Reblog: The Spirit of Christ

‘Being Christ like is not a contest of holiness but a challenge to be the good news to those we encounter.’ Amen!

A Pastor's Thoughts

It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see into men’s hearts. We cannot judge, and are indeed forbidden to judge.

—- C S Lewis

How many times have you been confronted with the question, are you a Christian? Our first response is obvious, yes! For some, that response requires a great many qualifiers. Have you had a dramatic “born again” experience or , like John Wesley, has your heart been strangely warmed ? C S Lewis in his writing warns us of such qualifiers. He asserts that the spirit of Christ is far more powerful than our words and expressions. Our place as Christians is to share the love and freedom that comes from knowing that spirit to all who come our way. Anything other than that would be judging, and we…

View original post 280 more words

Reblog: ‘The Bible is a Refugee Narrative: The Church and Migration’

I have wanted to write something along these lines myself, but here it is done eloquently and succinctly. Thank you, Matt 🙂

The Left Hand of Ehud: Matt's Bible Blog

The Bible is the sweeping story of a refugee people.

It’s sometimes hard to see it as such, when bishops sit in the House of Lords and American evangelicals have access to the corridors of power. But without the stories of liberation from Egypt, and the Exile in Babylon, and the Roman oppression of Israel, the whole narrative of the Scriptures falls apart. Even the words in black and white come to us not from the rarefied atmosphere of some ancient theological powerhouse but from immigrant communities remembering the destruction of their cities, their journey into exile.

And so there’s a direct link across the ages between the antisemitic plots recorded in theBook of Estherand the refugees who arrived in the UK as part of theKindertransport; there’s a link betweenthose fleeing Aleppo and the Book of Lamentations; people looking for economic security and the

View original post 300 more words

On Autism, Family, Grief and Kindness

During the funeral for my mother-in-law last week, I made sure Prince stayed with me. I carefully explained exactly what would happen beforehand and although the girls went with my parents, Prince stayed by my side the whole time.

Prince is 17 years old and has autism. He goes to special school. He struggles with anxiety so was, of course, very worried about what the funeral would be like. I think he thought we’d all be wailing and moaning and falling over one another or something, because beforehand he was constantly asking me if it was ok that he was sad, but not very, very sad, and he was glad Grandma was not suffering any more (he didn’t word it like that but I think that’s what he meant). He also said, quite bluntly, that although he liked Grandma, he didn’t know her very well, so he wasn’t as sad as he would be if it was his other grandmother, whom he knows very well. Which is fair enough. I told him not to say that to anyone else, though!

To be honest, when we would take Grandma out (she lived in a lovely care home for the three years prior to her death) I was mostly thinking about how to manage her with her frailty and dementia (make sure she is not distressed or too tired, keep her upbeat and happy by talking to her and constantly reassuring her, even if I’ve already done exactly the same thing a dozen times or more), Prince and his autism (minimise anxiety, keep him passive), boisterous or bickering girls (make sure they’re not forgotten in the need to put Grandma and Prince’s needs first) and a husband who gets easily distracted and might not notice if his mum is about to topple over or something (keep an eye on him). This family time was lovely – my MIL was lovely – but could also be quite stressful, so encouraging anything other than quiet, non-anxious, absorbed-in-his-radios behaviour from Prince was never really the priority. I don’t mean to sound mean towards my husband. He had all the same things to deal with, along with my PTSD and CFS, so we have always had to look out for one another. My point is that I didn’t seek to encourage interaction between Prince and his grandma.

On the day of the funeral I made sure Prince was with me, to make sure he was ok. I didn’t want to risk my parents saying the wrong thing to him, however well-intentioned they may be. I sat in the pew first, followed by my son and then my husband. During his sister’s beautiful eulogy, Frank began to tear up and I saw him wiping his eyes and nose. I felt bad that I hadn’t sat in between them both, but I couldn’t move as that would distract from the eulogy. Then came my turn. I stood and walked to the front of the church and read a poem I had originally written after the death of Frank’s dad. As I came to sit back down, I deliberately sat in between Frank and Prince. I took Frank’s hand. He squeezed mine. The tears began to flow. I reached for the tissues and thanked God that I had kept it together until after my poem. Then, to my surprise, Prince took my hand in his. He didn’t say anything, but this little gesture from a young man for whom touch is anathema made me realise what a wonderful boy I have. That simple act of taking my hand meant so much to me that I can’t really describe it. You won’t know what that’s like unless you’re a parent of a child with autism yourself. Prince saw that mummy was sad and he wanted to make me feel better.

I love my boy. I love his innocence. You can take your neurotypical sons. I’m glad they have parents who love them. I’m glad they will have the chance to ‘succeed’ in life, to go to work and have a family of their own. But I wouldn’t change a hair on my boy’s head.

This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. 

Matthew 10:42, The Message

I think my boy is a true apprentice, even if he doesn’t know it.

This Changes Everything

If a person really grasps the truths of the gospel and believes it, this changes everything. How can they ever be the same again? We are recipients of amazing grace! 

From Positively Powerless by L.L. Martin

This past week began with a very poorly little Chip who threw up all over her school bag and its contents and was then wiped out on the settee for a couple of days.

Yesterday, despite my best efforts to avoid catching it, I managed to throw up all over the mirror, the wall, the carpet, myself, the bathroom floor and my husband’s dressing gown. I had been lying in bed hoping it would go away and had not factored in the time it would take to jump out of bed, grab the nearest dressing gown, run along the hall, down three stairs, turn the corner, up two stairs and along the corridor to the bathroom. Hence the awful mess. I adore our big Victorian semi, but it has a few disadvantages. Not that I would change a thing. I love our higgledy piggledy house.

My dear, kind husband cleaned it all up while I climbed straight into the shower. Prince, in his adorably honest fashion, opened his bedroom door and imperiously demanded, “What on earth is going on?! It’s four o’clock in the morning!” You just can’t get the staff these days.

I felt awful so went back to bed with a bucket. Frank was supposed to be going to his cousin’s funeral yesterday, but instead he became my nurse and took over my usual role with great gusto. He even got Prince to walk to school, which is something of a miracle. Seriously. You’ve not met Prince. Think Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, only with learning disabilities. Even the mannerisms are similar. Prince does not like having his routine disrupted o_O

I spent yesterday in bed and in pain all over my body. I think it’s related to the M.E., which is itself a neurological disorder – it’s like the pain nerves get switched on, despite there not being anything actually wrong. I’m just glad I don’t generally have pain. Lots of M.E./CFS sufferers do.

So today I am resting and reading Positively Powerless by Laura Martin. The words above struck me. How great is our God! Amazing grace. Hallelujah! When I am better I will write a review. Positively Powerless brings to light some very pertinent issues for the 21st century Church, which have never been addressed elsewhere, despite their importance. I highly recommend it. More on that later.

This is a bit of a higgledy piggledy post. Never mind. Be blessed, friends.

The Most Sacred Place

A marble slab covering the rock-carved tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City has been lifted as part of a delicate $4m restoration of the most sacred monument in Christianity…

From Jesus’s Tomb in Jerusalem Exposed by Conservationists

Reading about this made me pause and reflect on the difference between the concept of ‘religion’, with its sacred places and concrete expressions of the inexpressible, the ‘religion’ in which God, or gods, are always at arm’s length, forever requiring my obeisance and devotion-at-a-distance. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to visit Jerusalem and the church where Jesus was said to be laid to rest (albeit briefly)!

Unlike the world’s idea of ‘religion’, however, it would not be because I believed something special could occur because I was there. There is no special place in the whole of creation where God is more accessible than anywhere else. The most sacred monument in Christianity is never going to be carved in stone. It’s just not possible.

All of us who are part of the Body of Christ are the most sacred monument to His presence. God’s presence, His favour, His nearness, are never found outside of ourselves. When we choose to follow Jesus, when we choose to give ourselves back to our Creator, we are His presence. If you want to be close to Him, if you want to find a place where He can reach you, or you can reach Him, you don’t have to go anywhere; you just have to love. You just have to be kind. You just have to be.

Immerse yourself deeply among people, by sharing their life, by friendship and by love. Give yourself to them completely, like Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served; you, too, become one with them. Then you will be like leaven, which must lose itself in the dough to make it rise.

~ Little Sister Magdalene (as quoted by Contemplative in the Mud)

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest… learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls…”

~extract from Matthew 11:28,29 (NRSVA)

“Be Kind.”

 

My son, who has autism, is not able to follow stories, not very much. Watching his little sister in her yearly Christmas pantomime last year 15-year-old Prince was worried when, dressed as Maid Marian, she ran across the stage yelling, “Who shot that arrow at me? You nearly took my eye out!” Everyone else laughed but he leaned in to me and whispered, “Mummy, is Chip OK?” I told him she was just pretending and relief flooded his face. “I thought someone hurt her!” I told him it was just a joke. 

Parables, such as those consistently used by Jesus, are utterly baffling to our dear boy. Prince has to have even common expressions carefully explained. Of necessity, then, the gospel has been reduced – and reduced some more – to two words:

be kind.

This morning I read Ann Voskamp’s blog post, immediately followed by my daily bible chapters. As I read both I was struck again how simple the Good News actually is.

Truly I tell you… whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Matthew 18:18 (NRSVA)

Why don’t we let loose kindness – see what happens?

Shame; Church

It’s ironic, but the strongest resistance to the process of healing from shame is shame itself. We’re ashamed to admit that we need healing, that we have been damaged in ways that cause us shame, but to be healed we must acknowledge all of our wounds. The journey from shame to freedom, and a full life in Christ, must be a blatantly honest, nothing hidden voyage…

When you’re suffering from shame the last thing you want to do is make yourself vulnerable. Your vulnerability is one of the reasons you’re suffering from shame in the first place, so why would you want to open yourself up for more?

~ from Unashamed by Christine Caine

 

Yes, indeed the Church should be the very place for this to happen. Church should be the safest place, where everyone is vulnerable, in their different ways. Sadly, so often it’s not. Often church is somewhere we either hide our true selves (or deny they exist) or we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and lost, yet still people don’t help, don’t reach out in love, instead extending only judgement. Churches are filled with the ubiquitous Christian smile (peace be with you!.. so long as I don’t have to talk to you in any other context) glossing over doubts or failings. After all,  we can’t be a ‘good’ Christian if we show anything other than our middle-class Sunday Best. I imagine this applies to English congregations in particular. How sad. If only we would let Jesus in.

The King will answer and say to them, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it [showed kindness] for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me.

Matthew 25:40 (AMP)

Reblog: To Throw Our Pebble Unceasingly

Dorothy Day is featured in the book ‘Streams of Living Water’ by Richard Foster. A fascinating figure, especially because she wasn’t a nun (not that there’s anything wrong with being a nun!) but was just an ordinary lady. I like the pebble analogy. I can cope with pebbles. Kindness could be a pebble – a smile, a friendly face. Too often we put pressure on ourselves because the world is such a sad place and we so desperately want to share God’s transforming love. So we try to ‘save’ the world and then everything becomes overwhelming. Dunno why we think we can ‘save’ anything since Jesus already did that, but… pebbles. I can do pebbles, by grace. Thank you, God, for changing pebbles into waves and waves into tides. May we never underestimate what you can do through one small act of love. Amen.

Contemplative in the Mud

dorothyday4What we would like to do is change the world… by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world.
Dorothy Day (1897–1980)

View original post

A Twinkle in His Eye?

‘They came again to Jerusalem, and as [Jesus] was walking in the temple, the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders came to him, and they began saying to him, “By what authority do you do these things? Or who gave you this authority to do these things?”

Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John—was it from heaven, or from men? Answer me.”

They reasoned with themselves, saying, “If we should say, ‘From heaven;’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ If we should say, ‘From men’”—they feared the people, for all held John to really be a prophet. They answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Jesus said to them, “Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.”’

Mark 11:27-33 (WEB)

These people kept on and on and on bugging Jesus, trying to trip Him up so they could find something to knock Him down with (a bit like the tabloids nowadays?). They never did find anything. Jesus always, always responded with truth, mercy, compassion, wisdom, knowledge and, I like to think, a little bit of humour. Take the above, for example, I like to imagine a twinkle in the eye with that final sentence, not quite a wink, but a definite glimmer of humour, perhaps a raised eyebrow and a wry smile; kindly, funny, stern, honest, authoritative – all at once.

I’m continuing listening to the Librivox free (public domain) recording of the New Testament, read by ordinary volunteers. I’ve listened all the way through the Gospel of Matthew, and am now in the middle of Mark. Listening has brought about whole new levels of awareness of the oh-so-familiar text. I’m particularly struck by the way Jesus is described during His time of ministry (if that is what one can call it): He was relentless.

Dear Lord

Make me more like You.

Amen

Far Away and Close at Hand

CHIBOK GIRLS MISSING FOR OVER A YEAR

The girls abducted from a school in Chibok have now been missing for one year and three days. For their parents who continue to hope and pray for their return, it feels like an eternity. Of the 252 girls that were taken, 16 jumped off the trucks, four escaped after arriving in the Sambisa forest, but 232 are still missing.

It seems likely that they have been moved to another country, possibly Niger. Muhammadu Buhari, the recently elected President of Nigeria, has said that his government will ‘do everything in its power to bring them home’ but that he ‘cannot promise that we can find them’.

PLEASE PRAY:

  • Continue to pray for the protection and safe return of the Chibok girls
  • For comfort for their parents. Twenty of them have died since the girls were taken, many because of stress-related illnesses.
  • For wisdom for those who are working to secure the safe release of the girls.

From an email from Open Doors, a charity serving persecuted Christians worldwide. I can only imagine what those parents are going through. My heart goes out to them. I can’t doing anything other than pray and show my support through agencies like Open Doors. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

What about closer to home? What can we do to love those who are distraught and in our midst? Too often the response is to avoid the person, because their grief or distress is so deep that it seems overwhelming and although we might like to help, we just don’t know how. Plus, it’s scary. We fear becoming entangled in their pain and distress. We know that, as followers of Jesus, we must be kind, we must show compassion, but what can we do? I’d like to share this, which happened when I was a teenager:

My grandparents were visiting us for Christmas. On the evening they arrived, my grandmother was taken ill. She was rushed to hospital and the next few weeks were a blur as she was admitted to hospital, sent home, admitted to hospital again, had surgery… and then she died. My grandfather, my father and his brother were overwhelmed. Their grief was palpable; it seemed to hang in the air.

My grandfather stayed with us for four months after her death. One morning, I heard him sobbing. The door was open so I went in the room. I put my arm on his shoulder and stayed with him until the sobs lessened. Later that day he said to me, “How did you know?”

“How did I know what?” I replied.

“How did you know to not say anything?”

I looked him in the eye and shook my head, “I just did.”

“Thank you.” He said.

Sometimes words are not enough. Sometimes words are too much. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.