About Me

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Having compassion

I live in a rural middle class village. That's not to say there are no poorer areas, there are of course, but mostly it's an affluent village. Many residents commute to the city, on the more rural fringes are some very large houses with lots of land & a few even have helicopter pads!
And I love living here. There is a real sense of community, a lovely village school and an even better pub ;)

The thing I find frustrating is that there are people here, who in the most part want for nothing, they have good salaries (more than good), wives do not have to work, they have horses and land and hunter wellies... ;) But along with that comes a level of judgement. Now I do not wish to be judging them in saying this, because then I come down to that level, I just am trying to paint a picture. That it seems in a large part, (thankfully, there are exceptions to this of course) that the more well off people are, the more those people comment on those around them. Or even the more they ignore the needs of those around them, becoming self absorbed with ones own life. Please don't hear me condmening them for that, we all have times in our lives when things overtake us, but I would just love to see compassion being the first thing that affects peoples judgement of others.

For some time I have felt called to people worse off than myself, broken people, those in pain, or suffering, but I just don't know where to start. I have friends who run various projects in a nearby city and could very easily offer to go and help them. But at the same time, whilst our village may not have heroin addicts on every corner, or high numbers of homeless, there are still those in need, and I feel the need to start here.

Just last night in prayer, I felt God reminding me of this, and then this morning I looked in my daily prayer book (given to me by my Nan) and this line stood out from todays prayer:

....that I may help the succourless and comfort the comfortless, Oh my dear Lord, pardon me for the neglect of this duty and make me to redeem the time....

So my prayer for this year is that God will use me to reach those in need in my neighbourhood, that compassion and kindness will be the underlying sentiments in all those who live and work here.

I read this from Robb @changingworship this morning, via the Big Bible Project. Great story of the church showing compassion to one in need. Well worth a read!

I had a brief online 'chat' with Robb this morning and that old fave from St Francis of Assisi was mentioned:
Preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary.

Might be a cliche, but how true it is. As Christians we are all called to represent Christ and that doesn't just mean in word. Robb said this morning: 'Many tell the world it is wrong without offering a good model for how it can be right' and how right he is. It's all very well me noting the judgemental attitudes in this place but what am I offering in its place? What is needed is a catalyst to enable compassion and kindess to overcome the negativity.

and that catalyst is Jesus.

So where I start is by being Jesus to those around me.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christingle: Christmas in pics

Just a quick pic today, of the beautiful chapel at my sons school, for todays Christingle service. I have never been to a Christingle before (sheltered..) and it was just lovely.... and the chapel beautifully decorated too.

I may not be able to post tomorrow, so may I wish you all a very happy and blessed Christmas.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Christmas in Pics: gingerbread house :)

No Christmas is complete without gingerbread! My youngest made this from a  kit we bought at the school fair. And it kind of reminds me of Christmas...
 It was all planned out, pieces made and put in place, but it didn't quite fit together right, partly from lack of patience and partly because it wasn't exactly cut out right. It took far longer to put together than initially thought and once done it is rather wonky but still lovely. It is of course comnpletely over the top, decorated to excess, but with love and with lots of sweets.... But when it comes to the eating, it is delicious and fun :)  not sure the analogy works 100% but hopefully you get where I am heading.... ;)

Monday, 19 December 2011

Day 12: Christmas in pics: vegging out

First day of the school hols... Lie in, time for quiet time while kids have some telly and not so stressed about bedtimes... Tonight we had veg out story time in front of the fire. love it :)

In this season where God is teaching me about rest, being still and so on, one thing I am enjoying so much more is being a mum. It's not that I didn't enjoy it before, but just having more time to 'be' with them is just fantastic. So often I have been in a hurry to get them out the door or off to school or out to an appointment. mostly because I haven't allowed enough time, or I have to be at work. I am sure that is why they are so unconcerend about time and schedules, they have been rebelling against my being in a hurry!

My son made us a Christmas card at school this year, which came in the post via his teacher. In it they had obviously been asked to write about what they wanted to give their parents if they could choose anything. he wrote this:

If money was no object, I would give Mummy and Daddy peace because they work so hard and I would like them to relax.

blub central....

That was about the final straw... If I didn't get the message before, via God, he certainly made sure I did through my son!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Day 11: The Nativity/Panto

So Today was the day of the panto, or nativity, or carol concert, whatever you want to call it... It was a great success! Thankfully. After just one full rehearsal, some initial worries about not being reverential enough and a very early start this morning :)

The pic below is our worship leaders daughter singing a solo of Away in a Manger. She's just 5 years old and sang to the whole church! What a star... :)

One more service to go tonight (for which I have done precisely no preparation, so am completely relying on the Holy Spirit,) and then I can relax a bit.

Bring on Christmas!!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Day 10: Church Set Up

A vid today instead of a photo!

So, I have mentioned before that our church meets in a Sports Hall, rather than a church building. This is because it began as a Fresh Expression in someone's living room and it has graduated through the years to hiring a school.. This little vid gives a small snapshot of what has to be set up every Sunday morning, usually with people meeting from 8am to set up for a 10.30 service.
Tomorrow we are having a panto (sort of mixed with a nativity), which means we have extra set up - 2 screens rather than one, 2 stages, a choir, larger band, all of which means lots of extra mikes/speakers/wires..... So we set up today instead. It's at times like these I wish we had our own  building...

Sorry about the stupid commentary...

Friday, 16 December 2011

Day 9: The Nativity

Missed yesterday so 2 pics today!

This is our nativity set. Made by my lovely friend who is an artist and sculptor. It was actually made as a maquette for a larger version which was for our then village church (which incidentally is still used today and spends all year under the altar, only to be revealed at Christmas!)

She gave it to my daughter (her Goddaughter) years ago and so it comes out every year. I love it because it is so simple, just the natural colour of the clay and yet so expressive. I love Joseph's expression, looking rather weary! perhaps he is wondering what lies ahead...
I also love the little shepherd boy, pointing at the baby in the crib.

It's so easy to get caught up in all the hype, presents, entertaining and pressures of Christmas, so it's good to have this as a daily reminder of why we are doing it all!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Day 8: Christmas in pics: The Tree

Well I am calling this 'Christmas in pics', and there haven't been many Christmas ones yet, so here is our tree. It has a story of perseverance behind it. It took me 2 hours just to get the thing in the holder... What did I learn from this experience? What little jewel can I share with you, my readers?

I learned not to bodge it (and not to be so bloomin' impatient). I learned that I am so determined I refuse to be beaten (this probably has something to do with what I wrote earlier about being ill...)

In the end I had to go buy a new tree holder, which was the best £16.99 I ever spent (!) and then took me a total of 5 mins to put the tree up....

My yoke is easy..

So, I have said a few times that God has been teaching me about rest recently. Today I was really struck by this passage in Mathew 11:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I was spending some time just thinking about it this morning. It was like I could almost picture Jesus saying it. Earlier in the passage it says he was visiting the towns in Galilee and I just imagined him in a rural town surrounded by all that entails, maybe there are farm animals, people heading out to the fields and so on. In my imaginings he looks out to a nearby cow, with a yoke on (maybe on its way to the fields with its owner) and says . MY yoke is easy (perhaps almost jokingly, not like the cows..), MY burden (looking at the load on the cow) is light...

This passage is quoted so much, and sometimes it really doesn't seem like being a Christian is a particularly easy or light load. Sometimes the yoke seems pretty difficult, not easy at all. When I first got ill, it was within 2 weeks of praying the sinners prayer and giving my life to Jesus. Was that a coincidence? perhaps, but I have always had this thought that the devil would have been pretty pissed after that, so maybe he threw his worst at me. I don't know, perhaps that is refusing to recognise where I was in my life. Throughout the last 2 years I have found it pretty burdensome being ill. I guess to a certain extent I think I have blamed God; not for being ill, but for not healing me certainly. I have fought the illness all the way, refusing to give in to it. It has not been an easy yoke to wear that's for sure. But either way I know that God has been using this illness to teach me about Him and about resting in Him. And, that his burden IS light and his yoke IS easy.
And when I imagine this passage I imagine Jesus stressing the 'my' parts. Almost emphasising that burdens and yokes that are not easy and light are not of him. That if we are finding things a heavy burden, maybe we need to look at that burden - is it really of God? Are we carrying it the way he intended? if it were packed better or loaded in a different way, would it be easier? would it be as he intended? Or maybe we just need to let him lighten the load...   I think my yoke has not been easy because I have been fighting it.  Psalm 32 says this:

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.

Well I have most definitely been that mule, needing a bit and bridle... ;) so no wonder the yoke has not been easy! I think what I realise now is that the load is not of him, the illness is not something God gave me, but perhaps the yoke is, perhaps if I just allow the yoke to gently guide me, then I will find the burden easier to carry, perhaps it will even get lighter. So that's where I am now. Ready to be guided, ready to listen, ready to accept that whatever it is I am trying to get to right now, is probably not where God wants me. And I don't think that decision has come soon enough!!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Day 7:Christmas in pics: storm on the horizon....

On the way to school earlier the sky was amazing. There was a storm on the way and the clouds just had such a dramatic break where it began, in comparison with the sun going down in a brilliant blue sky. Not sure this really does it justice but this is it for todays pic, just this lovely sky...

Monday, 12 December 2011

Day 6: Christmas in pics: my guitar...

This little baby is my guitar. (ok so I cheated, as you can probably tell I did not take this picture today, but hey, my rules and I can break them if I like..). Anyway, I wanted to write about my guitar today after an awesome night of worship at our church with some visiting worship leaders.
I love my guitar. I love the way it looks, the way it sounds, the way it feels when I play, and I love that it's mine...

On top of that I love that I can use it to worship God. When I was younger I was surrounded by people who could play guitar (think it's a Christian thing...) but I never learned, although I always wanted to. Then a few years ago, my oldest started learning and one day, on the beach she started showing me some chords. I was hooked. It does help to have an exeperienced guitarist in the house in my husband, so I can get on hand advice for chords and how to play stuff! I am not a great player, in fact I'm not even an average player, I just learn chords depending on what songs I want to play! I can't pick and I refuse to learn bar chords, but I just play for me, so that's what I chose to do!
I love that when I want to worship I can pick up my guitar and just play and sing. Recently I've spent more time singing, especially with my husband and have even sung in the local with him at their open mike night. So I have decided to enter their next ex-factor style competition in January. I keep saying I will go sing again at the open mike, but late nights don't really work for me, so this time I said yes. It's in January and for ages I have been thinking about what to sing. I want to sing something that honours my faith, but without being overtly about Jesus. (It also has to be in my key !) This has not been easy and I have been listening to loads of secular songs trying to find something that feels right. Anyway, today I had an old playlist in my ipod in the background and heard something that I instantly thought, 'that's it'! So I have decided to sing 'Gotta Find You' by Joe Jonas... lovely bit of Disney Camp Rock, perfect for the pub.... ;) or not.... naff it may be but I love the song, I can sing it , and I can sing it to God... (I have removed one verse and edited one line!)

Everytime I think I'm closer to the heart
Of what it means to know just who I am
I think I've finally found a better place to start
But no one ever seems to understand
I need to try to get to where you are
Could it be, you're not that far

You're the voice I hear inside my head,
the reason that I'm singing
I need to find you
I gotta find you
You're the missing piece I need,
the song inside of me
I need to find you
I gotta find you
Oh yeah
Yeah, yeah

You're the remedy I'm searching hard to find
To fix the puzzle that I see inside
Painting all my dreams the color of your style
When I find you it will be alright
I need to try to get to where you are
Could it be, you're not that far

You're the voice I hear inside my head,
the reason that I'm singing
I need to find you
I gotta find you
You're the missing piece I need,
the song inside of me
I need to find you
I gotta find you

You're the voice I hear inside my head,
the reason that I'm singing
I need to find you (I need to find you)
I gotta find you (yeah)
You're the missing piece I need,
the song inside of me
I need to find you
I gotta find you (I gotta find you)

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas in pics, Day 5: Missing the beauty..

It's been an interesting time over the last few weeks, well, last few months actually. Or, in fact, a year... I have written before about being ill and then finding out I have CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). I am not going to dwell on that now, but it is key to what I am going to write about. Because, I struggled with being ill (still do), I am a 'doer'. I did things in my own strength. I was a 'strong' person. I did not like to give in to weakness. I didn't even tell anyone I was ill for ages because I didn't want people to feel sorry for me, or to see me as being weak. That was my biggest fear.

Alongside struggling with the diagnosis I couldn't reconcile it with my faith. I believe that God heals, and I believed he wanted to heal me. But I wasn't healed, despite copious prayer. I also knew that he had plans for me, and yet there was no way I could achieve those without having more energy.
Throughout the last 18 months it has been perfectly obvious that God is teaching me, through the illness, about resting in him. About spending time with him, and about slowing down. I think it's only really been in the last few weeks that I have actually accepted that (as I wrote about briefly, here, the other day). And in doing that and spending more time on less things (if that makes sense) I have been able to appreciate those things so much more.
It was a divine coincidence then that a friend of mine posted a link on facebook yesterday, to an article from the Washington Post, 2007. In it the world famous violinist Joshua Bell, is asked to take part in an experiment by playing for one hour in the rush hour in the metro in Washington:

Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?

And the really interesting thing is that in one hour, this world renowned musician made just $32 and had only a handful of people stop to listen. Only one recognised him. The paper estimated that just over 1000 people passed by in that time.

The local shoe shine lady says this:
Souza nods sourly toward a spot near the top of the escalator: "Couple of years ago, a homeless guy died right there. He just lay down there and died. The police came, an ambulance came, and no one even stopped to see or slowed down to look.

"People walk up the escalator, they look straight ahead. Mind your own business, eyes forward. Everyone is stressed. Do you know what I mean?"

I once fainted on the tube and people stepped over me to get off. I was with a 16 year old friend who freaked out and still no one stopped. So it doesn't surprise me that no one stopped to hear a busker, even if he was very good. The thing that strikes me though is how much they, and we, miss in life when we are in such a  hurry. We miss the beautiful, the quirky, the one off single-second moments. Not only are we missing the beautiful and wonderful, but we are missing God. When did our world get in such a hurry? Was it after the industrial revolution? was it post-second world war? was it with the technology boom? Or has it always been that way? Do we all just take for granted the beautiful things all around us? Is it that maybe we have been hardened to these things because man is so good at making his own now? With technology we can create music, we can create wonderful images, we can link up with friends thousands of miles away...

God has been teaching me through the simplest of things, like a single red leaf standing out in a pile of brown decaying ones, or the smell of the air when rain is on its way, or as above the wonderful but subtle colours on these pigeons. I saw them sat in a line today, the same bird yet such variations in their feathers. They looked beautiful to me (maybe have lost it.....)

You don't have to be a Christian to appreciate beauty around you, but as a Christian I think it helps us to focus on why we are here, and what God is about. I believe God is in all things, but so often we just hurry past in our whirlwind lives and miss them, or rather we miss Him.

(Incidentally it is quite a long article about Joshua Bell, but it really is very interesting and worth a read if you have the time...)

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Day 4: Christmas in pics: more trees...!

 Day 4: Christmas Tree Festival

Lots of pics today as couldn't choose just one! Tonight we went to the annual Christmas Tree festival at Holy Trinity Church, Cuckfield. It was one of those things where we thought we would just pop in, then an hour later I realised we were late picking up our eldest from the station as we had got so engrossed!

Parts of the church are from the thirteenth century, it has a beautiful painted ceiling and carved screen (appears in Pevsner for architecture fans!), then you add in 50 something decorated trees and it just comes alive. 

The trees are decorated by organisations, groups and businesses from the village and it is a wonderful example of what happens when a community comes together. Over the years the standard has risen as groups put extra effort in to their decorations, (I hesitate to say trying to out do each other!!) many being home made. They also have live music throughout the festival, from local musicians, the choir and schools.  It is just lovely, beautiful, heart warming, and really brings the community together, as well as encouraging people in to the church who might not usually come.

On top of that, on the way was a beautiful moon, which, with the floodlit church in front, looked like something out of a Victorian Christmas (yes, ok, I know they didn't have floodlights...). My photo doesn't really do it justice but it was just stunning....

And to think I nearly missed all this as we had had a busy afternoon and were going to stay in and veg out...

Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas in Pictures: Day 3:

Day 3:
This evening was the carol service for our kids local group at the village chapel.  It was wonderful, joyous, heart warming and totally chaotic!

What was particularly lovely was that compared with last year there were probably double the number of people. The kids groups have grown significantly in the last year and that was shown in the number of parents there tonight.

In a world where numbers going to church are falling it was delightful to see something different here in out little village :)

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Christmas in pictures 2: slowing down

Day 2:
well I managed to keep this going for at least 2 days...  So, todays picture is pretty poor quality, it was taken by my daughter who was laughing! But I love it because it just catches a moment in family life. Yes, it is me, and I was playing draughts with my youngest, last night.

God has really been teaching me about slowing down over the last year or so, about taking rest, and about prioritising. That is partly why I have not been blogging lately. What I have found is the time to enjoy life, to enjoy being with my kids, to not be rushing them off every here, there, and every where, to just slow down. And moments like in this photo, just stopping for a game of draughts are fab.
Don't get me wrong this hasn't been some dramatic instant turn around, I think I have been fighting God on this for some time. I've been saying, 'oh yes, I am slowing down, doing less', but in reality still not stopping to actually listen to him. And yet in the last few weeks something has finally got through. I'm not entirely sure what or how, but I recognise that when I stop and first give time to God, then I am a much calmer, peaceful and nicer person the rest of the time. I have time to sit and spend with the kids without thinking about all the stuff I need to do. I am less anxious. I am more balanced. And life seems much more enjoyable! Oh, long may this continue....

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Christmas in pictures...

Ok, so feeling like my blog needs a new lease of life I am going to take and post a picture a day over the festive period...!
Here is the first.

This is my daughter's school Christmas tree, which the kids get to decorate after school each year, and today was the day. It's always a scrum, broken baubles, lights that don;t work and sometimes with kids actually throwing stuff at the tree!  We have even been banned fromj using real greenery by the school caretaker as it makes so much mess!!
The first few years I was involved I used to go round and tidy the tree up, but to be honest nothing can improve it. If this was in my house I would have to change it, or in fact remove it all together it would offend me so much ;)
But what I love about it is the enthusiasm the kids have for all things Christmas related. Whether it's the dressing up, the nativity, the singing of Christmas songs (anyone else sick of little donkey already...?) and the excitement of advent calendars. Advent should be a time of preparation, hoping, fasting  traditionally. I'm not sure the kids get all that, but they do 'get' the waiting and the preparation, with each week something else festive going on to bring them closer to the day itself.

So this tree (eye-sore that it is...) is symbolising joy, excitement and enthusiasm :)


Sorry, been rather ignoring my blog lately, will write about that later but just felt inspired by a post from the Curates wife about Mary...

When I was 21 I found myself pregnant. I was iingle and 21,000 (ish) miles from home in Australia. Of course when I say I 'found' myself pregnant, I was responsible for that, it wasn't a divine action in my case... I was, frankly, stupid and should have known better. I didn't realise I was pregnant until a few weeks in. (although I was late and feeling distinctly nauseous). When I did the test I was shocked, to say the least. A bit of background was that at the time I wasn't eating properly. I had self esteem issues and thought that I needed to lose weight (I didn't, I was very thin anyway). I was surviving on a cuppa soup and an apple at most, each day. On top of that myself and my then boyfriend both smoked and were taking a lot of drugs, mostly pot. I also had a job that required a lot of heavy lifting. So although I was careless, it hadn't even crossed my kind that I could be pregnant, I was hardly in the best of health and nor was my boyfriend.

So I sat in this little cubicle in the hostel I was staying in (Aussie backpackers), just staring at the stick and the blue line. I felt sick (more than I had been!). The first thing I did was smoke 3 cigarettes in quick succession (yes I know, but I was in shock ok, and they were the last of the pregnancy!). I was terrified. My job was about to come to an end, I had no money, we were living in a backpackers hostel that was about to be bulldozed and on top of that I was miles from home and no way to get back. My boyfriend was an alcoholic and had various issues, none of which would have made him suitable to be a good parent.

But, even in that fear I knew that I would have the baby. I wasn't anti-abortion, but even amidst that fear and emotion, I just knew. As I look back now I know that God was watching over me. Now I am not suggesting for one second that God made me pregnant or that this was some kind of diving interception, but at the same time I just know it was meant to be. Having that baby changed my life. I was in a dark place back then. I hated myself. I was being very stupid and not looking after myself. If I had not become pregnant back then I honestly don't know where I would be right now. So am I always thankful for the gift of that baby.

I know for some it isn't always a  gift. For some it is hard or impossible to concive. For others babies are conceived out of great pain. But at the same time, a new baby is a miracle of life. aAfew weeks ago I was ill and spent 2 days watching daytime telly. Not the treat I thought it might be, but I did watch 'Pregnant at 16' on MTV. Far from being the trash that I expected it was actually very moving and brought back a lot of memories. I remember coming home from Oz and telling people I was pregnant. No one said 'congratulations'. People showed concern, asked 'are you keeping it?'...  it? it? it is a baby, a new life.  What any woman needs when she finds herself pregnant, in whatever circumstances, is support and love. The last thing she needs is condemnation, disain, judgement.

I do not begin to compare myself with Mary. But one can only begin to imagine how she was feeling when that angel appeared to her. I imagine some time must have passed, before she actually began to 'feel' pregnant. I wonder whether she told anyone, before she knew herself that she was. I wonder if she doubted the angel until she felt those first feelings of pregnancy. I wonder what she told her parents. I wonder what their initial reaction was.  In parts of the middle east today woman are still sentenced to stoning for adultery. I imagine it was far worse back then. Did she have to hide in fear of her life?

My parents were not happy at my news, it's fair to say, but they did stand by me. I was lucky. I may have had the odd remark or disparaging looks, but I was not in fear of my life. Not only that but the government would support me so I would not starve or be homeless.

When we talk about Mary and what happened to her, it tends to have this rosy glow about it. Ah yes, wonderful Mary, who had an angel come talk to her adn tell her she was going to carry the son of God... but the reality? I am sure it was very different to how we tell it...