Reblog: All Souls Day

 

Beautiful post about autumn, death and remembrance. I wish I had written this post!

The Left Hand of Ehud: Matt's Bible Blog

They say the dead are closer at this time of year. Maybe that’s easier to believe as the nights draw in, as the earth draws into a kind of hibernation. Here in Britain it’s a season of memories, all poppies and fireworks. Remember, remember, what we do to our enemies. Remember, remember the fallen. And while All Souls Day isn’t part of my tradition, there’s something about this time in history that’s bringing the dead closer. For me that isn’t personal mourning but corporate. It’s getting darker earlier now, and in the quiet and in the shadows it almost feels like memories are haunting us like ghosts. It’s been less than a week since a gunman murdered 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue and that can’t help but evoke the countless other times the spirit of antisemitism walked abroad. We say “Never again”, but we’re oh so good…

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Reblog: Christian…what will you read?

There’s a really good book called ‘Positively Powerless: How a Forgotten Movement Undermined Christianity’ by L.L. Martin which I can highly recommend.
Other books I can recommend: ‘God’s Smuggler’ by Brother Andrew, ‘A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power’ by Jimmy Carter, ‘Kisses from Katie’ and ‘Daring to Hope’ by Katie Davis Majors, ‘The Choice’ by Edith Eger (not a Christian book per se but one I would highly recommend), ‘A Year of Biblical Womanhood’ by Rachel Held Evans, ‘Streams of Living Water’ by Richard Foster, ‘William Wilberforce’ by William Hague (a secular biography of the devout abolitionist in which God’s presence shines through), ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence, ‘Mama Maggie: The Untold Story of One Woman’s Mission to Love the Forgotten’ by Marty Makary and Ellen Vaughn, ‘The Ragamuffin Gospel’ by Brennan Manning, ‘The Blue Parakeet’ by Scot McKnight, ‘A Life for Christ’ by Dwight L. Moody, ‘Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality’ by Richard Rohr, ‘One Thousand Gifts’ by Ann Voskamp and ‘Gospel Childhood’ by Elizabeth Ruth Obbard.

On my (Christian) to-read list: ‘The Autobiography of Ignatius of Loyola’, ‘Searching for Sunday’ by Rachel Held Evans, ‘The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul’ by Philip Doddridge, ‘Humility: the Beauty of Holiness’ by Andrew Murray, ‘The Bruised Reed’ by Richard Sibbes, ‘Man, the Dwelling Place of God’ by Tozer, ‘Sins of Omission: A Primer on Moral Indifference’ by S. Dennis Ford, ‘Eager to Love’ by Richard Rohr and ‘Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices’ by Thomas Brooks.

Enough Light

Will you read a book by an individual who had some type of near death experience and claims to have experienced heaven – But not a book that thoughtfully and carefully considers what the Bible says about heaven, such as this one: Heaven by Randy Alcorn?

Will you read a book by someone who dreamed they spent 23 minutes in hell and then wrote about it — But not a book that thoughtfully and carefully considers what the Bible says about hell, such as this one: Erasing Hell by Chan and Sprinkle?

Will you read a creative fiction book like The Shack –But not books that thoughtfully consider the biblical view of the Trinity or why bad things happen in life, such as these: Making Sense of the Trinity by Millard Erickson (only 108 pages!!) and If God is Good,Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil

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Made in God’s Image?

Even without overt sexual abuse, all young women are known to experience a descent into low self-esteem at puberty, probably as they realize their role as sexual objects.

Aron, Elaine N.. The Highly Sensitive Person (Kindle Locations 1732-1733). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Are you the parent of an adolescent – past, present or future? If not, I imagine you were one yourself, once! Do Dr. Aron’s words shock you? I hope so. I hope that they shake the core of any decent human being. If you are a mother or a father, how can we best instil into our adolescent sons the non-objectification of women and girls, given that it is e.v.e.r.y.where? Do you recognise where you yourself have objectified women, however unintentionally? This is just as much a question to women – women’s magazines, etc., attest to the fact that women buy into this objectification of one another. How can we best teach our daughters that they are worth so much more than just their physicality?

If you are a follower of Christ: Jesus is recorded on many, many occasions taking care to give particular respect and esteem to the women that He encountered, who were at the time generally treated as ‘less-than’ the men. It is clear from the New Testament that the early Christian church – the living expression of the New Covenant – was a place where women were included and valued. Jesus in fact told men, in no uncertain terms, not to objectify women. So why is this rarely addressed in churches? Why is a structure in which men’s voices are always the loudest (reflecting the world – not Christ) still the status quo? I ask this of Christian men and women, not just men. Men have to recognise their privilege and women have to recognise where they are reinforcing stereotypes against one another (which is also a reflection of the world, not Christ). We need to stop these generational inflictions on our young people. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – and all, by grace, are lifted up and made beautiful. A healthy self-esteem is a recognition that we are bound, in this earthly body, to fall and to fail, but that we have a dignity bestowed by a loving Creator, who made us in His image.

There are words of hope for those for whom this is a daily struggle, for whatever reason, and they come from the same chapter; Jesus was on a roll that day 😉 Can you imagine what it would have been like to actually hear Him speak, to be there in His presence? Amazing!

Jesus said:

Blessed [spiritually prosperous, happy, to be admired] are the poor in spirit [those devoid of spiritual arrogance, those who regard themselves as insignificant], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].

Matthew 5:3, Amplified

Sometimes blessings come from the places we least expect, eh?

What are your thoughts on the prevalence of the objectification of women in Western culture and on the subsequent effects on young people? Is it something you have given any thought to? How do you think men and women within the church can respond?

 

No More

The killing of people enjoying a concert is unimaginable. I just can’t get into the mindset of someone who would do such a thing. What could they possibly hope to achieve? Manchester – such a great city, so vibrant and full of life. Death and destruction have no place here.

Violence begets violence and evil begets evil – the spiral descending. There is only one way out: say no. No more violence. In its place, compassion. No more hate. In its place, loving kindness. No more revenge. In its place, open-armed forgiveness. Hatred has no place here.

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…no more shall the sound of weeping be heard…
    or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
    an infant that lives but a few days,
    or an old person who does not live out a lifetime…

Before they call I will answer,
    while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
    the lion shall eat straw like the ox…

Isaiah 65:19,20,24,25 (NRSVA)

My thoughts and prayers, with deepest sympathy, are with the victims and families of the Manchester bombing. My prayers are also for the misguided souls on the path of destruction who think this is a ‘righteous’ thing to do. May they all know the love of the risen Christ, who overcame sin and in its place gives new life. May they know the peace that passes understanding. May those of us on the outside, looking in, find a role in repairing the damage done by this terrible tragedy – all the while knowing that the holes blown in families’ hearts are never going to be filled.

A voice is heard in Ramah,
    lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
    she refuses to be comforted for her children,
    because they are no more.

Jeremiah 31:15

 

 

The Antithesis of Anamnesis

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I learned a new word this week: anamnesis. If you’re a medical person it means taking a patient history, but in a theological context it means a remembering – the act of remembering the last supper and the crucifixion in the re-enactment that is the eucharist.

Jesus gave us this one thing to remember Him by. Only one. And when we do it we are bringing to mind the night that He sat with His friends, knowing He was about to be betrayed, tortured and killed – and told them to love one another and to remember, always remember, this meal that they had shared. When we take communion we share again with the disciples, all unknowing, the mystery of the sacrifice.

‘For though we are many, we are one body’ says the Anglican prayer. Are we broken enough for Him? Are we welcoming of brokenness, for His sake? Do we allow ourselves to be broken in the breaking and the making of His Kingdom?

This is my body, broken for you.

When Jesus spoke these words He gave us something to replace the remembering that took place every year at Passover. The seder meal was (and is) a remembering of the slavery of the Israelites, and a symbolic re-enactment of their redemption, by grace. Our 21st century eucharist is a remembering, a symbolic re-enactment of our redemption, by grace, through Christ.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the opposite of this. PTSD is a remembering and an unwitting re-enactment of something awful that won’t let go. It is a suspension of time and space and a re-living, a re-experiencing, of the awfulness that caused it to be labelled a ‘trauma’ in the first place. Trauma is the Greek word for wound. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a wound that won’t heal, a festering, gangreous wound. Just for extra fun, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is when you experience so many wounds and so many un-forgettings that it screws you up even more.

But maybe – maybe we have to be broken?

By His wounds we are healed.

Do the healthy need a doctor?

All I know is that I am broken. A million pieces broken. Yet I have a feeling that there is something very special in this brokenness. I have a feeling that PTSD, and its unwilling anamnesis, is a direct, if unconscious echo of the extraordinary beauty of the eucharist. Time heals all wounds, they say (it doesn’t) but I don’t want it to heal this one. Maybe this PTSD is the 21st century equivalent of stigmata? It makes no sense. It makes perfect sense.

Lord, I have cried ‘take this cup away from me’ and I have meant it. And yet I would not want You to take Your cup away – because that would take You with it. I am so sorry for my unfaithfulness, for my pathetic attempts at loving You. I have nothing and I can give nothing. Fill me with You till I am overflowing with Your grace. Amen

 

Transitory

Two versions of the same thing:

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message)

Therefore we do not become discouraged [spiritless, disappointed, or afraid]. Though our outer self is [progressively] wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day by day. For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendor and an endless blessedness]! So we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are visible are temporal [just brief and fleeting], but the things which are invisible are everlasting and imperishable.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (AMP)

With Christ it’s no longer a ‘this, too, shall pass’ – along the lines of Ecclesiastes – but a ‘this changes; I change’ by the grace of our dear Saviour. I’ve always loved the word ‘ephemeral’. It’s a cool word. It means that something is fleeting, changing, short-lived. But it always brings to mind the image of a butterfly, and then the word ‘ethereal’ seems to be intimately connected.

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How can I say no to this ephemeral, ethereal thing called Life?

Exclusion

I had to fill in a form for my new doctor. I have finally been given an appointment to see a CFS/ME specialist. It included questions that asked me to compare my current state with my ‘normal’ state. I am flummoxed by questions like these. I was diagnosed with this condition when I was 14. I have never lived a ‘normal’ adult life. Then there was the question of employment. I never chose to be a housewife, although I’m trying to do the job well. Coerced away from education and into my first marriage and immediate motherhood at the age of 21 I never had an occupation, as such, so it’s no good asking me about this. I never chose to be a mother (yes, you did read that right and yes it probably does mean what you think it means…) and I never chose to be a housewife, just as I never chose to have this condition or to be abused or to end up with PTSD.

In that moment I understood what it is to be excluded from general society, to be treated as less than human. There was no box for me to tick. The assumptions were already made. Perhaps that is why my response to those whom society has excluded is so strong. I get it. It sucks. It’s wrong. They and I are no better than anyone else, but equally no worse. They and I, like every human being, are made in the image of God. We are all God-breathed.

This morning God spoke to me through His Word and it directly relates. You may find it useful, too, so I share it here:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.

1 Corinthians 12:12-26 (NRSVA)

So the people that seem small and insignificant are deemed ‘indispensable’? That’s good. I’m ok then. How about you? And how does this change the way we view our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world? How does this change the way we view our potential brothers and sisters in Christ around the world? Why do Christians follow worldly ideals and create ‘celebrity’ Christians?

 

Reblog: If you preach that wealth and health are a sign of God’s favor, what do you do when you begin to lose both?

Laura Martin’s book ‘Positively Powerless’ is an excellent book. It addresses the completely overlooked issue of the ‘positivity gospel’ – the subtle, yet pernicious, sibling of the prosperity gospel. Both reduce God and Jesus to little more than a vending machine. If you have not yet read this book, please do. It will change your thinking and may even change your life.

 

Enough Light

The theme of my book is about the perils of the “positive thinking” movement – how it overtly and subtly influenced Christianity – ultimately weakening our everyday lives of faith. My emphasis was primarily on the subtle. The overt, such as the development of the prosperity gospel, I only briefly touched upon. But my point is that I have 2 interesting links to share:

      • In February, CNN had this article about Pastor Eddie Long who died of cancer and his ministry fell apart: The Bishop Eddie Long I knew, 3 revelations from a megachurch pastor’s messy legacy. The article addresses, in part, how the prosperity gospel fails when it comes to dealing with adversity. “But there was something undeniably sad about Long not being able to level with those at New Birth who’d stuck by him when everyone else had fled. I suspect some of that inability comes from the…

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When to Judge

…what business is it of mine to judge outsiders (non-believers)?… God alone sits in judgement on those who are outside [the faith]. REMOVE THE WICKED ONE FROM AMONG YOU [expel him from your church].

1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (AMP)

How often have those within the Church sought to impose their beliefs on those outside the Church? How often have those within the Church sought to cover up acts of pure wickedness in an attempt to keep up appearances, to save face or to maintain the impression of an impeccable leadership? I wish it were possible to say ‘never’.

Book Review: Secret Keeper

This is a replica of what I posted over on Goodreads. It is not a favourable review (and is rather brief), but nonetheless I thought its content worth sharing on my blog:

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Modesty exists for women and girls only…? Men lust after women but women never lust after men? Bathsheba was the *cause* of King David’s lust and subsequent murder of her husband because she was beautiful so she must have done something to provoke him? A naked 19th century statue is evidence of what ‘true modesty’ looks like? Bizarre. Just bizarre.

Modesty is a frame of mind, not just for women and girls but for men and boys, too. It is not just the way I dress but my entire attitude to life. THIS is what a decent book on modesty would say. This book is not going anywhere near my daughters. A book addressing modesty should be about boys and girls, men and women, respecting one another and respecting themselves and their physical bodies.