About Me

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Blog birthday!!

It's my blog birthday!! 5 years today... I cannot believe it has been five years of blogging and I've loved every minute of it! (well mostly, the odd troll but guess that goes with the territory). I have made new friends, 'virtual' and real, I have learned so much and had some great 'conversations' on here. So, thank you all :)

So as it's the blog birthday I thought I'd something a bit different, and here it is, my first ever video blog, hope you enjoy it!

Friday, 27 February 2015

Who can show us any good?

I wasn't really sure what to do for Lent this year so I decided to start each day with a Psalm.  I don't often have time to pray first thing at the moment but I do have time to read a Psalm which I can then reflect on as I go through the day.
This really struck me in Psalm 4:

Many are asking, "who can show us any good?"
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.
You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and wine abound...

It's that line: 'Many are asking, who can show us any good?' that really strikes me, it's a word for today too, many are asking in this day and age, where is the good in this world? Our newspapers are full of horror, murder and war. We are incited to feel anger and injustice (sometimes where there is none). Every petty dispute is shared with our wider world via the powers of social media. We are awash with it and immersed in it.

And yet still people say 'where is the good?'. 

It's a challenge, church. 

Who can show the world good? well if it isn't us I don't know who can. I don't want to see stories in the paper of the church getting it wrong or making mistakes (which we are quite able to do, none of us are perfect!), but could we as The Church, as churches, as Christians, make a concerted effort to be bringers of good? to help those around us see the answer to this question...?

If we have the light of God shining on us, it should also be reflecting out of us, and we know, it brings far more joy than earthly pleasures - ok so grain and wine being in abundance (v.7 above) might not be quite so relevant today, but what about when you get a new car, or get to do something extravagant like a night out at posh restaurant. Isn't the joy of knowing Jesus far, far, FAR greater than that?!

My role is focussed on Mission and as such I spend a large mount of my time trying to do exactly this, trying to be a bringer of good. Where we reach out to those around us, in our projects and outreach, the first point is usually about showing something good to the people or to an area. It's about recognising the needs in a place that God has led us to and addressing them the best we can. We want to be seen as people who can show some good to those around them. I'm not going to turn this into a rant about churches that don't get what 'mission' is, or who don't engage in it, tempting though that may be ;) but I'd love it if some people read this and went away thinking:

 how can I be someone who answers the question, 'who can show us any good?'...

Monday, 23 February 2015

Almost a blog birthday...

Picture via Wylio, credit: Will Clayton
So in a few days time this blog will be 5 years old! There is a birthday blog post planned for Saturday but for now I thought I might take a look back at some of the posts from the last five years...

These are some of the ones I have enjoyed the most, learned the most through or have really been written from the heart. 

  • Still one of my faves and oh so ironic, was a series of posts I wrote when I first felt called to ministry, this post was written when I was in definite denial and provoked a great conversation in the comments section.

  • Here I was wrestling with a heap of stuff, but partly the pressure of being a 21st century woman and trying to have it all, or not as the case may be.

  • Going through the selection process in the CofE, this one's all about church leadership... (my thoughts may have changed since then!)

  • A bit of a lighthearted one on swearing

So there you go a few highlights (or low-lights maybe!). Here's to the next five...

Thursday, 12 February 2015

A day trip to Synod...

Written on Tuesday...

So I've just spent a mere 3 hours at Synod and I want to say that this post is not by any means a judgement (heaven forbid) or true reflection of what the whole is like. However what this is, is some rambling thoughts on the proceedings from a total newbie.

I don't know much about the inner workings of the CofE although I find myself attempting to catch up in the wake of the good Lord calling me into the midst of it. But I have to say that Synod was pretty much as I imagined it would be: incredibly structured, a few inspiring leaders, and some tweed-clad-full-of-their-own-importance-(or point)-interlopers, some marginally funny in-jokes, some time wasting, and amongst it all some absolute gems. 
The Archbishop of Iraq was one of those who shone out in the greyness of clerical shirts, who gave a heart-breakingly honest view of the life of a persecuted Christian, in many cases refusing to give up their country as a nation where Jesus is worshipped despite huge and real personal cost and danger. He littered his talk with requests for prayer, a thing so fundamental to our faith that we so often overlook in times of others crisis. I would have thought the very least we could do as a church is to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ and yet he asked for nothing more.

It was almost laughable that this deeply concerning talk was followed shortly after with a report and response which included such delights as 'this report is printed in the wrong font/colour'. 

I mean I am all for inclusivity and accessibility but is a meeting of the governing body of the entire church the place to air this crap? I'm sorry to sound so rude and I wish no ill to the person in question but this just smacks of the reasons why an organisation like the C of E is seen as a dinosaur by so many. If you have structures in place to run this kind of thing then use them, why on earth should this kind of thing be raised in a meeting where people have travelled the length of the country to attend? Surely there must be a system in place to deal with these things? Otherwise it allows Joe Blogs with a gripe to go off on it for 3 minutes, and believe me 3 mins is a lot longer than you think, especially when there are lots of them...

It strikes me also from my limited experience of deanery synods and the like that there are some folk (& I shall be very unkind here) who are rather full of their own self importance. I do wonder sometimes if deanery/general synod reps are a mix of those who delight in the role, of having a title and being noticed, and those who have frankly been press ganged into it...

Then there was the ridiculous pride that since November screens had been used for worship (really since November? what is this, 1988?) and in order to count the number of people present, they used the voting pads which frankly took twice as long as if someone had just stood up and counted them. ARGH!!! Is this the modern face of the CofE?

Ok, ok, I'm really not being very nice, I know, I'm sorry. I know people give up a lot of time and effort to work/volunteer in these roles but personally I came away thinking for goodness sake, this would drive me around the bend. And this is an organisation I work for!

Thankfully the ABC (who I think I am secretly a little bit in love with) saved the day with a stirring speech on evangelism and sharing the gospel. (Although I have to say, it was sad that he even had to say it at all. I mean, surely, if we have devoted our lives to Christ enough that we are even working for the church, or volunteering or whatever, surely there should be enough of Christ in us to compel us to share him with those around us?)

His point that he highlighted several times was that the love and joy of Christ should urge us on to share the most compelling of announcements that is the good news of the gospel. 

Yes! Yes! And yes! 
So often it feels like this church is apologising for simply whispering the name of Jesus and I want to shout it from the rooftops: 
Jesus. Only Jesus.

In Jeremiah chapter 20, he is complaining of the persecution towards him and yet even then he says that if he were to try and hold in talking of God that

'his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot'
He simply cannot stop talking of the God who he is committed to and he hadn't even met Jesus yet! Surely as church and as Christians we should be as committed and overcome with God's love, as Jeremiah was, and if not I think we should question our faith. Yes, truly I do, controversial as that sounds, oh yes some are called to be evangelists, blah blah, but at the end of the day our job is to make disciples, to share the good news and if you're not doing that, then why bloomin' not? 

Ok enough of my slightly irritated ranting. In Summary, General Synod was exactly as I expected (rather frustrating), and so was the ABC (rather brilliant). Could have just posted 2 lines really....

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Talk / 8th Feb 2015 // A Crippled Woman Meets Jesus // Luke 13:10-17

My planned talk from The Point Church, Sun 8 Feb. 
As always this is not really the transcript more the notes I made in advance.... and in this case, actually quite different from what I actually said as I felt God saying to listen to him and be led by him in what I said. So this is what I would have said! It will be available online to listen to what I actually said here, next week.


Word for the church – God calling us to greater freedom...

So if you’ve heard me preach before, you may know that I often like to challenge you when I’m speaking. I’ll maybe give a challenge for the week ahead or ask some searching questions of you. Usually I like to ease you in gently, give some  background, get into the text first… well not today.
Today I felt we should go straight in with the challenge - and I want to ask you:

What are you doing here today?
Why are you here?
What are you expecting this morning?

I mean really and truly?  Why are you here?

I am asking each of you to think about that. I’m not making a joke or being flippant, I actually want you to think about that today. What are you doing here, what is the main reason you are here at St Paul’s this morning?

So firstly, just in case I’ve alarmed anyone, you might have been invited here today by someone or you might be visiting us right or you might be new to this church? And if so, great, you are so welcome here. You know since my family became part of this church we have felt part of a big family.  Welcome J
But still, I want to say to you, why are you here?

Some of you might say, well it’s Sunday I come to church on Sunday, it’s what we do, right? Ok but why? Why is it ‘what you do on a Sunday?’

Or maybe you come for the community, for the family feel, you get to meet your friends, hang out, have a chat, you get to be part of something. But you can get that at a football game, with your mates, or going to a ‘Sunday Assembly’ heaven forbid…

So why have you come here…?

Because actually there is nothing particularly special about this place, about the coming together, about being family together – none of these things set this place apart from any other gathering of people.

Because the thing that makes this place different is Jesus.  The thing that should make US different,  is encountering Jesus.

So why are you here? well I hope that at the root of all our reasons, we are all here because of Jesus. If we are visiting, or been invited for the first time, perhaps it’s because you feel life is missing something or you recognise something in others, the person who invited you maybe? If you are a regular, is it because your life is committed to Jesus? Not just because, that’s what we do on a Sunday….
When was the last time you asked yourself, challenged yourself about your faith? About where Jesus is in your life?

Because in our passage today we’re going to see what is essentially a church, and one person in particular encountering Jesus, probably, although we don’t know for sure, for the first time. Having gone along faithfully to worship for years, going through the motions, obeying the rules and yet, when she meets Jesus, it all changes…

Let’s read it shall we…

Turn to Luke 13: 10-17
It’s on the screen but you know what, it’s good to have your own bible with you. I know you can have it on your iphones etc and I am a real tech fan, but if you really want to get into this, get deeper into God’s word there is nothing like having your own bible in your hand, a physical book. Mine is scrawled with notes and underlinings and dates and it’s real – living and active (Hebrews 4:12) – this is your manual for life…

Anyway whatever you are using today…. We are at Luke 13: 10-7


So what’s going on here?
Let’s set the scene here - we have a Jewish synagogue, not one of the big temples, but a smaller town synagogue, where local people would be gathering on the Sabbath (Saturday not Sunday), probably in the evening, people would come here each week, just as we do here, there would be prayer and some teaching. But until now, until this passage no Jesus. As Jews they would have believed in the coming of a Messiah, they would know the prophecies, the words spoken foretelling his coming, but hey wouldn’t know him for themselves.
This is a faith with a lot of rules and regulations, but no Jesus.

And why did they come? Maybe because they were Jews, because the law told them to? Because that’s what they did on the Sabbath? Because it was expected of them?

Except this day is different. On this day they have a visiting preacher, if you like…. and that wouldn’t have been unusual especially in these smaller places, for educated teachers to speak, but on this day they get the ultimate guest speaker don’t they. They get a whole lot more than they came for.

They get to encounter Jesus, and I say they, because although it’s one woman who is really impacted, they all get to hear him, see him, meet him, they get what we need. What we all need. Whoever you are, whatever you think or believe, you need Jesus. And not just to know about him, to hear about him, to read something about him, you need to encounter him, for yourself.

You know, I have been so convicted of that recently and for myself but it’s relevant for us all, that not only do we need to encounter Jesus for ourselves, but as followers of Jesus, we need to help others to encounter him. You can say what you like, tell people what you like, give them books to read, bring them to Alpha and so on, but if they don t encounter Jesus for themselves it’s empty.

And you know how I really know that, because that was me, and my husband a few years ago.... Going along to church on a Sunday, every week, because that’s what we had always done, what our parents taught us to do, on a Sunday you go to church. We didn’t think much about God the rest of the time, if at all, we didn’t live out a faith particularly, we didn’t have Jesus in here (heart).  That’s our story. For years we went to church faithfully. We knew what was expected us, we knew the prayers how to recite them and when. In a way we just followed the rules, what was expected of us. I even served on the PCC, bit like our trustees, we basically helped the Vicar run the church, make decisions about it, we helped with the youth group.

BUT despite that, despite our involvement, despite our faithfulness in going to church, despite our desire to be part of the church, there was nothing different about us than anyone else, Because we didn’t know Jesus, we didn’t encounter him for ourselves. In fact if someone had told me I needed to encounter Jesus I probably would have thought them a bit whacko TBH. I don’t think I even thought it even possible to ‘meet Jesus’, I thought people who went to non CofE churches were not proper Christians!! Oh the shame…!!

Makes me laugh now – some of the people I met, they knew Jesus, really knew him….

And yet our churches need to be places where people meet Jesus. Truly.

So back to our synagogue, then, what happens … v.11 – we are straight in, aren’t we, Jesus sees this crippled woman, suffering, in pain, could she even see him I wonder, bent over… and he calls her forward and heals her. She’s been like this for 18 years and he heals her right there.

Who was she? This woman, the one he picks out? Calls forward?  This woman who gets to encounter Jesus?

Well we know that she was probably not just a one off visitor, because Jesus calls her, v16 a daughter of Abraham. So if you don’t know, Abraham appears in the very first book of the bible, in Genesis, he is a descendent of Noah. God calls him and made a covenant with him (like a legal agreement) and says that he will make him into a great nation, that he will have numerous descendants, in fact he says as numerous as the stars in the sky. Which at the time was a pretty big claim to make when Abraham’s wife was barren, she couldn’t have children. However nothing is impossible for God, they did have a son and Abraham’s descendants became the Jewish nation, he is referred to as the Father of Israel. In Isaiah he is even referred to as a Friend of God.
So, to refer to this woman as ‘a daughter of Abraham’ meant she was a Jew and a faithful one at that. It is likely she would have known the Jewish law, the rules the things she had to do and would have regularly attended the synagogue.

And yet…. v16 tells us that she had been kept bound by this spirit, by Satan, for 18 years. 18 years, crippled, not able to stand, bent over and in pain. For 18 years.

And we get this seemingly slightly random reference of Jesus calling the rulers hypocrites and mentioning untying oxen etc. which actually isn’t so random as it looks -
Jewish law had a list of tasks you were not allowed to do on the Sabbath, which included tying and untying things. And yet as he points out they still untied their animals to take them to water, there is a level of compassion for their animals, and he suggests that what he was doing here was undoing the bindings of this woman - untying her from being kept bound by Satan with this crippling affliction.

It’s not just a physical ailment but a spiritual affliction too.

For her here that meeting Jesus, in him reaching out to her, he healed her. But more than that – her life was transformed, both physically and spiritually. I think it’s really significant that the passage talks of the spiritual side of this. In v.11 it says she had been ‘crippled by a spirit’ and in v16, she had been kept bound by Satan’. This is a picture of a spiritual world, one where there is so much more than we can imagine or understand – what’s that line from Hamlet:

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

There are more things on heaven and earth than we an even begin to understand, and there is a spiritual world, a level of things going on that we can be completely oblivious to.

Here’s the thing, if we are not walking in the freedom of Christ then we are bound by Satan -  the enemy, the devil, force of evil, whatever you want to call it. 
Bound by addiction maybe? and not necessarily to alcohol or gambling, or drugs - the obvious, what about or work, addicted to work to achievement, finding our identity in the things we do, the money we earn? Our title? What about porn.
It's not nice to talk about, but for men and women it can be something that binds us, secretive, we can’t talk about it, exactly what the enemy wants, us to be bound in a world where no one knows what we’re doing, feeling thinking… Alone and fearful.
Or we can be bound by things from our past, rejection – you know not feeling loved enough, not feeling good enough, or are we bound up in rules and regulations? Even in the church – in religion – this is the way we do things…?
If you don’t think you are bound by anything, or you don’t know what binds you then just think, what do you spend the most amount of time thinking about or doing? What are the things that worry you, keep you awake at night?

What is binding you? Because I’m telling you, Jesus brings us freedom. True freedom, transforming freedom. Like this woman experienced,

So, why did you come here today? Do you want that freedom?

Our lives – so I told you about us, we were definitely bound by the things we ‘should’ do – like going to church and yet when we met Jesus (too long but happy to tell any of you over a cuppa!) that our lives were transformed.

And the reality is that nothing has really changed in our lives (apart from me training for ministry! That’s a biggie!!) but the essential elements are the same, same house, phil same job, family etc. But what has changed is that we know we are walking in the freedom of Christ and that feels so different! Like a different world!

It’s kind of like that picture of the left and right brain – don’t know if you’ve seen it? So the left brain is analytical, logical, regulated. The right is creativity, spontanaiety, crazy almost! And the thing is if we just had the left side, with the regulation and the right way of doing things life would be just that, ordered logical, and methodical.  But with Jesus, you get this too. The full technicolour picture! Both not one or the other! You need the left too…. We don’t just discard what the Jewish faith teaches, it largely forms our OT (not going into specifics but largely the same will do!) Jesus is the fulfilment of what the ancient scriptures teach us. So we are not just casting that aside, not at all. But without the fulfilment of those teachings, well it's like this…

You know a while back we booked to go to Bills restaurant for breakfast. You know Bills? Local restaurant, now chains all over the place. Anyway they do good breakfasts. So this day we had booked a table and they called to tell us that they had no gas and so they could not do any hot food or hot drinks. Right, so restaurant famous for breakfasts, hot food, hot drinks.  What are they left with, a nice looking restaurant sure, very pretty, on trend, but its main focus, is missing. I mean its like going to Starbucks and them saying sorry we’ve got no coffee! You see where I am going with this right?

I heard a quote the other day that said if God was removed from our churches, 95% if them would stay the same! Let’s reinforce that – if God were removed from our churches, most of them would stay exactly the same!?  Pretty depressing thought and I happen to think as a church we’re doing ok, but how about you? You personally.

Are you a Starbucks without the coffee, Bills without the breakfast – are you living a life in black and white? And when was the last time you even thought about it? Even questioned yourself on it.

If God walked out of your life would you even know?

Why have you come here today?

I have been privileged over the last few years to get to know Yvrose from Hope House a little bit. Yvrose lives a life utterly full of Jesus and you can see it in her, she overflows with joy and love and compassion. And they have so little. They could be bound by anxiety and fear. Where is the next meal coming from? What if a child gets sick? They could be bound by the fear of those who practise witchcraft in the area. They have been threatened, people holding voodoo ceremonies on the edge of their land. Yvrose could be bound by the fact that she could never have biological children of her own, she could be bound by insignificance and pain. But she isn’t, because she knows Jesus, She is committed to Jesus, every single day is lived for him, through him and with him and as a result she walks in the freedom of Christ and it is clear and pain as day for the world to see…

We have so much here, we are so blessed, but when I spend time with her I want to give it all up and live with nothing, because they encounter Jesus every day. And that is more precious than anything else…

I mean, come on, what are we settling for? Are we just going through the motions?

Do we want to step into a season of greater freedom, of encountering Jesus more than ever before...?

 This is a new season, God wants to draw closer to us as a church and as individuals.

He is calling you, calling us like he called the woman – so are we going to go forward for all he has?

Why you here? Want to be part of this new season? 

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Vicar School Update // Jan 2015

 Jan 2015 / Jules Newsletter

So, I’ve made it through another term and in just a few weeks I’ll be exactly half way through my course. Where on earth has that gone? To be honest at times it has felt like 3 years will take 30, at others it has flown by way too quick (usually when an essay deadline is approaching…) The second year has definitely felt like we’ve gone up a gear, and I almost long for the naivety of the first year. Still it’s actually really nice to know what’s expected of me now, I’ve done everything once, been to each of our venues and completed a year of academic work. SEITE (my college) has actually been going through lots of changes, as like most colleges that offer training for ministry in the Church of England, we are now under a new scheme ‘Common Awards’. This means all courses will now be validated by Durham University. Pretty cool to get a qualification from Durham but also has meant various changes, possibly the most important of which has meant I have not got a student card this year, so no 10% discount at Top Shop and Apple… This is of course a travesty that I hope will be addressed very soon.
This (below) arrived for me recently, slightly
premature and frankly freaked me out entirely…

Hopsital Placement / Sept 2014

Anyway… what else has happened in the last few months? Well September began with a Pastoral Placement, which for me meant 30 hours spent shadowing the Chaplains at local hospitals. This was an eye-opening time having had no experience of hospital chaplains previously. Naively I thought they just visited people, prayed with them and took communion to patients. Boy was I wrong! Of course there is some of that, but there is soooo much more. Where I was, the Chaplains get involved in staff training, helping to build policy, and my first day was spent at a conference that brought together Brighton organisations in social and health care areas, to help create networks and relationships. Of course it’s not the same at every hospital, and having heard from some of my fellow students experiences it made me all the more impressed and inspired by the Chaplains I spent time with. On the pastoral, visiting patients side of things, I was touched by the loneliness of many patients.

The current system in hospitals of ‘centres of excellence’ means that although the medical care might be better, patients are often in hospital miles from where they live, which really limits those who can visit them regularly. For the elderly this is really exacerbated as it is much harder for them to travel. To these patients, some of whom are in for weeks at a time, time spent with the Chaplain is worth an enormous amount.
family homework time. To be honest, my theology is easier than year 6 maths…

Aylesford Priory (Again)

Last term’s module was good old Ethics and Doctrine. Just as mind blowing as last years Ethics module, we covered such delights as ‘The Trinity’ in just 2 hours (for those who don’t really care, The Trinity is the idea of God as three persons: Father, Son & Holy Spirit). This and other matters of doctrine have kept theologians and writers in the money for possibly thousands of years, so 2 hours to cover it? well, let’s just say I just about got the title down…
Ashburham at Christmas

This term we are looking at the Old Testament which is just amazing and I think I’ve written more notes in the first few weeks of this term than in the whole first year! I just love going deeper into God’s word and really getting into the details, the context, the history, it is fascinating.

As I write Phil & I have just come back from a SEITE weekend. Yes, Phil too, he was, I can tell you, delighted when he heard that there was an ‘AlongSEITErs’ Weekend, where other halves were invited to come and  join us. “Delighted” or not, he actually came for the whole weekend and, well, survived! Probably 2 hours spent in the bar on the first night, helped :)
Ashburnham at Twilight
We were staying at the oddity that is Aylesford Priory. You may remember from my previous updates, references to the food, awash with beans, and including such delicacies as lasagna ala Cauliflower, Peptobismol Pudding, grey soup and, oh yes, more beans. Luckily Phil eats like a dustbin so he loved it. A work colleague once described him as a fat bloke trapped in a thin blokes body, which just about sums up his love of food! 

From my point of view it was lovely to have Phil with me for one of these weekends and aside from the talks and sessions we found some time to just hang out together, including time to just worship and pray together which was really lovely, especially in the little chapel at Aylesford.

The rather disturbing ‘Infant of Prague’. Well obviously not the real one, the CofE budget doesn’t stretch to sending us to Eastern Europe. This is  simply a scary copy…
So. Sometime later this term we get to start talking about…     *whispers*        ‘curacy’.
That’s what happens next,  I finish the studying and then get let loose (almost) on some unsuspecting Anglicans. Although it is 18 months away, negotiations start this year. To say this is a scary thought would be a complete understatement and frankly I’d rather not think about it. Effectively this will mean for us a church move, house move and most likely, a school move for the younger two as well.  Of course we knew this was coming but as it approaches it’s hard not to start rocking gently and talking to myself in hushed tones! Of course we are trusting in God entirely for this. After all he got us into this and he will get us out of it , errrr... I mean … find the perfect place for us.
Worshipping with Phil at Aylesford

So with that in mind, here’s some prayer points. Please do pray for us if you can spare the time. If you’re not the praying type, maybe give it  a go - you never know when God might speak…!
In the meantime thanks again for your support. With love and blessings…

Jules x

If you are a praying person we’d love some prayer! Here are a few things…

: For wisdom, especially in essay writing!
: For peace as we start to think about curacy
: For us as a family with lots of new things ahead