety all about eh? I mean how can the simplest of things become so huge that we become fearful? This is going to sound so banal but yesterday, I trod on a childs foot. It was an accident but it was completely my fault. If I'm honest I was fed up with waiting while all the kids barged in so I stepped forward. If I'm not honest I would say I was distracted whilst looking after OPKs who were running wild. Stupid, my own impatience got the better of me, in front of other adults. Of course I apologised and to most the moment was gone. But I have been seized by anxiety over this. What will people think? Did they think I was being impatient? I was. Did they think I was foolish? I was. Did they think, well she's a bit rude? I was.... But man, let's get over it. I was all of the above and would not do it again, so why am I consumed with anxiety over something so trivial?
Generally speaking I am not an anxious person but every now and then I get one of these funny moments, over a trivial matter, as above, and get consumed. My stomach fills with butterflies, I feel guilty and condemned, I want to confess. To what I don't know...
Where does anxiety come from anyway? What part of our brain produces those feelings? And why over the trivial stuff? I've been in enough stressful situations to know when I really should worry about something. Perhaps that's it, perhaps my brain is missing those situations and so is inventing things to keep it happy!
Anxiety runs in my family. Both my mum and my nan are worriers. Over the most silly things and today I stopped and looked at myself and thought, 'oh no I am becoming my mum and my nan all rolled into one...' (Lord help me.) and then laughed at the ridculousity of it all (is that a word...?)
So instead of worrying I am blogging about it and how cathartic that is. I am openly admitting to the world, that I am anxious because I trod on a childs foot. If that isn't the most ridiculous thing then I don't know what is.... :)

Sex Education for Primary School children

I have to admit this is not an issue I had spent much thought on. However I have recently started following the'Catholic and Loving it' blog by James Preece. As a non-catholic Christian, it raises some interesting issues for me and I have enjoyed reading it. And this is one of those issues - Sex education in primary schools. In his post here he raised an issue of a pamphlet that had been approved to go into primary schools. It is less than ideal and I too had some concerns over it's use for children as young as 5. But what struck me also was the strength of some of the comments coming from people about the leaflet. I was going to include some of them here but I'm not sure thats either allowed or fair, so click through to see for yourself.

I also posted a comment to say that whilst I agreed it was wrong I felt the strength of the comments was very OTT. To which it was suggested I was being naive. So am I being naive? What should we be allowing our children to see? Is it the schools job to educate our children on sex or is it ours as parents? I think sticking ones head in the sand is not going to help. One can hardly say that children should not receive sex education until secondary age in an inner city school where for example 11 year olds are having sexual experiences with each other. No matter how we feel about that, saying we are not going to educate them is not going to stop them doing it, is it? And if we do educate them, then how?

Obviously the Catholic view is stronger than others might be, but they do have some valid points, aside from the suggestion of paedophilia... I am not knocking the Catholic view or this blog as I say I enjoy reading it, so please don't think I am starting a 'knock this blog' post, I would be really interested to know what others think. I mean for example I don't know what my childrens school policy is on this and perhaps I should? As a church school I like to think I trust them with this kind of thing but then they don't set the curriculum do they?

So, should we educate our under 10s on sex? who's responsiblity is it? and if so, how?

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

All age worship - an impossibility?

I've been asked to help out at a local parish church with a new all-age service. I am relishing it, I love planning things from scratch and this is right up my street. However I am concerned that there will be some conflict here. The priest is rather anglo-catholic in his approach. The girl who has asked me to get involved is desperate for change. I am very evangelical and not really a fan of liturgy. It is a very typical parish church, average age 60 I would guess and very few families. The Priest has stipulated that the service must begin at 9.30am (usual time for Sunday mornings) and that it must be a communion. These are probably the two things I would have wanted to drop for the day!
I am really keen to make this a real 'all-age' service. I have been to many family or all-age services and the tendency is to dumb down to a level that is still above the average 7 year old but well below the adults, which usually alienates everyone and welcomes no one. I'm ashamed to say that at our old church we usually avoided the 4th Sunday family service for this reason, and we had 3 kids so in theory the service was aimed at us...

So, as I say, I am keen to make this a real 'all-age' service but how hard is that? How can one appeal to 5 year olds and 70 year olds in the same vein?
I have to say that our current church does do all-age worship well. 2 services particularly come to mind. One which involved everyone bringing cardboard boxes which we then built a big wall with and the kids knocked it down at the end. The second was where everyone sat on the floor and were split into groups, kids and adults together, not necessarily even with your own family. In our groups we had large paper banners on which to write things we were thankful for. The youngest got to draw round their hands or draw pics on the banners. Then everyone held them up at the end. It really did get everyone working together, the older and wiser helped the younger and inexperienced. Parents guided kids, their own and other peoples. Everyone pitched in together. It was wonderful.

Aside from those examples I am lost as to what to bring to our first meeting next week. I would really love to hear from people on this...

The Miracle of New Life

It never ceases to amaze me.. the miracle of life. of new birth. I have had 3 children, have copious friends with babies and I've seen plenty of newborn lambs as we have friends who are farmers. But today I was privileged to see 3 lambs being born at a local farm. (pics below, beware one rather graphic shot, not for the faint-hearted..).
On a school trip with my youngest we visited the farm of one of the girls in her class (benefits of rural living!), and one lovely ewe was ready to pop as we arrived. With a bit of help from the farmer, triplet lambs were born before our eyes. Within minutes they were up and walking about. (and perhaps more impressive so was the mother!)
What joy! So simple and yet so amazing. That, from tiny seeds grow new life. Those seeds that are present at our birth, just waiting for the right timing. Seeds that between them contain all that is required to form a new life. A new life. A new person (or lamb as the case may be...). How can one not believe in a creator when you think about something like that...?

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 139:13-14

Monday, 14 March 2011

"What kind of God let's that happen?"

I love talking about my faith and I am always open to discussion on the subject. As I have said in a number of posts, I learn through discussions like this. Recently I have been discussing my beliefs with a close relative who is not a Christian. He is not in a good place emotionally or generally, and it breaks my heart to see him struggle and suffer, when I know he needs God in his life. Well, we all do, but some people just seem to be more needful than others if you know what I mean...
Anyway, it's interesting, as we have always had farily fesity 'debates' over the years, and this is something I know I cannot be too forceful on. He has to accept God for himself, I cannot 'persuade' him into believing, it has to be his choice. He raises lots of questions and is obviously 'seeking' but there are some things I just cannot answer. The age old question came out recently: 'what kind of God lets that happen...' usually brought up after a  tragedy, personal or otherwise.  Of course this time it was in relation to the earthquake/tsunami in Japan. 'What kind of God would let 10,000 people die in one go like that, just wiped out...? You can't tell me that they all deserved it' (which of course I would never say anyway)  and then 'if you really believe that your God can step into any situation, why didn't he step in then?'
It's THE question isn't it? How does one respond to that? Particularly to a non-believer. I can't quote scripture as he doesn't recognise it (as in he doesn't recognise the bible as the word of God, he just thinks a 'moral code'..).
And the thing is I'm not sure how I feel about this question, and so I have no idea how to respond. I think I personally have got to a point, Job like, where I understand that God can intervene but doesn't always. That there will always be some mysteries, I am not God and therefore I cannot begin to imagine how or why He makes the decisions he does. 
That said, I do have a couple of stock answers to this question, such as 'I believe God is sovereign and can intervene in all situations, but sometimes choses not to'. But then that just provokes an angry response such as 'what kind of God picks and choses like that...' Or the other is that 'we live in a  fallen world and therefore sometimes that devil makes 'shit happen'.' Or another is that 'we have freedom of choice and our decisions sometimes cause stuff to happen, God cannot intervene in every situation or he would be a dictator'. But these do feel like pathetic responses in the face of what happened last Friday.  In truth I have no idea why God would let something like that happen, to wipe out so many people in one go like that. I cannot begin to understand so how can I explain to someone else?
So what can one say in the face of tragedy? How can one explain why God would step into one situation and not another? How can one respond after so many tragic deaths like last week, or even just one tragic death? - to a mother whose 7 year old son has been killed in an accident? or to the husband whose wife is dying of cancer in her 30s? or to the woman saw her own brother die in the sea? What can one say?

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Old Age "It's not much fun"...

Regular readers will know I visit my nonogenarian grandmother weekly in her care home. It has been a joy and a pleasure, it has opened my eyes to so much, but at times it has also been depressing, infuriating and tiring. Without fail she spends the first half hour of our visits describing the awful things that have happened to her each week. Usually they aren't that awful, but she has nothing to do except think about them so they get exaggerated in her mind. a lot. She has all her marbles but her memory is failing and she often tells me the same things over and over.
I'm sure there is a reason for me visiting her. I felt very strongly that God was telling me to go see her and throughout that time we have shared lots of things, some she tells me that no one else knows (although I suspect most of it they do its just that she has forgotten telling them!). We talk a lot about faith and I think, hope, that I am answering her questions faithfully.  But sometimes I wonder why I am there. She just moans at me, I do a few jobs and then go home. But then she tells me something simple, like 'I'm so pleased you're here' or 'you are wonderful coming to see me' that makes it all worthwhile. Not that I go to receive praise, I go because she needs someone to show her some love. Thats about it really.
But today I listened to her moaning and I just thought how sad her life is. Does it all have to come to that? Due to a leg injury she is not able to get out of her chair, and having been immobile for 2 months they now, say it would be too difficult to get her up and moving again (thats another post entirely..). So she cannot go to the loo. She is reduced to the level of an infant by wearing pads (or nappies..). Yet she knows when she needs the loo. She is not stupid, she still has her faculties intact. When she needs to go for no 2. (don't want to be too graphic!) they have to get her on a hoist to put her on the loo, which requires 2 people and a lot of effort, so invariably by the time they get her there it is too late.
She had a stroke a few years back so she cannot swallow properly and has to have her food pureed. Half of which she refuses to eat. and I don't blame her, it looks like muck all whizzed up.
She cannot do a thing without help. Just imagine, you are too hot, you cant reach the blankets but you cant get up to get them either. The light is on but you want to go to sleep, you can't just reach and turn it off. You fancy a drink of water but there is none in your room. You want to read a book but you can't reach the books on the shelves. I could go on. She has to ring her bell to do ANYTHING. (and it always takes them ages to answer the bell...)
When I thought about this today it made me think, well no wonder she moans... BUT she has had a choice. to accept it gracefully and try to be content. OR to get irritated by every little thing and let it get to her. It is now so ensconsed in her attitudes that I don't think she could change if she wanted to. I try to help her to be positive or to suggest ways to be happier but do you know what? I don't think she can. I think she has accepted her lot, very ungracefully. and I really don't blame her, don't get me wrong, but I guess it has shown me, like anything in life you have a choice. Sometimes shit happens (as Lesley wrote the other day...) and getting old is pretty shit. My Nan always tells me 'it's not much fun getting old you know..', but it's how you deal with it that makes a difference.
I'm not sure what I'm trying to say today, I think I'm just letting off steam. I think I am frustrated because there is nothing I can do to help her except just be there. And frustrated because she is miserable. Frustrated because she has a wonderful heart but this is mostly hidden behind the moans. Frustrated because she is still alive and has a brain but is spening her life just sat in a chair waiting for the next cup of tea.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Friday Five: All About Cars

For the first time I am taking part in a Friday Five challenge from The RevGalBlogPals. I felt particularly inspired as today it is about cars. Absolutely nothing to do with church or religion, so a total change for today but when I think of cars I think fondly of my beetles, and the fact that I now drive a 'family car' is rather depressing, so here I shall be able to reminisce... If you want to take part visit their blog and answer the questions... These are mine:

1. earliest recollection you have of a family car

My parents are vintage car enthusiasts so when I was a kid we literally drove around in a 1927 Austin Seven, affectionately known as 'a box'. I was kind of cool in a weird way and it got us some friends who just wanted a ride in the car. Plus my Dad had to always drive the Village Fair Princess around on fair day which provided some schoolgirl kudos...

2. The first car you drove when you could (legally) get behind the wheel yourself.

By this stage my parents had canned the box and were on a mini-metro as the daily car. I learned to drive in this, but my first own car was a VW Beetle which I loved. It was called Derek and was a rust bucket, and a money-pit but I loved it and spent hours sanding down rusty bits and repainting them. I formed a life-long love with 'jenolite' which won't mean much to must of you but was a chemical powerful enough to do away with rust, and of course your fingers if you got it anywhere near them...

3. A memorable road trip

Probably the most memorable was a trip to Glastonbury with my neighbour and his friend. It was literally Thursday eve before the start of Glastonbury and we were sat around talking about it and on the spot (well after a few, err, drinks...) decided we would hop in the car and go the next morning. We took nothing except sleeping bags and beer. Oh the stupidity of youth... That said, it was the first time I had driven further than the local town and we cranked up the radio on the way and had a fab time and managed to sneak into glasto without paying (I should like to say this was pre-Christian days for me and pre the massive glasto fence designed to keep out idiot teenagers like me ;)

4. The car you drive now. Love it? Hate it?

I don't hate my car but I don't particularly like it. I feel very middle aged when I get in it. It's a Renault Grand Scenic, with 7 seats. It just screams 'family car'. I long for my beetles... that said, it has an awesome stereo, heating that actually works and air-con. I really hate to admit it but I am not sure I could drive a car without air-con these days. Does that make me shallow...?

5. An interesting story that involves you and a vehicle. (No, I do not have a dirty mind!)

Ok, so my beetle... well beetles are funny things, because they are collectors cars they keep their value, even when they are not in a great state!, which is great if you are a student, so often they just get patched up any old how just to keep them going.
Beetles have tyres with no inner tubes, it's supposed to mean you can't puncture them I think but what happened with mine was that as the wheels were so old you could bump a kerb and the tyre would literally deflate on the spot. Particularly handy on a trip into town... On top of that it was impossible to get the wheel nuts off if you needed to change the wheel, so I had to carry a scaffolding pole in the car to use to get leverage on the nuts..
But anyway, the funniest thing was when I nearly set fire to my car whilst driving... Beetles have the radio in the front dashboard as most cars but there is nothing behind them, it just leaves a hole into the front luggae compartment (or boot at the front...). So I was between radios and had just a hole in the dashboard. It was middle of winter, the heating was practically non-existent and through this radio-less hole a gale was blowing as I zoomed down the A23 at (max speed...) 55mph. So I stuffed a rag in the hole to stop the draft (Note: always keep rags in a beetle, useful for mopping up when the floor leaks, oil leaks, the windows mist up constantly or you need to do something daring with the engine...). So rag stuffed in hole, draft gone. Then I start to think I can smell burning... then I notice smoke appearing from the rag. Now, what would be the sensible thing to do here? yes, absolutely, pull over, take the rag out, maybe call the fire brigade. did I do that? no. at 55mph on a busy dual carriage way I yanked the rag out of the hole to find it actually burning... with real flames... I can't remember how much panic went through my mind and for once I was grateful for the leaking and 2"deep water puddle on the floor... It transpires that the live radio wire was still there and linked directly to the battery. Oops...

I still say my beetles were my favourite cars though...

Grey hairs...

I have been reading through the Book of Proverbs recently. I love it! There are some real gems in there and some slightly whacky stuff too!... how about this for example:

Grey hair is a crown of splendour, it is attained by a righteous life. Prov 16:31

Haha!! so all is not lost, the onset of grey is a positive sign, I am obviously leaning towards a righteous life :)

Funny though as a lot of the more, err, 'interesting' stuff in the bible, one can usually gain an insight on, by looking at the background or the social conditions of the day, but this? I wonder if Solomon had started to notice his first few grey hairs and thought, right well I'll not have anyone take the mick out of me, I will pronounce that grey hair is a sign of righteousness.... perhaps..

These days we usually attribute early greying to stress or illness, so what does that say about a 'righteous life' I wonder...?!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Church in a school

As part of the 'discernment process' (gosh they really do need to give it a catchier name don't they...) It was suggested that I visit a local primary school where they hold a Eucharist service in the school once a term. Now I have to admit I wasn't sure how that would work given that the majority of the kids were going to be too young to take communion, or possibly even understand what on earth was going on. And I admit I was tainted by memories of very dull school assemblies from my chidlhood. BUT... I went, with an open mind (well it was semi-open, I was trying...). And actually I enjoyed it. It was a Church-aided school (so I learnt what that meant for a start!) of 200+ kids.  The Priest, of the Anglo-Catholic persuasion, was really lovely with the children, but still inspired a bit of respect. I was impressed when he kept asking the children what things were called, like bits of his outfit and various implements on the Communion table. I am ashamed to say I knew none of the names - hope that doesn't come up at BAP or I will fail on the spot.. ;)
He involved the children in the service, getting them to light candles, burning the palm cross (it was an Ash Wednesday service), reading, saying prayers etc. He talked very briefly about what Ash Wednesday was all about, briefly only, and at their level. He had their (almost) full attention. I say almost as there were the obligatory few tears, hair-pulling and giggles, but even that was minor! Not like my day, when there would have been a row of cheeky boys lined up facing the back wall by the end of the service...
Anyway... I went into this service wondering really what school assemblies were all about, whether the kids were actually taking any of it in. I came away thoroughly convinced of the importance of it all. I believe in the 'living' word of God and those children have the word of God spoken over them weekly. They are exposed to the reality of faith, of the Gospel, at their level. What a start. They may get no biblical teaching at home, they may never set foot in a church, they may leave school as agnostics or atheists, but they have been given that start, that gentle nudge.  I'm not sure I'm explaining myself very well, but in that school hall this morning I felt the presence of God. Which surprised me I have to say! Not sure why that should surprise me but it did. It was a traditional approach to the Eucharist, although obviously shortened and simplified for the children, so not my kind if thing at all, and I am sure I would do it differently, but I recognised in it, the importance of opening all our children up to the truth of God, from an early age.
Even funnier was the fact that I seem to hold on to this belief that I am not good with OPKs (Other Peoples Kids), I do not want to help with the Sunday School, I do not want to go into schools and talk to the kids but this morning I had a picture in my head of me doing exactly what the Priest was doing (ok not exactly, I will not be ringing bells and bowing for a start...;) ) but I know God was opening my eyes, (yet again) to what I am capable of.

And incidentally, some of the kids did take communion, plus nearly all the staff (or they had a blessing) and we had the opportunity to get ashed too. Seeing as I have never been to an Ash wednesday Service (oh horrors, should I admit that?...) that was rather nice!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Musical Interlude...

This post is a shameless plug for the band my husband plays in...The Crossroads Band UK. Check out the videos below.
They are a  faith blues band playing a mix of original songs and tracks from people like Blind Willie Johnson, Buddy Ray, Stevie Ray Vaughan and more. They also support Brighton based charity Off the Fence. For more info you can visit their website.
Hope you like the music...

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Lent: Fasting or Faking..?

Funny old time Lent isn't it? People who have never before shown an interest in anything vaguely religious suddenly decide they will 'give something up for Lent'. We all know them, friends, colleagues, the 'yes gave up chocolate this year' brigade, yet never set foot inside a church. I wonder why they do it? I mean for those of us that do appear in church occasionally there is a reason for it, but if you don't believe, then why fast? who are you fasting for? Is it an excuse to deprive yourself, to lose weight or to see if you can give up booze for a few weeks? It all seems a bit bizarre to me really. I think because of this I have in the past been a bit negative about the whole 'giving something up' idea. Last year I chose to take something up instead - which was to try and gain a better understanding of the Crucifixion & Resurrection, which I did through reading, prayer and reflection. It was an amazing time for me personally.

But what is it all about anyway? I mean Jesus did not fast for 40 days prior to his death did He? Yes, yes I know He did in the wilderness but that was some 3 years earlier. So where did this all come from? Well you can probably guess. It's a bit like in Sunday School if the kids don't know the answer to a question they always shout out 'Jesus', because 90% of the time the answer is Jesus! And anything about Church History, well a good guess is usually The Council of Nicea. So yes you've guessed it, Lent in it's present form was apparently set up by Constantine and his cronies. Although that said, fasting before Easter was apparent before then but usually for a much lesser period of time. One source I read even suggested the 40 days came from a mis-translation of some earlier writings where they fasted for 24 hours but some took it further and fasted up to 40 hours. This became translated as 24hours a day for 40 days... Obviously 40 days has plenty of relevance in the bible so it does seem fitting, but it has reminded me that it is just another of those things that were brought in well after Christ had died and not something that he advocated or even did Himself. Am I sounding a little cynnical?
So I guess I am wondering whether giving something up for 40 days in order to seek God is what I should be doing? I am in a season of seeking Him more anyway, and surely if the idea is to seek God further, and focus on our relationship with Christ then whatever I chose will seem crass - surely nothing is 'enough'? And anyway after 40 days (or slightly longer including Sundays..) surely our focus is a bit wayward! A week of complete reflection in the run up to Easter might be a more fitting focus...

With all that in mind I am giving something up, well 2 things actually and I am aware after this diatribe they will seem particularly rubbish. They are alcohol and Facebook. Neither of which are a huge thing to abstain from, but the reason I chose them is because they are both big distractions for me. Of an evening when I am a bit stressed after getting the kids to bed, or too tired to read,  a glass of the red stuff is always my first choice. After which I am even more tired and can't do a thing. FB too, although I personally don't post very often, I check several times a day to see what others are up to. I think because my laptop is usually just 'there' in the corner of the room, when I go past I think, 'oh I'll just have a quick look', then end up reading the posts for 10 mins when I should be doing something else. So that is why I am giving them up. Perhaps for good, but for now for Lent. Alongside this I will be seeking God more and focussing on the book of Acts which we are studying at church over the next few weeks. So thats my Lent. How about yours?

Monday, 7 March 2011

Argument or discussion...?

I'm having an interesting debate with Phaedrus over at The Sentient Puddle Blog over a number of things relating to faith. But it has made me wonder what us Christians are so afraid of in debating our faith. So many Christians don't want to discuss their faith with atheists (or anyone for that matter), or if they do it is simply to try and convert people. Perhaps they see atheists as a challenge?

For me I learn through discussion and debate. I love to ask questions, which often irritates people. They tend to think I am being arrogant or trying to trip them up, but that is not the case at all, it is just that I am really interested. I honestly want to know the answers to the questions I ask.

Phaedrus says:

There is a major problem with religion in society. It tells the masses not to think too much about what really matters, to write off the challenges of their faith by saying "it's all part of god's plan," "he works in mysterious ways," and "their all in a better place now." It subdues people to the whim of the powerful who manipulate them. It concerns me what people think because it affects the world, and especially our political decisions.

Which whilst I recognise in some camps, I just don't agree with. My faith is far stronger from voicing my questions and discussing things that have concerned me.  However some would disagree and suggest that to question ones faith is to question God. But we are far past the age of 'the preacher is God' ('scuse the pun) when no one had access to a bible and could only receive teaching from their Pastor on a Sunday. We are fortunate enough to be able to own several bibles per household if we so wish (we do - stupid numbers, all different... especially when I can have them all on my phone for free and accessible with a few clicks...). There is so much theology out there. So many different view points. I think that can make for confused Christians but it also helps those from very different view points and backgrounds to find the bible both accessible and relevant.

So why is it that some Christians don't want to be questioned? I wonder if they are afraid of what they might discover about themselves? about their own faith?
Phaedrus also says:

The debate however is still quite valid. Both parties are interested in justifying their position as the stronger or more correct.

Is that so? do we just want to justify our position? I mean we are all called as Christians to spread Gods word, but surely that isn't about justifying our beliefs it's about 'saving souls'? isn't it? Personally I think arguing with a confirmed atheist is pointless and I have said so in the past! discussion is interesting and worthwhile, but it can so easily become an argument, particularly for the stubborn and strong-willed, like me! And actually if God wants someone saved he is perfectly capable of guiding us and that person together at the right time to do that. Are we in 'arguing' just making things worse or is all discussion valid and worthwhile?
Love to know peoples thoughts...

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Why I love the good old C of E

There has been rather a lot of negative talk about The Church of England recently, and admittedly I have contributed to it. However I love it too and have just spent the morning telling my VC why. Funny, as a couple of years ago I thought I would never be part of it again, never set foot in a CofE church, never cross the threshold... and yet even then I knew it was a love-hate relationship.

I have always been around Anglican churches (aside from a few years out...), I was brought up going to Sunday school, I spent my teenage years attending CYFA, turning up to 9.45 with a hangover, (midnight mass were always the funniest, seeing who would need the loo first), getting married, taking my chidlren for baptism... always in the CofE. At key points in my life it has been there with open arms, not giving conditions or dictating (well some...). And what other organisation often leaves its buildings unlocked and unattended, for the benefit fo those who live nearby to just have somewhere to go, somewhere to just 'be', to find some quiet, or even some shelter.

It has, of course, also irritated the crap out of me, and don't get me wrong I am not going soft hearted I still think it 'needs work' in some areas... But I truly believe that the CofE has a huge part to play in our society (it might not always be playing it, but it does have the part nonetheless...). Practically every community has a local Anglican church, obviously for some rural places this can be at a distance, but generally speaking, the church is a point in each community. Even for the 'unchurched' that point is usually visited several times during their lives, from baptisms/marriages/funerals/christmas etc. Priests often carry the burdens of their community, again not just of those who attend, but often of those who don't, but are still in need. The pastoral ministry of the Anglican Church is, generally speaking, far more active than in any other church or perhaps even, organisation.  The church is accessible to all. the buildings are available, the priests are 'available', all are welcome.

For many, they feel a 'right' to be able to attend church, even if it's only once in their lives. It is a 'constant', it is always there, even when it has been ignored and neglected it is still there and accessible when required. It is also 'safe'. So many more modern/charismatic churches are seen as 'a bit odd' or 'whacky'... yet the Anglican church is safe. It has a structure, it is old, it is constant, it is there. I love that at our very evangelical church the Vicar always stands up and says 'welcome to..., we are part of the Church of England...' you can almost hear visitors breathe a sigh of relief! Yes the hierarchy can be almost dictatorial at times, the clergy sometimes our of date, the services dull, BUT it is safe.

It is diverse. From churches like ours at one end of the equation to very 'high' Anglo-catholic, we are all worshipping God under the same banner. Yes, that can cause division as we have seen, but surely that is part of the beauty that we can come together from our different approaches and backgrounds and agree that we share the love of God. I am loving that as part of my discernment process I am looking into different churches, talking to people from other traditions, and finding that we have the same core beliefs, just a different approach!

The Anglican church unites people across the world. Again, we don't always agree but the sentiment is the same, the focus on God.

So that's why I love the Church of England... (most of the time ;)  )