Gratitude

Hello, blogland! How’s things? Happy Advent.

Here I am listening to Shaun Groves’ Christmas album while my girls are colouring a Christmas scroll. I’ve tidied and cleaned and done the laundry and put the clothes away and made the beds and done the dishes and cooked the dinner (home made bread and my own Delish Fish Dish). And rested. I still have to rest quite a lot. I spent the day doing housework and listening to a mixture of big band, blues and gospel music interspersed with the wonderful Juliet Stevenson reading Jane Eyre.

images

From JoyWares

After dinner we did our Jesse Tree readings and lit the candles of our Advent wreath, then we played a game of Star Wars Happy Families. I have never been more content. I have everything I need and more. Strange. All I feel is thankfulness.

The End of Advent

Advent when you are a child is a time of great expectancy. It is a time of tinsel and lights and parties and nativity plays and fun. On the final day, Father Christmas brings you a sack full of goodies and you eat your own weight in chocolate and mince pies before the end of the year.

Sometimes, Christmas is like that for adults, too. Many of us focus on the glittering, the twinkling, the excuse for a drink or two – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But Christmas isn’t an excuse for a party. Advent isn’t the preparation for gluttony and falling asleep after the Queen’s Speech. Advent is the time we expect the unexpected, yet long-awaited, child who was to rescue the world. In a desperately dark time, when there was famine and dissent and war, Jesus’ contemporaries awaited a saviour who would perhaps sweep across the Middle East, who would destroy their enemies and become a powerful, warrior king – King David with knobs on. But God didn’t choose to be the great destroyer; God instead redeemed His people by sending Himself as a baby.

A baby…?

Then, when He was still small, Jesus became a refugee – the lowest of the low, the least of the least.

There are many Christian refugees fleeing persecution as I write

read more here and find out how you can help these desperate people.

since you have plenty at this time… you should help those… in need.

2 Corinthians 8:14 (GNT)

 

The God of heaven became the God of earth by taking not the form of the most mighty, but the form of the most vulnerable. Like His death on the most gruesome, humiliating piece of torture equipment that the ancient world could imagine (crucifixion was the Roman idea of absolute subjugation of the occupied nation – more on that during Lent, perhaps)… yes, like Jesus’ death, His birth was, and still is, totally, utterly, beyond counter-intuitive – it’s counter-counter-counter intuitive; it’s virtually insane. God becoming man is crazy enough. But before He became a man, He entered the world as we all do, ‘between the p*** and the s***’ to quote St. Augustine. What God is this who would make of Himself a tiny, squalling, red-in-the-face, blood smeared ball of humanity, utterly dependent and utterly vulnerable? What crazy God is this? And what woman was Mary that God entrusted her with His precious son? Does this give an insight into the Roman Catholic reverence for the ‘mother of God’, perhaps?

Our world is still crazy and screwed up and filled with sorrow. It is also thriving, beautiful and filled with joy. How can it be all of these things, all at once? To paraphrase Ann Voskamp, it’s not the screwed-up-ness of the world that is noteworthy, it’s the good bits – they’re the most crazy… and the good bits were made flesh incarnate in the form of our tiny, newborn king.

Come, O come, Emmanuel…

God

with

us.

Teaching Your Child about Jesus: What Not to Do…

We were running very late on Friday with dinner because we were making homemade scone base pizzas and we didn’t even start until we’d got back from the pool. The pool doesn’t open until half five and Prince* was soooooo slow getting changed afterwards that by the time we got home it was seven o’clock. Little Chip was still eating when I decided to go ahead and begin lighting the candles on the advent wreath and reading Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. Conveniently, the advent wreath was in situ in the dining room.

“Today’s reading is,” I began, and then I looked at my daughter, who was pushing food around her plate making a face instead of eating it. I gave her ‘the look’ and she stopped. I cleared my throat.

“Today’s reading is…” She started it again. “Chip, eat your pizza!”

I suddenly realised what I had said and we all collapsed into giggles.

*Yes, we actually now have a young man who will get in the pool, ‘swim’ a little and get himself showered and changed afterwards. This is nothing short of a miracle!

Waiting

We’re waiting for Christmas in this season of advent, waiting for Christ the Redeemer, the Rescuer. As for me, I’m still waiting for EMDR therapy. It’s been nearly two years since I was first assessed by psychological services (or whatever the heck they’re called). I had to see several different people, for several different assessments. On the second appointment, the woman asked me “So, how do you compare yourself as you are now to how you are normally?”

I considered this and eventually replied, “I don’t know. I’ve never really known what ‘normal’ is like.” I then told her a brief life history. She referred me on. And then the next person referred me on. And then the next one put me on the EMDR waiting list.

Sometimes something will trigger a memory and I struggle to maintain a hold on reality, on normality. And then, even though I manage much better these days to keep the veneer of ‘okayness’, I feel drained and discouraged. I can’t even talk about the triggers, because they’re too personal, too intimate. Why do I feel ashamed of these ‘intimate’ triggers and their ‘intimate’ effects? I’m too tired to even be angry about it all any more. It just is. But being awash with disgust is soul destroying. It’s disabling in the very real sense of the word. What is the most disgusting thing that you can think of? What makes you physically nauseated just to think about it? Can you imagine living with that, and the shame and disgust associated with your own, private being, within your own self? I know that the shame is not mine, but because it is linked to me in such a deeply personal way, it is mine. I hope that when I do finally have the EMDR therapy I can be stronger, more resilient and better able to take care of everyone. I try my best, for the children in particular. Every day. One day at a time, but for how many days? I waited before. I waited and waited for years and years and years for God to act, for God to intervene, for God to stop the evil.

In the past few years I have read the following passage several times and wondered why it’s there. I have wrestled with it. God doesn’t intervene to save the woman. God doesn’t even punish the murderers, or the cowardly men who pushed her outside to save their own skins. Her ‘husband’, who had just travelled for days and days across the country in order to fetch her back after she had run off  – ‘husband’ in inverted commas because she doesn’t even warrant the status of a wife, she is less than a wife; she is property, thing – this man who is at least supposed to protect her instead deliberately pushes her into the midst of a violent, seething mob. She is attacked and violated so viciously that she dies. And what happens?

God

Does

Nothing.

…[The] servant said to his master, “Why don’t we stop and spend the night here in this Jebusite city?”

But his master said, “We’re not going to stop in a city where the people are not Israelites. We’ll pass on by and go a little farther and spend the night at Gibeah…”… It was sunset when they came to Gibeah… They went into town and sat down in the city square, but no one offered to take them home for the night.

While they were there, an old man came by…  The old man noticed the traveller in the city square and asked him, “Where do you come from? Where are you going?”

The Levite answered, “We… are on our way home deep in the hill country of Ephraim. No one will put us up for the night, even though we have… everything we need.”

The old man said, “You are welcome in my home! I’ll take care of you; you don’t have to spend the night in the square.” So he took them home with him and fed their donkeys. His guests washed their feet and had a meal. They were enjoying themselves when all of a sudden some sexual perverts from the town surrounded the house and started beating on the door. They said to the old man, “Bring out that man that came home with you! We want to have sex with him!”

But the old man went outside and said to them, “No, my friends! Please! Don’t do such an evil, immoral thing! This man is my guest. Look! Here is his concubine and my own virgin daughter. I’ll bring them out now, and you can have them. Do whatever you want to with them. But don’t do such an awful thing to this man!” But the men would not listen to him. So the Levite took his concubine and put her outside with them. They raped her and abused her all night long and didn’t stop until morning.

At dawn the woman came and fell down at the door of the old man’s house, where her husband was. She was still there when daylight came. Her husband got up that morning, and when he opened the door to go on his way, he found his concubine lying in front of the house with her hands reaching for the door. He said, “Get up. Let’s go.” But there was no answer. So he put her body across the donkey and started on his way home. When he arrived, he went in the house and got a knife. He took his concubine’s body, cut it into twelve pieces, and sent one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Everyone who saw it said, “We have never heard of such a thing! Nothing like this has ever happened since the Israelites left Egypt! We have to do something about this! What will it be?”

Extract from Judges 19

Why is this passage even in the bible! I’m sure there have been arguments and debates over this, but my (unlearned) opinion is that this passage is here, in Judges, part of the inspired Word of God, for people like me: people for whom someone could have acted to stop evil, people for whom someone should have acted to stop evil, and people for whom the help didn’t come.

Hundreds of years after this woman (she is not even given the dignity of a name) was brutalised, Jesus came. He was rejected, beaten, humiliated, shamed for sins not his own. In Jesus, in His birth, His life, His teaching, in His healing, His death and resurrection, that woman and I, we find hope. I find myself.

‘Jesus Is Rejected at Nazareth

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath he went as usual to the synagogue. He stood up to read the Scriptures and was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed
     and announce that the time has come
    when the Lord will save his people.”

Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. All the people in the synagogue had their eyes fixed on him, as he said to them, “This passage of scripture has come true today, as you heard it being read.”

They were all well impressed with him and marveled at the eloquent words that he spoke. They said, “Isn’t he the son of Joseph?”

He said to them, “I am sure that you will quote this proverb to me, ‘Doctor, heal yourself.’ You will also tell me to do here in my hometown the same things you heard were done in Capernaum. I tell you this,” Jesus added, “prophets are never welcomed in their hometown. Listen to me: it is true that there were many widows in Israel during the time of Elijah, when there was no rain for three and a half years and a severe famine spread throughout the whole land. Yet Elijah was not sent to anyone in Israel, but only to a widow living in Zarephath in the territory of Sidon. And there were many people suffering from a dreaded skin disease who lived in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha; yet not one of them was healed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were filled with anger. They rose up, dragged Jesus out of town, and took him to the top of the hill on which their town was built. They meant to throw him over the cliff, but he walked through the middle of the crowd and went his way.’

Luke 4:16-30

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word do I hope.

Come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel.

For we are all

Captive as well,

Lord,

Ransom captive Israel.

Reblog: Advent Activities

I am so looking forward to using our advent wreath this year, with the accompanying book Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. We are going to inherit my parents’ Christmas tree and we’ll decorate with home made ornaments created using origami and salt dough. Today is ‘make Christmas cards’ day, using cards from last year 😀

I am also thrilled to be trying out Ann’s guide to a grateful Christmas, where the focus is gently moved away from consumerism and back towards a celebration of the birth of the most special baby.

My Make Do and Mend Year

As Christmas of My Make Do and Mend Year approached a couple of years ago, I had a rant about advent calendars, and blogged about my idea for doing an activity each day with the Smalls.
I totally LOVE this idea, probably more than the kids do. They have been bought Lego calendars by a relative, which I am sure will be a billion times more exciting than my attempts to step away from consumerism, but I am determined to persevere with this idea!

So for anyone else wanting to do a similar thing, here is my list of 24 Advent Activities for you to pick from if you’d like 🙂
I’ve tried to vary it a bit from last years, but some of these things are becoming tradition.
(I know it’s probably too late now, but if you are still wanting a homemade Advent calendar, then there are…

View original post 716 more words

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

It’s that time of year again. You know, when all the Hallowe’en gear starts appearing in every shop. My children ask whether they can join in. I say no, and explain why. Again. Here in the UK Hallowe’en is a combination of an old, rather dark tradition with 21st century consumerism, as copied from the US.

When I was a child Hallowe’en was a bit of a nonentity. Bonfire Night on 5th November was the big, fun celebration. Hallowe’en was never really an issue one way or the other. There was certainly no expectation of trick or treating. It was something a very few, odd children did, only to be shooed away by a stern, “No thank you!” from my mother followed by an immediate shutting of the door (much the same as when the Jehovah’s Witnesses came knocking). But it’s different now. Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night are a kind of extended festival. I have no problem celebrating the prevention of an act of terrorism in 1605, though I do take issue with the burning of effigies resembling Guy Fawkes or anyone else. That’s all a bit too pagan for me, personally.

So where does the 21st century British Christian stand when it comes to Hallowe’en? Do we ban it with a single stroke? Or do we allow our children to join in because ‘it’s just a bit of fun’ and we don’t want them to be singled out at school? I have never felt comfortable with either of these responses. I do believe that, whatever its origins and circuitous routes through the ages and various belief systems, the modern celebration is a celebration of darkness and scary stuff. And that doesn’t sit right with me. There are so many more things in our culture and in our world for us to be afraid of than ghosts and witches! I do talk about those things quite candidly with my family, and we also discuss what our response should be to the horrors of the world, as followers of Christ. My children know that life is not easy, it is rarely fair and it takes courage to stand up for what is right.

Last year I had a bit of an epiphany when it came to Hallowe’en, after viewing this video:

We bought party bags and filled them with sweets, as well as some lovely little leaflets from The Good Book Company: (see below). We handed them out when the mini ghosts and ghouls came knocking, and we talked (among ourselves) about how, when we know Jesus, we celebrate every day the light that shatters the darkness.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.

John 1:5 (GNT)

“I am the light of the world,” Jesus said.

“Whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness.”

 John 8:12 (GNT)

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It turns out that, just like everything else, Christ turns our expectations and understandings on their head! It is not the darkness we celebrate, but the victory over darkness that has already been won. This is why, in just a few weeks time, Christians all over the world will begin the season known as ‘Advent’ – the quiet waiting for the birth of the Light, promised so long ago by the prophet:

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
They lived in a land of shadows,
    but now light is shining on them…

He will be called, “Wonderful Counselor,”
    “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,”
    “Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:2,6 (GNT)

Rabbiting On

While I am learning to rest (very hard – resting is terribly boring), I have been sharing books with Fluff (10) and Chip (8). I read two chapters and they read one. I say learning to rest because it’s so hard to not overdo it and end up in bed a day later hardly able to move… stoopid neurons!

Anyway, I just wanted to share what we have been reading:

kerr

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is the semi-autobiographical story of Anna, a little girl growing up in Berlin in 1933, who has to run away with her family because – as she learns – they are Jewish. I say semi-autobiographical because it (and the two sequels) are based on the life of Judith Kerr, well-known children’s author and illustrator of books such as The Tiger who Came to Tea.

We have also watched some of The World at War on DVD, which was a useful discussion-starter (still as powerful as ever!). It is wonderful to share books with my girls, especially as they grow. Some good discussions result and I know my girls are learning, in a small way, that life can be unpredictable, that great evil can and has been inflicted on human beings by human beings, and that at the same time great love and courage has been shown from one human being to another, sometimes when they had never even met before. Of course, in my view this is a reflection of the abounding, unending love that is God, made incarnate in the Son, and reflected (perhaps more weakly) in Followers of Jesus; this is why it’s actually a great book to read during Advent. It’s also an eye-opener reading this book from an adult’s perspective. Kerr is a gifted writer and I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

I had better go – I have  a little girl to pick up from school. The other one’s off with “tonsillitis in my eye… no, I mean convuntilitis… no, I mean conjunctivitis“. Chip’s so funny – yesterday she said, “I’m sensitive, aren’t I, Mummy?” (we were having a discussion about different personalities).

“What makes you say that?” I asked, cautiously. ‘Sensitive’ is not a word I’d readily associate with my bright, bubbly, monkeyish youngest.

“Cos I’m sensitive to tickling…” She said, without a trace of a smile. I tried to stifle my giggles. What a blessing children are 😉

My Soul Waits

Although I have been resting a lot lately, I have also been contemplating God and His word. I heard this song earlier – a melody at least 1000 years old – and it brought to mind Psalm 130, one of the most beautiful of all the psalms. It voices the cry of humanity for the gap within our souls to be filled. In this time of Advent, of waiting and expectation, we know that we can wait with hope. And that is a blessing.

Psalm 130

Waiting for Divine Redemption

A Song of Ascents.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.’

(NRSVA)