Conversations with Chip: Zombies, Spaceships and Doing the Conga

“I had a funny dream last night, Mummy,” Chip said as we made our way to school.

“Oh yes?” I replied.

“Yes. I dreamed that giant zombies came and destroyed Sir William Walters School!”

“Oh dear!” I said and, knowing the way my daughter’s mind works, added, “Was it a nightmare?”

“Not really. I dreamt that I got married to Duncan… Ugh!” She paused, clearly momentarily stunned by the revoltingness of the notion.

“So the giant zombies came and destroyed the school and you got married to Duncan…?”

“Yes. Ugh!” She shuddered again. “But it was ok because we had magic rings and we used our wedding rings to kill the zombies and restore the school! Hooray!”

We smiled at each other. “Well that sounds like it could have been a bad dream but wasn’t in the end.” I said.

“No, it wasn’t a bad dream in the end.” She smiled.

“I had a funny dream too, last night.” I said. “I dreamt I went in a spaceship to Beijing. It was great!”

“Beijing? In China?”

“Yes. But it wasn’t really… and the night before I dreamt I was in a Catholic church lining up to get communion and we were all doing the conga.”

Chip laughed. “Doing the conga?”

“Yes! And in the dream it didn’t seem weird at all. It just seemed like we were all happy and loving God.”

“Well, then, I suppose if it was real God wouldn’t mind as long as everyone was happy.”

“No, Chip, I don’t suppose He would.”

******

N.B. I take no responsibility for the state of my head, or that of my child. We both know our minds work a teensy bit differently from the norm but, hey! That’s how God made us. For any and all comments or complaints please consult the Manufacturer. We’re happy enough; we have the Manufacturer’s Guarantee 😉

A Pure Love of God

‘…all of these experiences and insights lead us to a pure love of God… We are not to retreat from society… Our experience of love propels us into the world in order to accomplish God’s work. Every social engagement, therefore, is an expression of our Christian beliefs.’

~ Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe, ‘Longing for God’

 My daughter came home from school last week singing:

“When I needed a neighbour, were you there? Were you there?

When I needed a neighbour were you there?

And the creed and the colour and the name won’t matter

Were you there? Were you there?”

It’s been decades since I last heard that song. It made me think. For a long time, when I have asked God what He wants me to do, often the only response has been, “Be a good friend.” This I have found continually baffling. Is that it? That can’t be all of it, surely?

When I heard my daughter sing, I wondered what would happen if I swapped ‘neighbour’ for ‘friend’.

When I needed a friend, were you there?

And suddenly the penny dropped. It makes a whole lot of sense. ‘Neighbour’, in my mind, despite my knowledge of the biblical description, is a somewhat vague term. My neighbour is the person who lives next door, someone I smile at and say ‘good morning’ to. My neighbour is someone who puts out our dustbin when we’re away and with whom I share the occasional friendly chat on the driveway or over the garden fence (the neighbours on the other side pretend we don’t exist and never even acknowledge our presence, even though we have lived next door for over a year now!).

So ‘neighbour’ has certain cultural connotations, despite my intellectual understanding of its use in the bible. ‘Friend’, on the other hand, I can understand: I can be a friend and I’m doing the work of God. This doesn’t mean I can use this as an excuse to only spend time with people I really like and consider it a job done, but it makes the idea of ‘love thy neighbour’ a little more accessible.

So this is what happened over this past week: Jesus tapped me on the head. I wondered how I could have missed it for so long, given that Jesus’ entire ministry was spent with His friends. D’oh!

Love your neighbour. And this is how you do it: be a good friend.

“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

“You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

“But remember the root command: Love one another.”

John 15:11-17 (The Message)

Reblog: Bible Memes You Never See

Excellent post. Chipper little bible verses are great in their own way, but they’re a signpost to the bigger picture. Too often in our instant gratification, can’t-be-bothered culture, we forget that there is a paragraph around that sentence, a chapter around that paragraph, other chapters around the original chapter, a book around those chapters and a collection of books in one cover that sets the entire context – God’s beautiful word, contained in the bible.

I think it was Adrian Plass who wrote that the bible is God’s love letter to humankind. Context is vital if we are to understand the real message of the bible. Who wrote it? What was their culture like? When was it written? Was it written by more than one person? How did it get passed down through the millennia? And then of course we get to the ‘why’. Why was this written, in this way, at the time in which it was written? Which areas have remained the same through history and are equally valid to us today? Which areas were specific to the time in which they were written?

As a Follower of Christ, the importance of the Word is dear to my heart. If I am to know it with all my ability, I have to ask these questions – I have to have context.

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

I’m thinking of publishing a new Scripture translation. I’m going to call it The Meme Bible.

Meme – a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.

Bible – a collection of texts sacred in Judaism and Christianity.

Spend any time on social media and you’ll see memes. Spend time on social media where Christians post their thoughts and you’ll see Bible memes, complete with chapter and verse, offered to inspire and encourage people through the word of God.

Yet I’ve never seen a meme for Job 2:9b. Instead, I see memes on the blessing of abiding in Christ, and on the love of God and loving one another. They always feature pleasant typeface and compelling imagery  such as rainbows, running horses, storm-tossed seas, and more images that draw the eye to the text.

Meming Responsibly

I have to…

View original post 783 more words

Prayer

‘Prayer is the deliberate and steadfast action of the soul’ wrote Julian of Norwich. At its most basic level, prayer is simply talking to God, but the nature of prayer – what it is, how it works, how it benefits us and others – has much greater implications.

Prayer tip #1: God is not a slot machine

There are some common misconceptions about prayer that are rarely spoken of within the Church, which is a huge shame. These misconceptions can lead to a sense of distance between oneself and God, diminished relationships with God and with fellow believers, a sense that God isn’t really listening or, worse, an idea that God is like some kind of heavenly slot machine who will give me what I want if only I can pray the right words, or have enough ‘faith’ (this is not faith – this is superstition, hence the inverted commas), or do the right things (this is living by rules instead of grace – also false). But God has never been a heavenly slot machine!

Right through the bible, from the very beginning, God communicates with His people on His terms – and these terms are always those of love, of relationship, not seaside superstition.

But now thus says the Lord,
    he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.

Isaiah 43:1 (NRSVA)

Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe write about Thomas Aquinas’ ideas on prayer in their book ‘Longing for God’. They write that he identified several problems or ‘mistakes’ about the nature and function of prayer:

  1. The world operates independently of God – in which case it would appear that God is utterly disinterested.
  2. Everything is fixed – if it is all already fixed, why bother praying?
  3. God changes His mind. ‘This belief arises out of our temptation to interpret certain passages inadequately, or our egocentric hope that God will soften the consequences we bring into our life by our own actions.’ 

Further, they say:

‘Prayer is not telling God what we think, or simply thanking Him for His provision of food and drink. Rather, it is our active, intentional effort to understand what God is doing and how we can join Him. Thus through prayer we become co-participants with God. God’s will sets everything in motion. Our will, directed by devotion and prayer, allows us to participate in His purposes.’ 

Longing for God, Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe

Prayer is a gift, a wonderful gift.

Humility is Strength, not Weakness

Humility… is a result of seeing ourselves properly. It involves recognising that our gifts and abilities need to be developed further. It understands that others have gifts and abilities as well. Humility allows us to see our role in the greater purposes of God’s design without feeling threatened by the achievements of others.

Foster & Beebe, Longing for God

LittlePeople

Happy are those who are humble; 

they will receive what God has promised!

Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; 

God will satisfy them fully!

Matthew 5:5,6 (GNT)

I think humility is always a good place to begin. This is a kind of motto for me, if ever I am confused or befuddled (which happens to us all more readily than we care to admit). In our me-obsessed world, humility is often confused with weakness or lack of confidence. It is neither. On the contrary, humility is not self-degradation at all but a recognition of the true value of myself and others as children of the Most High God. We are one in Him, so there is no requirement for pride. If I belong to God, I don’t have to be ‘better’, and I can never be ‘worse’. Comparison and all its ugly trappings are gone. Humility is freedom to truly be who God made me to be.

All These Things

tick box

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“All these things I have observed from my youth. What do I still lack?”

Matthew 19:20 (WEB)

Perhaps the world would be a better place if we, as Christians, instead of presenting a list of all the things we do do – tick, tick, tick the boxes – asked our Lord what we still need to do. If we did this continually, maybe we would remain in a state of humility, which is where we’re supposed to begin.

The Church is Not a Yardstick

[Jesus said] “How on earth can you believe while you are for ever looking for each other’s approval and not for the glory that comes from the one God?”

John 5:44 (PHILLIPS)

So easy to look for approval from others, rather than from God, especially when the ‘others’ are church-goers or charismatic speakers or those in positions of authority, but we don’t need to ‘measure up’ to anyone else. We just need to be ourselves. God will tell you what He wants you to do, and if He’s not telling you, then carry on with what you think right, with prayer and study and diligence, Often what God asks of us will be in line with what the Church, or Christians as a body, are doing, but sometimes it won’t. Faith, grace and mercy are not measured; they are given. You can’t add a single crumb to your salvation, but you can’t take it away, either.

As Teresa of Ávila said:

Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone is enough.

P.S. You might have guessed, but I think this post is as much a message for me as it is for anyone else. I just thank God that He reveals Himself so wonderfully through His word!

Indifference

‘Persecution is an enemy the Church has met and mastered many times;

indifference could prove to be a far more dangerous foe.’

from God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors

In my life, I can see how true this has been. Imho, indifference is one of the West’s biggest problems. We are indifferent towards our families, indifferent towards our communities, indifferent towards the environment, indifferent towards the poor, indifferent towards the lost and suffering. We justify it to ourselves, and the justifications sound good. They seem plausible, sensible even, sometimes. But Jesus taught us that the very last thing we should be is indifferent. Apathy, indifference, whatever you want to call it, is at least as destructive as ‘active’ evil. Indeed, indifference could easily be described as a ‘passive’ form of evil. Yet however you dress it up, evil is still evil. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a preacher, or a missionary, or a theologian, or [insert worthy calling of choice]. Jesus says that even a cup of water to someone who is thirsty, if it is done in His name, makes us part of His kingdom.

The people ask, “Why should we fast if the Lord never notices? Why should we go without food if he pays no attention?” [notice the rationalisation of indifference]

The Lord says to them…“The kind of fasting I want is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives…’

extract from Isaiah 58:3-7 (GNT)

‘Mummy, Sometimes I Feel Like Killing Myself’

Frank is away this week in London on business. It’s been a surreal time. I miss him terribly. It’s the longest we’ve ever been apart, but I’m making the most of the time with just me and the children. Also, it has proved the EMDR is working because I am no longer panicking and paranoid when I’m alone in the house. I am coping. Yay!

Anyway, yesterday evening, Fluff was at gymnastics. Chip had lost this privilege earlier in the week through bad behaviour so at 6 o’clock she and I were eating soup with Prince, all nice and calm, like.

“Mummy,” Prince said matter-of-factly while munching toast, “sometimes I feel like I want to kill myself.”

If your child said this to you at the dinner table, how would you react? 

I took it in my stride… we are used to brutal honesty in this house, and we are used to a young man who often says things that are completely unexpected, especially at the dinner table for some reason! He may have autism and learning disabilities, but he’s a very deep thinker (can’t think where he gets that from, can you?). So, despite the seemingly terrible tea time conversation-starter in front of his 9-year-old sister, I asked dear Prince what made him say that. I wasn’t shocked or horrified or… anything, really. I just wanted to understand what he was thinking and why.

“Because sometimes,” Prince replied, “the world just seems like such a horrible place full of horrible things and I don’t want to live in a world like that.”

Bless his beautiful black-and-white thinking. He doesn’t have the social skills to recognise why saying exactly what you think might be socially unacceptable. e.g. when we were in the supermarket and he said, horrified (and within earshot), “Mummy, why does that lady stink?!”

So we had a conversation about a world full of sin and sorrow, and a caring, loving God whose heart was breaking seeing all the misery. We talked about how He sent His Son, who willingly gave Himself to be killed in the most horrible way, to experience for Himself the very worst suffering, so that the bridge between us and God could be mended. Eventually I promised to get him a notebook so that he can write down all of his feelings and show them to his counsellor, whom he sees monthly. Then the conversation took a slightly different turn.

“I’m not sure I want to be a Christian, Mummy.” He said, “I don’t want to be like you and Daddy. It’s too hard. I just want to be able to pray sometimes.”

We talked about love and what happens when God is your friend and constant companion. We talked about how love is the only thing to make a difference in the world, how love is the only thing worth living for, and how God is love. These conversations are always challenging, because Prince’s vocabulary is limited and his comprehension is very literal. I have to keep my language very simple and straightforward, and this is quite difficult!

I thanked God for the opportunity to talk to my son about Jesus on his terms. Church and Sunday School are pitched way over Prince’s head, so he’s never going to learn from there, even if he does recognise that church people are generally kind and friendly to one another. We’ve had some conversations around the dinner table, but that one was a corker.

What about you? Have you ever had stunning questions from your offspring? How have you dealt with it?

EMDR, LENT, TRAINING

I’ve had to take a break from my studies to focus on getting well. It was the right decision, but sometimes, if I compare myself to the world, I can’t help but see all that I missed. My peers went to school; I missed school. My peers did their A-levels and went off to university; I didn’t. My peers began jobs and careers; I didn’t.

It’s not that I resent the fact that I never had any of these things, because what difference does resentment make? None! So it’s a useless, destructive thing to hang onto. Nonetheless it would be so easy to feel ‘less than’. In the past few weeks of EMDR, I have had to face the extent and depth of my brokenness, but I have been strangely surprised by my strength too. Genuinely surprised. I may not have pieces of paper to prove my ‘qualifications’, but God has had me in training for years, just as today’s email from the Open Doors ‘Step of Yes’ series said. As Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, so God has said to all of us today:

‘…you don’t need any written instructions. God himself is teaching you to love each other, and you are already extending your love… make it your ambition to have no ambition!’

1 Thessalonians 4:9,10 (JB Phillips)