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Thursday, 30 June 2011

Do teachers work harder than anyone else..?

ok so that is a questin that is deliberately going to incite some responses! but that is what I felt listening to the radio this morning. ooohh, listeing to the radio gets me annoyed sometimes. Today I heard a (striking) teacher banging on about how hard teachers work and how they should be rewarded for that. Now I am not about to disagree with her, of course the majority of teachers work hard and they are doing a fantastic job with ourn children (my kids school is brilliant and we and they love it). However what annoyed me was the fact that she implied teachers were owed more of a return because of how hard they work compared to others. So does that mean someone who works in Tesco, or a farmer, does not work as hard as a teacher? and therefore should not receive as good a pension becuase their work is not seen as worthwhile? Where would we be without shops to buy our food?

Some teaching we have been doing at church recently looks at our giftings and how God can use all of us. The message being that God needs people everywhere. Ok, so a teacher, doctor or policeman might feel their job is worthwhile on one level, but actually we need people to do everything. From cleaners to shop workers, teachers to library staff, policemen to funeral directors. At the risk of sounding like a communist (!) I don't think there are professions that are 'better' than others. One can work just as hard stacking shelves as being a driving instructor, they just use different skills and different muscles!

Not all of us are able to give medical assistance, not all of us are able to grow our own food, not all of us have the capacity to teach, not all of us are called to be Vicars...  But I'd like to see how the country would run without any of them...

BTW I am not commenting on the strike action, but the points put across on the radio on behalf of teachers.

Friday, 24 June 2011

The Discernment Process


A friend sent me this today... It's from the wonderful Cartoon Church.
I love the 'turns out you are a distant relative of the Bishop' ladder...!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Bible vs Quran

Just had an interesting session with some sixth formers at a local school. The same one I went to last week to talk to the year 10s. I had been warned they might be feisty as half of them study philosophy. Actually it was very interesting, and there were only 3 of them as lots of them are doing exams. One admits to being a committed Christian, one says he is but some of his statements made me wonder and the other was probably an atheist judging by his questioning. 
Actually I liked him the best, (in a non-weird way, I should point out) he was intriguing, I wanted to spend time talking with him further to see where he is coming from, he frowned a lot and that made me wonder about him as a person too. But anyway some of his questions were quite pointed. For example, there is just as much historical evidence for the bible and existence of Jesus as there is the Quran, so why should I chose Christianity over Islam (I'm not sure if he is actually correct but let's just look at his question). In my head I was thinking, because of what Jesus did, because he did that out of love and without expecting anything from us in return. But actually that isn't an answer is it?
If someone totally unchurched in any faith studies both Islam and Christianity, which should they chose? The answer I guess is the one that speaks to that person as an individual, not what anyone else tells them, and that comes from them as a person. The one that appeals most will depend on their upbringing, their state of mind, their knowledge. I realised it was pointless me saying, 'well Christianity of course, for this reason and that reason', because we each have to make that decision for ourselves don't we. And ultimately God has to guide each person to make that decision.
I don't know enough about Islam to have gone into a theological discussion about it with him and anyway would it help?
It seems, in a way Christianity is the easy option. God accepts us as we are, he loves us no matter what, someone can turn to God on their death bed and still be ok with God. Other religions require people to do specific things, to stick to the laws, to spend a lifetime in service to a God who may or may not accept them.
When you look at it like that it seems simple, I want to know the God who loves me for me, but when someone can't even be open to the idea, it's hard to describe to that person how I feel and how they could feel if they would be open to it.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Human Trafficking

I have posted before on the horrors of human trafficking and a fabulous organisation that is trying to make a difference, A21. The following is written by Beth Redman and I saw it today on Matt Redmans facebook page. I haven't asked permission to reproduce it, so apologies Redmans for that, but it is very powerful and I wanted to share it...
For more info on Human Trafficking and A21 please visit their website.  Christine Caine is one of the founders of A21.

27 Million - Beth Redman

This time last year I sat down for a meal with Christine Caine. We were both speaking at a women’s conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I had met Nick & Chris Caine previously at the Hillsong Conference, and love Hillsong and respect the work they and the Caine’s do around the world.
As we sat down to catch up and share hearts, I was in the middle of the fog that comes with the birth of one’s fifth child! My passion was my family & writing books and speaking to a generation of teenage girls and young women, calling them to run after God with all they’ve got and fulfill the purpose God has for them on the earth. Little did I know Chris was about to deliver a wake up call that would change the course of my life forever.
I talked first about babies, America, travel, blah, blah, blah! Then Chris spoke and I heard, for the first time, about the work of A21 and the issue of human trafficking on the earth today.
How had I not known about this? Where had I been?
I had been stuck inside, shoveling Christian comfort into the hearts of so many, not knowing or acting on behalf of the poor, marginalized, 27 million slaves who I share the planet with.
As Chris will remember, I doubled over and wept to the point I was almost sick! It was part conviction that I’d been asleep, and part mobilizing me into action. My Spirit was groaning, and I knew something had to be done. My life and my mission were changed forever.
Shortly after that chat my husband and I continued with our plans to relocate from the USA to the UK. Once the children were settled, I traveled to Greece and met the wonderful team there and visited the A21 shelter. There I met the most precious young girls whose freedom had been stolen, yet they were able to begin the restoration process thanks to the work and effort of A21 and its supporters.
These girls had been trafficked into Greece from all over the world, but were now safe. They were still in shock and traumatized, but bravely told of the horror of their abduction, and their entrapment into the evil world of human slavery.
As we traveled back to our hotel, and the night drew in, we saw dozens of young, teenage girls working as prostitutes. As our car turned the corner, one young girl came out of the shadows, her hands on her hips, and she offered herself to each passing car. Her body was looking for work, but her face was shattered and looked like stone. She no longer looked like a child, and was unable to fight this evil. Somehow she had found herself on a corner, after midnight, on this filthy street. She should have been tucked up in bed, secure, treasured, safe, and innocent; instead here she was, in salacious, black clothing, with one fearful eye on her pimp who stood not too far away as a car pulled up beside her. She was a victim of this 21st century evil, and had no rescuer.
As I went to bed I could not get her face out of my mind. As I rested, her forced slavery continued.
I realized that in order to save her we must tell anyone and everyone we meet that she exists, and that the evil of human trafficking and slavery on the earth is bigger than it has ever been. We must join forces with everyone from individual NGO’s to corporations, from governments to statutory authorities, in order to rescue girls like her, and one by one, find and prosecute traffickers so this evil will be exposed, punished, and slaves will be set free.
I watched a documentary on Sky2 last week about the subject of human trafficking in Eastern Europe. The interviewer, Ross Kemp, was talking to a convicted sex trafficker. When asked how he felt about the girls he had destroyed, he replied with a smirk, “The girls are nothing. They are like footballs. They are worth nothing. If one is destroyed, you can always get another.”
In Christine Caine’s CNN blog this week, she recounted a similar sentiment made by the testimony of a trafficker during his trial. When asked by the judge why he was involved in such an activity he said, “People are so much easier (to traffic) than drugs. The sentencing is a lot less, and you can just kick them and they'll do what you say.”
Caine’s response? “I can't even believe somebody thinks like that. That's the dark side, that's the evil side. But I think, by and large, most people would think that's very evil and say we've got to stop that from happening.”
Through my work with A21, I was in London this week for the Launch of The Centre for Social Justice ‘Slavery in the UK’ Policy Review.
Andrew Wallis, Founding Director of Unseen(UK) and CSJ Slavery Working Group Chairman spoke passionately. He said:

“In 2007 the UK celebrated the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and in doing so led the world to recognise: ‘that slavery was trafficking in human blood and tears, in misery and suffering and that it had to stop for the sake of justice and humanity.’

Yet, here we are in 2011, with slavery rife amongst us. Whether we like it or not as a society, as individuals, we are in contact with slavery more often than we realise. They say we are all joined by six degrees of separation from any other human being on the planet. In all of these scenarios we are in much closer contact with slaves either here in the UK or overseas. None of us have clean hands.

We often hear much about human rights. But for there to be rights we have to acknowledge there are wrongs. I accepted the offer of chairing this policy review because I passionately believe slavery is wrong.

This policy review will bring together all those who are involved in combatting slavery so we can actually achieve what our forbearers hoped for – an eradication of slavery. Two hundred years ago as a nation we led the world in saying: slavery is wrong, and we still aspire to that – to lead the world in combatting slavery and bringing justice and freedom for those who are enslaved.”
I have discovered through my work with A21, and again this week at the press launch for the Slavery in the UK’ Policy Review, that if there was no demand, then there would be no slaves. If you’re a slave master in 2011, then you can always get another commodity. Tragically, the price of human slaves is the lowest they’ve ever been.
It’s time to set the slaves free!
So what is next? We have recently recorded a song for A21, called 27 Million, which we will be releasing as a single that we hope will not only raise awareness for this issue, but also raise funds to find and prosecute the slave masters and to rescue and restore the victims. And the good news is that if you didn’t know about this before, now you do!
We don’t need to be overwhelmed by the statistics, but rather be outraged enough to do what we can. As Christine Caine said in her CNN blog this week:
“My job is to help put tools in people's hands and say, 'Yeah. Together we can stop that from happening.' Often, I think, because we think, 'I can't do it all,' we end up being paralyzed. So we do nothing,’ said Caine. ‘But if we understand we can't do everything but we all must do something, and we all find the one thing that we can do, then we'll find that together we will all make such a huge difference and we'll be able to put a stop to this."
We can be the change!


-Beth Redman

Monday, 20 June 2011

Learners to Leaders

Last week I did some teaching as part of our Church 'Lifeshapes' series. I have mentioned lifeshapes before, it's a great course, with some really good teaching that is based on how Jesus lived his life with teh disciples. A  lot of the models (or shapes) work well in the secular world too.
Anyway my session was on the Square: 'Learners to leaders'. The whole thing is based on how Jesus taught the disciples, in four stages from the beginning when he was doing all the doing and they just watched, to the end where they were doing and he had left them to it.

The thing that I really liked about this teaching is that it makes the point that we are all leaders in our own ways, in our own worlds. Because so often we label people as leaders (and boy do I hate lables..) and we pick out those who naturally fit the mould, but actually we all have talents and gifts that can be useful in leadership, in so many different areas. And likewise those who are natural leaders often fall down in one area. (bet you can all name a boss of yours who has trouble delegating...)

My favourite example is that of parents. Parents are leaders whether they chose to be or not, because they teach their kids on a daily basis. They lead them to know the difference between right and wrong, they teach them how to get dressed, how to go to the loo (oh the lovely potty training phase, loved it!), and as they get older they begin to let go and let them learn more for themselves.

It occurs to me that so often in business people are obsesed with getting the right leader, a natural leader, one who scores in the right area of Myers Briggs and so on. But the real experience, the stuff of daily life is ignored. So often women who have been out of work having kids are discounted because they have a lack of experience, or someone who hasn't been on the 'right' management training course is put to the bottom of the pile. I wonder how many people never get the opportunity to fulfill their potential, because they ahvent ticket the right boxes...

Last little note, some food for thought:
In my research for this talk I loooked up the definition of 'leader' in the dictionary. One of the definitions was this:

Leader: shoot of a plant at apex of the stem...

I love this because we are all shoots from the same branch aren't we?



Saturday, 18 June 2011

Keeping the Sabbath

cricket_match_2876photo © 2005 Pete | more info (via: Wylio)


We have reached the point in the lives of our kids where there are just so many demands on Sunday mornings. Last year we made a decision not to let them go to parties on Sunday mornings, as not only would it mean they would miss church but that chances are one of us would too. We also tell our 15 year old that if she has sleepovers on Saturdays she needs to be back to come to church. I feel that as a family it is important for us all to attend church together. The kids get great teaching in the kids/youth groups (as do we in the main service) and they have a chance to join together in worship. What's more thay all enjoy it and want to go, for which I am very grateful. At least we are not having to battle them to go.

I also think its important for us to give, as a family, a day to God, but also for each other. As we are all so busy (kids included) it is great to be able to have some family time and doing something together. However it is becoming increasingly hard! The number of kids parties that are held on Sunday mornings now is huge, and practically all the local sports clubs hold their kids sessions on Sunday mornings, which for a sport-mad obsesssed son like ours is hard.

It is funny how things have changed so much in the last 10-15 years or so. I don't think our oldest ever got invited to a party on a Sunday and there were plenty of clubs to be involved in at all times in the week. Sunday seems to have become the day of choice though now. Is that because Saturdays are now so full too that we have to do anything  recreational on Sundays? Or maybe because Sunday trading laws are so relaxed that you can buy anything you like now on a Sunday. People actively choose Sundays as gardening/DIY days and all the major stores, in their big retail parks, push this too.

In an era where lots of people do shift work or work odd hours it is of course much more convenient to be able to shop whenever and wherever you like. And in fact I don't think one needs to celebrate the Sabbath actually on the Sabbath. For many it is impossible to do so anyway, so the era of choice is very beneficial to them, but what usually happens is that people don't do it at all, they don't worship and they don't rest either.

Anyway, this Sunday my son has been asked to play in his first cricket match. Starts at 9.30 and finishes at 12 which rules out all local church services! My husband is in the band this weekend so I am on cricket duty. I am really looking forward to this, there is a level of pride in watching your child play their first match and what's more I love cricket. But it is tinged with a sense of guilt too that we are missing church. Not as a one-off but because I fear this may be a can of worms that we are opening.... I am not sure that we shouldn't be sticking to our guns and saying Sundays are out for anything other than church. A friend of ours says that he feels God will be with our kids wherever they are, in church or on the field and what's more they will be a witness for Him too, which I do agree with, but it still feels a bit wrong.

Bottom line, is that for our son (the sport obessesive), he cannot play football, rugby or cricket competitively unless he plays on a Sunday. For some sports even the coaching is on Sunday. For cricket he does all the training but then would not ever be able to play in a match which seems very unfair.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Assisted dying

Like the rest of the blog world I have just watched the Terry Pratchett documentary about assisted dying from Monday night (just love iplayer, what a fantastic invention!). I have resisted reading what others have written until seeing it myself so if I am repeating what others have said I apologise.

I wanted to watch it because I was actually very interested, aside from the hype, I wasn't sure about actually witnessing the death of one of the subjects of the programme but I was prepared to turn it off if necessary. I think I kind of had a view that assisted dying was non Christian and couldn't align it with the word of God but it's not something I had considered in great detail.
That said I have known people close to me who have tried, and thankfully failed, to take their own lives. So I watched the programme with some anxiety, knowing the reality of it, particularly for those surrounding the situation.


There is part of me that thinks actually it is quite within a persons rights to chose whether to live or die. I mean people can die from drinking too much, smoking too much and so on, when they know full well the dangers, yet they are in essence killing themselves in their own way. But I know ones mental state has a huge part to play in that behaviour as it would suicide.


I thought in general that the programme was very sensitively handled. I know the BBC has been accused of pushing the issue but I didn't feel that at all. I thought it was quite balanced, and just looked at the human side of things rather than political or moral. I was quite moved when Pratchetts assistant was obviously finding it hard to deal with the fact that Andrew Colgan, MS sufferer, had set a date for his own death.


However I did have, perhaps cynnical thoughts, about the way it all seemed so middle class. The very fact that there was a huge fee for this service (and I know dignitas is not for profit) puts it out of the reach of many. I felt, particularly when the Smedleys were talking, that there was almost an air of I have always got /paid for what I want and this will continue in death. We do live in a society where we want everything now and the well-off can buy pretty much whatever they want. Even death it seems.  As I said maybe that is rather cynnical, but it just seemed that Peter was treating his illness in this way, just another thing to pay off.


The overwhelming thing I felt was that these decisions were being made on fear. A fear of the unknown future, fear of how they would feel when their illnesses progressed further, fear of how long they might have to live with as Smedley said 'this beastly and undignified illness'. Colgan also said 'I can't and don't want to live the life I have now', rather telling I thought, it was like he couldn't see past his illness, obviously life was different than it had been, but he wasn't able to see good things or draw any positives from his life now and of the future or see how he could live his life, but in a different way.


Obviously I have no idea how these 2 people were feeling themselves, I do not know the pain of their illness, the embarrasment of it or the indignity. I am not the one suffering,and I cannot begin to understand what would make them decide to take their own lives. But I can't help feeling that as a Christian one professes to love God and to trust Him. In all things. And from that Christian perspective, choosing to take ones own life is not an example of trusting in God...

Monday, 13 June 2011

the ABC debate...

I have steered clear of the whole thing with the Archbishop of Canterbury's piece in the New Statesman and the subsequent press haranguing of him. When I say steered clear I just mean I haven't blogged on it, or entered the debate because the whole world has been so I didn't need to add my few thoughts to it. But I have read a lot of the coverage which has been interesting to say the least... My favourite piece so far has to be Victoria Corens - via her blog on Sunday in which she points out the many errors of the media in this debate, one journalist in particular. I love this piece, it made me laugh so much, but also because she says it as it is, my kind of person! I did retweet it, but here's the link so do check it out....

http://www.victoriacoren.com/main/blog/archive/bashing_the_bishop

Funerals

So today we said goodbye to my Nan. There was a short service at the crematorium and then tea at my parents house. It was all rather lovely actually. I held it together, no tears - rather unusual for me! and read the prayers without wobbling too... I think just completely because I was so sure of where she is now, of her salvation.

And the interesting thing has actually been the planning of it. Which made me wonder who is the funeral really for? For some it is a celebration of the life of the person, so they plan the service according to the taste of the deceased. Others see it more as a way to say goodbye, particularly for those who may not have been around prior to the death. And others still, plan the service according to those who will be attending.

It's easy to see how these things can be fraught, planning amidst grief means that the focus on the arrangements is magnified. The tiniest of details can become huge and often down to individual tastes or foibles. Actually the planning of my Nans was ok and really it wasn't my place to organise it anyway, so I will keep my mouth shut about the things I would have done differently. But ultimately I think she would have liked it, not least because her nephew (a Methodist Minister) took the service, which was lovely.

Anyway, I wanted to share the prayers I read. They come from my Nans daily prayer book which she read every day. The first prayer is from the day she died and the second for todays date (the funeral). My Dad was rather scathing when I pointed out the aptness of them and posed that maybe it was a 'Godincidence', but I rather like the fact that for those 2 specific dates they were so perfect!

Our Father,
Unto Thee, in the light of our Saviour's blessed life, we would lift our souls. We thank thee for that true light shining in our world with still increasing brightness. We thank thee for all who have walked therein, and especially for those near to us and dear, in whose lives we have seen this excellent glory and beauty. May we know that in the body and out of the body they are with Thee, and that when these earthly days come to an end, it is not that our service of Thee and of one another may cease, but that it may begin again anew. Make us glad in all who have peacefully died. Lift us into light and love and purity and blessedness, and give us at last our portion with those who have trusted in Thee and sought, in small things as in great, in things temporal and things eternal, to do Thy Holy Will.
Amen



God, who in thy loving kindness dost both begin and finish all good things; grant that as we glory in the beginnings of Thy grace, so we may rejoice in its completion; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Abiding or Fruiting...

Ok so just over a week ago I wrote a post here  about resting from work, from a course we are doing at church right now. So it's rather ironic that whilst I am preaching about it I still can't seem to get it right in my own life! In the session I was very honest about being ill, which actually only a few people at church knew about, and I find this hard to be open about. I hate being weak, I've written about this before and I hate being viewed in that way. I never want people to have sympathy for me or to look on me with pity. This is obviously a hang up I have and I have no idea why! So I don't really let people in the 'real world' know about being ill. And coming to terms with it has been hard, again I have posted on it numerous times, here and here for a start.

Anyway over the last few months I have begun to feel better and have been taking on more things, so I was feeling very positive about it all. Then the last few weeks seem to have been a rather rude awakening as some of the symptoms have come back and I am exhausted again. Being around people who believe in a force of evil means that I am torn between feeling that this is of the enemy and I should just trust in Jesus; to wanting to give up everything and go to bed for a week.

Last night we went to the O2 for a joint churches gig for Pentecost, which was great. But before hand (like half an hour before we were due to leave) I started feeling ill. So we delayed going but I was so  determined not to be beaten (whether by the devil or myself I don't know!) we did go. In hindsight this was foolish and I should have listened to my body, or God, one or the other!

But it's funny, this week when I have been feeling rubbish so many things have pointed to me being ill still (and I don't just mean the symptoms). Amongst other things, I was at a talk where a guy started sharing about his CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) he suffered for 5 years, others have blogged on tiredness and not doing too much, and this morning someone came up to me at church wanting to share something with me personally about how God has been speaking to her about the whole rest/balance thing we had studieed the week before. Ok, so that was the final straw and the tears flowed!

Back in January/Feb when my GP told me to rest I was so up for it, feeling this a season of abiding and just getting closer to God. Then as I said I started to feel better and opportunites came along and I began to do a bit more. So now I am looking at the scales again. Am I really trusting God in all this? Is this just me pushing things forward? I keep saying I am not and I am waiting on God and I am certainy not seeking out opportunities but then I am getting tired again. So there is a part of me waking up to the fact that this season of abiding is not yet over. Perhaps I just need to drop everything except the essentials and just rest in Him for a while longer...

But the me part of me, is resisting that and thinks, 'but I am enjoying this, I have found the true path God wants me on and I am not ready to give that up'. I am digging in my claws and refusing to budge. Truth is if I gave myself permission to truely chuck it all in for a while I would probably enjoy it. It's the in between stage that is not healthy and driving me to distraction. Either way, I thought I was getting better before and I thought God was giving me these opportunites, so how will I know when I really can start again? And on top of that the discernment process takes so long I am very reluctant to put that on hold, seeing as I can't start until next sept (2012) anyway and then another year seems like forever. Oh I know, I can hear you all yelling at me, 'it's Gods timing!'  
I KNOW!!!
I know a year is nothing and if that is what He has has in store it won't matter how hard I push against it!

Oh I don't know, just writing all this out makes me tired. For once in my life I want someone else to make the decisions for me. To just tell me what I should do. That should be God, but I just can't hear Him on this right now. Or maybe I am not listening hard enough...

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Hell hath no fury like a MAN scorned.. The Facebook phenomenon

facebook logophoto © 2008 Marco Paköeningrat | more info (via: Wylio)
Last night my husband and I watched 'The Social Network'.  Probably this post is years behind the rest of the blog world, but hey I only just watched it! It required some concentration I have to say, but I enjoyed it. Now, I recognise the film was based on a book and I have no idea how accurate it is to the real Facebook story, so when I talk about Mark Zuckerburg I am referring to the character played out in the film.

What staggered me most was the ability of this young guy to programme something initially (face-mash), when drunk, and not only that, that within hours he had crashed the entire Harvard server, (the movie cites 20,000 hits in 2 hours...)  This from a guy who had an argument with his girlfriend - and they say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!

Regardless of the controvery surrounding Facebook and its invention and various court cases this guy is incredibly gifted. I mean in high school he was head hunted by Microsoft and AOL after he wrote some music software...  And the thing that seems to stand out about him (and now I refer to the actual Mark Zuckerberg) is his integrity, he is really only interested in his product, the thing he has invented, the money is irrelevant. How many other teenagers would have turned down a job with Microsoft or AOL to go to college (even if it is Harvard)?!

According to Wikipedia:
Zuckerberg & co turned down offers by major corporations to buy out Facebook. In an interview in 2007, Zuckerberg explained his reasoning:



It's not because of the amount of money. For me and my colleagues, the most important thing is that we create an open information flow for people. Having media corporations owned by conglomerates is just not an attractive idea to me.

And although Facebook itself is a huge organisation now at least Zuckerberg remains President and CEO.

So, less than 10 years after it was started Facebook has over 500million members. It has a massive influence, is discussed by governements, even banned in some cases, used to get information out from areas where the media can't get in, hey even help to bring down corrupt goverments in the case of recent riots... I wonder if Zuckerberg had any idea of how powerful this open flow of information could be? I suspect he might actually...
But still he remains true to his cause, as it were. How many other 'prodigies' or gifted people out there would use their talents in this way?

Again according to Wikipedia:
On December 9, 2010, Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and investor Warren Buffett signed a promise they called the "Giving Pledge", in which they promised to donate to charity at least half of their wealth over the course of time, and invited others among the wealthy to donate 50% or more of their wealth to charity.
 
Now that is one heck of a lot of money...
 
The film does not portray him in the best light it has to be said, but then that's Hollwood for you I guess. And actually I supect that it is rather unfair in places but you know they say God knows people everywhere and whether he is an atheist (as he professes) or not, look at how much good has come out of this...

Thursday, 9 June 2011

From Ritual to Reality...

I have just finished reading a book called 'Godzone' by Mike Ridell. It was recommended to me by a lovely Vicar I met a few weeks ago and it is quite unlike any Christian book I have read before. It doesn't seem to be coming from any kind of 'labelled' perspective, it is just about one mans reflections on what he has learned on his journey through the 'God-zone'. It is just crammed full of things that make you stop and think. And it is funny. unusual for a Christian book ;) One of my favourite lines has to be:

God has the patience of a donkey on tranquilisers..

(Which is good news for those who us who are a bit slow in the listening to God department.. )

Anyway the book addresses several key issues - the old faves like: suffering, justice, evil etc, in simple yet powerful ways. One that really struck me is what he says about the way we chose to worship. Obviously this is a bug bear of mine (!) but it particularly struck me whilst reading the debate over at Lesleys  blog relating to homosexuality. In the post and comments several people have made the point that change is necessary, that the church has moved positions on various issues over the years and we need to continue to do so.

Personally I feel exactly the same way about how we approach worship in our churches. Like the debate above and others, there are two sides to the argument and there will be a large portion of people who like/want the traditional approach because that is what they are used to. BUT at the same time we have to recognise that the church needs to move forward, if we want to encourage people in - to meet with Jesus - then we need to help them to do that and for many the ritual and liturgy is a massive turn off. They don't undertsand it, it is dated and it is a deterrent.

Mike Ridell says:
...It is this need for the wayfarers to gather that brought churches into existence. 'Church' at one time meant a gathering of people. Now it means a building with a steeple. 'Worship' at one time meant the act of celebrating Gods presence, now it means a collection of rituals at 11am on a Sunday morning. 'Faith' at one time was a red-blooded response to the stirring of the Spirit. Now it is a set of beliefs so insignificant that they can be contained in the doctrines. The Way has become religion, it's meaning drowned in a sea of ceremony...

This morning I had some girls over for a coffee and questions session, it's a new thing I have just started and the idea being that they can have an open and unthreatening place to ask questions about all things faith/God etc. It went very well and more sessions have been planned, but I was surprised by the level of antipathy to the church. They were keen to talk about God but all of the church stuff was negative. I guess I expected this, but I was surprised at how strongly they felt. And how sad is it, to actually hear a personal testimony that 'the church' is unwelcoming, unfriendly, unintelligible. We talk about it all the time and the stats show it but to hear it in my own kitchen made me so cross on their behalf! When will The Church wake up? We are representing Christ on earth. yes, none of us are perfect and we make mistakes but it doesn't stop us trying to be like Him. It doesn't stop us trying to show compassion to those around us, and it doesn't stop us trying to get out there, into the 'real' world and helping people who have no faith or little understanding, to take a step towards Jesus. Does it? Is it really so hard? Are we really so arrogant that we continue on in our own little ways saying 'this is how we do it' or 'this is how we have always done it'...

We cannot expect people to come into our churches if we do not make them welcoming, relevant and loving. And I'm not just talking about the coffee (although decent coffee helps..)

I chose the title of this post from a series of talks they are doing at my local church, which looks quite interestng actually, I am not dissing that, but I think the title is just so hypocritical. If they want to make the ritual 'real' then make it relevant!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Misadvertising of healing...

A friend just tweeted this. It seems an evangelical church (Revival Fellowship Medway) put out a flyer including examples of people who had been healed by God. One person complained that this was misleading and reported the ad to the ASA, who have upheld his complaint and ruled the church can no longer advertise in this way. You can see the ad itself on his blog.

From the ASA: 
The complainant challenged whether the circular:
1. was irresponsible because it could discourage essential medical treatment for serious medical conditions; and
2. exploited the vulnerable because it invited people to attend the meetings in the hope of receiving physical healing.


And in his own blog he writes:

Finally, it seems to me that this is preying on vulnerable people in society. People with chronic or complex condition are often willing to try anything to be relieved of pain or disability, and this advert suggests that they too can be healed; this may well draw them into a complex religious organisation with all that entails. However, drawing people in with unsubstantiated promises of healing is an unethical way to engage people into a belief system.

In my opinion, the claims are misleading, unsubstantiated and seek to exploit vulnerable people.

Now I accept he is entitled to his opinion and actually probably a lot of people (Christians included) might agree with him. So I ask the question: is it irresponsible to share stories of healing in this way?  I admit if it were me I would not have advertised in this way, but the ad was hardly offensive and personally I don't think it was that misleading either. I mean those desperate enough to come to church thinking they would be healed on the spot, probably need God anyway (well we all do..) and surely would have sought medical advice previously. It's very unlikely that anyone would turn up having not sought medical help and wanting God to heal them unless they already had some level of faith. So it is hardly preying on the vulnerable.

Healing is always a tricky one in the Christian world. I believe God can, and does heal but he doesn't always, and too much emphasis on healing takes away from the central truth. We cannot promise that people coming into our churches will be healed because that is for God to decide, but we can give them the hope of his promises for us.

I will be very interested to see if this stays under the radar or whether the Christian Legal Centre and the Daily Mail will get hold of it...

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Why did Jesus not allow people to share their experiences?

Ok so maybe I am being thick here but something has been puzzling me for a while. Why did Jesus, after healing people or casting out demons, usually tell them not to tell of what had happened? In fact not just that they shouldn't tell, but the language used is very strong: he commanded or he ordered in some cases...

I have been re-reading Marks Gospel this morning and noticed this several times and I just don't get why he would say that. I mean for example he raised Jairus' daughter from the dead and the bible says he gave strict orders not to let anyone know about it. Strict orders. The guys daughter has just been raised from the dead and he gives strict orders not to talk about it - I mean that is quite an ask!  And in Mark 7 he commands the healed deaf/mute man not to tell anyone. This is a man who has not been able to hear or speak and he is not allowed to explain how he suddenly can. I mean isn't that a bit odd?

It is also particularly apparent when he is dealing with the demon-posessed. He is very firm when they call out that he is the Son of God, Holy or The Christ, he always silences them, rebukes them or does not allow them to speak. In Luke 4:41 it specifically says he would not allow them to speak becasue they knew he was the Christ.

But why? My husband and I have been discussing this and the only obvious answer is that if he allowed people to spread the word in this way it would possibly take away from their freedom to chose, and the bible does make it clear that we have to chose for ourselves whether we believe. God is not a dictator.  I just can't think of anything else. In terms of the demons calling out his name I can see that maybe it is to do with the fact of who they are and not worthy to even say his name or to speak the truth.  But then in the case of miracles and healings, why perform them in the first place? Because surely performing signs and wonders was a part of showing that he was the Son of God? so why perform them and not let people share what had happened (although it does say in several places that they did anyway!)

In Mark 8:30 he even tells the disciples not to tell ayone who he is. So perhaps it was about timing? Maybe the timing wasn't right to reveal who he was?

I just don't know. I would really appreciate some advice here! As I said, I may be being really dense and missing something obviouis but it has been bugging me for a while, so someone give me a heads up please!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Women vs Men




You know it's lovely to come back from a few days away and spend a few hours catching up on posts I have missed. This time a good deal of those posts seem to be referring to women in various ways, mostly, admittedly to do with women bishops, but actually some of them have really made me think.

Thing is, women are different from men. This may be stating the obvious but I think sometimes when the debate of equality comes up there is a contingent that assumes women want to be treated like men. So here's some news: they don't. What they do want is to be treated with the same level of respect that a man might be given, with the same level of authority that a man may command and without condescension or being patronised. I think very often people assume that women who are ambitious, have a career or want to see change are just ball-busting man eaters. This is so stereotypical but still appears to be the favoured view, particularly within the church.

Lesley flagged up, as she usually does at this time of the month, the rankings for women bloggers in the religion and belief category. One commenter (sorry David I'm not really picking on you...) asked why is this so special? And yes he is right, there is nothing more special about women bloggers than men, but what I appreciate about this list is the fact that women are different. And it is good to celebrate our differences whilst recognising we are part of a larger whole. Women do things differently. just as men do, not in a sweeping generalisation way but in an acknowledgement of who we are. Who we are made to be. 

I hope no one thinks I am trying to pigeon hole anyone based on gender, sexuality or anything else, the point I am making is that we can get so het up with the equality debate that we ignore the fact of who we are. And I am a go-getter, someone who stands up for what she believes in and will not be opressed, (probably what some would call a feminist) but at the same time I am comfortable with the fact that I am also a woman. I am a mum. I am a wife.
So let's recognise who we are, individually and as part of a whole. Maybe then the wider church will really be able to see the qualities that women in minstry or positions of authority, can bring to the whole.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Rest from work or work from rest...?

As part of our Lifeshapes course at church last weeks shape was the semi-circle, representing a swinging pendulum between rest and work.  It's a subject that seems to hit home with so many people in our busy society. How have we got to a point where people are practically boasting about the number of hours they work? How have we got so far from the time when people actually kept Sundays for church and family? How have we got to this place where large numbers of people are regularly suffering from stress at work, or from overwork? How do we have families where fathers only see their kids at weekends because they leave the house for work before sunrise and get back after they are in bed? What is it that drives us to this extreme?

Is it greed? love of money? Is it because more is expected of us? Or because the cost of living has gone up? My husband has a pretty good job, he is good at his job and we are very blessed, but he is not obsessed with work. And yet even he rarely takes a lunchbreak, he has coffee at his desk, will feel guilty if he has to leave early and so on... And he is just on the edge of it. There are those who work 14 hour days, every day, don't take holidays, or if they do take blackberrys and laptops with them.. and just keep going...

I love that Lifeshapes reminds us that in Genesis when God creates man he does so on the sixth day. So what do they do first of all? They rest! - the seventh day is a rest day. So for Adam and Eve the first full day they have on earth they spend resting. That's BEFORE they do any work. And God does have work for them, he created them to work in and look after the garden. (And that's whether you take Genesis literally or metaphorcially, it's still clearly showing rest before work..!)

So why do we find it so hard to take a break? I am so guilty of this, hey I even made myself ill because I was working too hard. For me I think it was the belief that I had to do everything, that things had to carry on, that I couldn't take a break even when I needed to. I am learning to work from my rest and not rest from my work. But it's not easy, it doesn't come naturally to me!

So with that in mind, we are off for a few days break, hopefully resting! As blogger is still up the spout I cannot schedule posts for while I am away, but that's kind of nice, as I can't put pressure on myself to get a load done before I go. So I hope you all have a wonderfully restful weekend (we shall be on a boat where the speed limit is 4mph!!) and I will be back to writing next week...