Monday, 27 September 2010


Rachel Olsen over at Proverbs 31 has a big giveaway I commented this on her blog:
Perfectionism rears its grotesque head in my relationships. I want to get on with everyone, be liked by everyone, be loved by many and have NO CONFLICT WHATSOEVER in my life. I just, quite simply, want all my relationships to be perfect.
Life isn't like that. It's messy. Imperfect.
I just need to realise that...easier said than done. Help Lord!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Church - what's it all about, then?

It’s over a year since we felt we had to ‘leave’ our church and go to help a friend who is in charge of a tiny elderly Anglican parish church. (How we came to do that is a story in itself, but there is no doubt about what we had to do.)

The problem is: HOW?

We began by attending an Alpha course with some of the members – well over two dozen in a church which must number between 50 and 100 regular attendees. We’d go to a service occasionally – usually once a month, when there was an alternative evening service.

Then we joined the follow-up home group. And started to realize we needed to attend services more often. Our friend’s leading is evangelical, focused, alive. The service is Anglican, fixed, intent on ritualized prayers and ceremony.

We’re struggling.

We’ve only really been attending Anglican church services in the last ten years and even then, up to a couple of years ago, they have been more non-denominational in flavor than Church of England. Before that, we worshipped wherever we could, but mostly in non- or inter-denominational settings. Fortunately, we have both been brought up with the rituals surrounding the catholic traditions – both Roman and Anglican – so it’s not so strange as it could be.

But we’re still struggling, missing the liveliness of modern worship. We feel as if we're in danger of shrivelling up.

So now we’re having to reassess what 'church' means, why we go, what its purpose is, or our purpose in attending the services...a major reason seems to be just to keep in touch with people! And yet ‘a sacrifice of praise’ comes to mind. I take comfort in knowing that much of the ritual and liturgy is steeped in the Bible, that the rote prayers we say are the living Word of God and that He will accomplish what He wants through our obedience when we gather to worship him, even if it’s not in a way we feel comfortable with or which feeds our emotions.

It's good to review our faith and what it means in practice - just rather a shock after all this time of 'going' to church as well as 'being church'. We are seeing changes in people, though, which is encouraging - but certainly not new people coming along. It's as if God wants to grow IN people rather than increase numbers. We go to the home group at the vicarage which is every fortnight and now try to be more intentional about meeting up with folk in between as well.

It’s certainly much easier just to ‘go’ to church, rather than work out how to ‘be’ church. But I don’t want to be a ‘tick the box’ Christian. I want to help disciple the dear friends we’ve made this last year. I want to be involved…I suppose that is what ‘church’ is all about…

Saturday, 25 September 2010


I've just read a quite totally inspiring blog entry from Can't Cook a Lick.  I loved this. I'd just been thinking about blogging on honesty, and being real, thinking specifically about how unwittingly I present myself as 'together' on my blog and in my life when in reality there is a lot of mess:  those who I've loved and lost; those I have hurt and have hurt me; those whom I have judged...I could go on. And on.

It's quite hard to live with relationship failure, isn't it?

Monday, 20 September 2010

Simple pleasures

I was so inspired by Rachel Olsen’s blog carnival title ‘Simple Pleasures’ that I blogged immediately on my home page. I thought of so many! But my main focus is a simple pleasure that means a great deal to me – and, I hope, to my friends.

I’ve blogged before about my monthly breakfast meetings. I’m inspired by Hebrews 10:25 (New International Version): Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another… or, as The Message puts it: Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love…

There is nothing that energizes me as much as meeting with like-minded friends round the table, with even the simplest of meals, talking and living with Jesus. I just love ‘God-talk’. Whole-hearted, open-hearted, tender-hearted discussion about what it means to be a friend of Jesus.

So once a month I get up at ‘work time’ on a Saturday. I lay the table with a pretty tablecloth, china, a few flowers, cutlery and napkins. I serve croissants or home-made fruit bread or buns. I cut up fruit, arranging it on a platter. Around 6 – 12 women gather for breakfast. We all have very busy lives and work full-time outside the home. So this is a little oasis for us as we meet for a couple of hours, sharing our struggles as we work out our salvation in our work places. We talk about serving Jesus through serving our colleagues; about prayer; about witness; about being REAL.

Simply a pleasure.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Approaching God.

I have just written a review on Amazon of my friend Lisa's book, Approaching God. I am so proud to know her. I have long envied her lineage of solid Christian family, large home church and extensive Christian network. Yet her life is not in the past: she makes friends continually, loving everyone she meets. This book has arisen out of her involvement with the 24-7 prayer movement.

I still envy her, but in an intensely proud way: I appreciate her many gifts and talents. It's a little like being a friend of Jesus. Hugely beneficial.

Read the book.

Here is a review of it:
'Approaching God'  is a brilliant little book. The warmth seeps through its pages, encouraging us to approach God in prayer. Using a mixture of personal anecdotes, beautiful photographs and relevant Scripture, Lisa Borden encourages us to approach God in prayer as she invites us to consider different aspects of God. We may not have considered God as 'Mother' or 'Artist' before, but Lisa shows us how we may do so, along with more conventional ideas of God as Friend, Father, Healer and Guide. These all help us to approach God in prayer. A great gift for believers of all ages and spiritual maturity.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Challenges for the Working Gal: practising His presence

Everyone knows that teaching is not a ‘proper’ job – we start our day late, finish early and then have all those long holidays... ha ha ha! I’ve had 7 weeks ‘off’ work! Yet I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that I have been busy. My family eat better, the house is cleaner and jobs which have been stacked up for months have finally been done..and of course there has been more time for them.

Yet I am conscious that I have been too busy for God. That, sometimes, ikt is easier to be in touch with God during a busy term than it is throughout the long summer holiday. I know I need to get back to living my life more from the Inside Out – letting my spiritual life come to the fore rather than let my outer life – my thoughts, my emotions, what happens to me – ‘dictate’ my spiritual health. I want to ‘glow’ with God’s presence.

This is REALLY important at work.

Yes, but how can I live more ‘naturally’? ‘Practicing the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence seemed like a good place to start.

Br Lawrence had 6 practices which are, in brief:

1. Find joy in God’s company. Talk to him. Yes, but how?
2. Every action is an opportunity for fellowship with God: for being with him. How do we do this?
3. Everything we do should be thoughtful, considerate and disciplined, done to seek God’s approval. How can I remember? How can I stop being too impulsive?
4. We should stop to inwardly worship God in the middle of our busyness, whatever we are doing. Praising, asking, giving of ourselves, thanking... What effect does this have? (Turning our focus on God turns our focus away from ourselves and we become less self-centred)
5. Believe that God is in our hearts and that he sees and knows everything. Know that our Creator is infinitely perfect: what is the implication of this? (God is just, and we owe him justice in all our thoughts, words and actions.)
6. Recognise where we need God: know our weaknesses. We need to turn to God, worship Him humbly, be honest about our weaknesses and ask for His help. Yes, but how? We know we can’t do it alone, but....??

The Holy Spirit helps us. Mark 13:11

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

I don’t know how you imagine receiving the Holy Spirit. John 20:22 says:
And with that he (Jesus) breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.” ,and in Acts 1 Jesus gave the apostles instructions through the Holy Spirit.

I had an odd revelation a while back. I’ve never really quite grasped how the Holy Spirit – who is a person, one of three in the Trinity – can be ‘in’ me. If I’ve thought about it, I would have envisaged the Holy Spirit as a little elf or sprite, flitting around my head, whispering good advice. Yet, when I read again recently that the Holy Spirit is a PERSON (yes, I’m a bit slow, need things repeated several times) and that He is JESUS here with me on earth, I now envisage the Holy Spirit as something that I can only describe as like an inner bodysuit. It’s almost as if, in a good way and without ‘taking me over’ the Holy Spirit has landed on me (as you see sometimes in science fiction films where an alien takes over a human’s body!) and then invaded every cell, living in and alongside me as a complete person within me.

And so how can we benefit from Brother Lawrence’s example and advice? He read the Gospels; occupied himself with continued acts of worship and of love, asking God’s help in everything he did. Then he would thank God when he had done it, and confess his shortcomings.

And how did he perceive God’s presence with him? He called it
A simple act or a clear and distinct knowledge of God;
A hazy vision of Him;
A diffuse and loving gaze;
A remembering of God;
A wordless conversation with him;
Confidence in God, the life and peace of the soul...

(from the chapter entitled ‘Concerning the Presence of God’)

Isaiah 57 verse 15 says:

For this is what the high and lofty One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
"I live in a high and holy place,
but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.

So my prayer is from Psalm 51:10-12 (NIV)
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Facing up

Facing up to…failure; grief; problems; disappointments
Facing up to…God: turning one’s face up to God

These are Max Lucado's thoughts, from Facing Your Giants

David: David summoned all the officials of Israel to assemble at Jerusalem: the officers over the tribes, the commanders of the divisions in the service of the king, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of all the property and livestock belonging to the king and his sons, together with the palace officials, the mighty men and all the brave warriors.
King David rose to his feet and said: "Listen to me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. But God said to me, 'You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.'

What do you do with the "but God" moments in life? When God interrupts your good plans, how do you respond?

…what about David? When God changed David's plans, how did he reply? (You'll like this.)

He followed the "but God" with a "yet God."
"Yet, the LORD, the God of Israel, chose me from all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever. For He has chosen Judah to be a leader; and in the house of Judah, my father's house, and among the sons of my father He took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel." (1 Chron. 28:4 NASB)

Reduce the paragraph to a phrase, and it reads, "Who am I to complain? David had gone from runt to royalty, from herding sheep to leading armies, from sleeping in the pasture to living in the palace. When you are given an ice cream sundae, you don't complain over a missing cherry.

David faced the behemoth of disappointment with "yet God." David trusted.

His "but God" became a "yet God."

Who's to say yours won't become the same?

2 Samuel 12:18-23 (The Message)
After Nathan went home, GOD afflicted the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and he came down sick. David prayed desperately to God for the little boy. He fasted, wouldn't go out, and slept on the floor. The elders in his family came in and tried to get him off the floor, but he wouldn't budge. Nor could they get him to eat anything. On the seventh day the child died. David's servants were afraid to tell him. They said, "What do we do now? While the child was living he wouldn't listen to a word we said. Now, with the child dead, if we speak to him there's no telling what he'll do."
David noticed that the servants were whispering behind his back, and realized that the boy must have died.
He asked the servants, "Is the boy dead?"
"Yes," they answered. "He's dead."
David got up from the floor, washed his face and combed his hair, put on a fresh change of clothes, then went into the sanctuary and worshiped. Then he came home and asked for something to eat. They set it before him and he ate.
His servants asked him, "What's going on with you? While the child was alive you fasted and wept and stayed up all night. Now that he's dead, you get up and eat."
 "While the child was alive," he said, "I fasted and wept, thinking GOD might have mercy on me and the child would live. But now that he's dead, why fast? Can I bring him back now? I can go to him, but he can't come to me."

Psalm 9
9 The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.


I’ve been challenged recently that God is the god of small things that become great in his kingdom. It’s very easy to become discouraged when we don’t see change, or it seems that what we do at work is fine but God doesn’t seem to be in it…Yet God sees things differently and I’ve come to realize the truth of Matthew 10:29:"What's the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head!

Although this passage teaches us that we are so valuable to God, I think it also gives a glimpse of our world as God sees it – EVERYTHING, however small and insignificant, is valuable.

1. And so I think we need to encourage one another to persevere:
Romans 5:1 - 2 Peace and Joy:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[a]have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

2. It’s a good thing to persevere: 2 Thessalonians 1:4 – perseverance is praised You need to know, friends, that thanking God over and over for you is not only a pleasure; it's a must. We have to do it. Your faith is growing phenomenally; your love for each other is developing wonderfully. Why, it's only right that we give thanks. We're so proud of you; you're so steady and determined in your faith despite all the hard times that have come down on you. We tell everyone we meet in the churches all about you. The Message

3. We gain eternal life. Romans 2:7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

4. It’s part of a growth process, a development of our characters: 2 Peter 1:5-7 (New International Version)

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

The Message says:
So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus.

5. We are told to PURSUE endurance or perseverance
1 Timothy 6:10-12 But you, man of God, … pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

6. We need hope to persevere. Romans 12:12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Steadfast hope, the confident expectation of what God is and will do, gives the capacity to endure with joy. Again, the Lord Jesus is our example and the perfect illustration of one whose endurance was connected with joy and the purposes and promises of God. Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus gives us hope. Keeping focused on him can help us persevere at work, through discouragement as others ignore or make fun of us, or we feel isolated as perhaps the only Christians. God is a great god. Jesus was a ‘small thing’ in terms of the whole universe. God is a god of small, but immensely and eternally important, things.