Monday, 30 April 2012


Manna - from heaven - enough for today.

Just read a great post about this at Lisa Notes. She talks about giving out just one roll of toilet paper to people in need - because that is all there is to give. And how 'Manna' is for the day. Am I satisfied with what God gives me today? Enough energy (and enough sleep!); enough time; enough knowledge about Him to glorify Him? He will provide and He can be trusted - one day at a time.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Moving on...

I've been greatly challenged recently by a relationship.  Tried my best to 'fix' it, continued to be as gracious and loving as I could - yet to no avail.
I know I cannot change anyone else's actions, thoughts, feelings.
I do know it.
Yet I live in hope. I find myself saying:'Maybe if I... this time perhaps she will...I wish...'
Nothing seems to change.
A friendship, dying for some time, now seems dead.
Then I read these wise words from Susan Lawrence, drawing the analogy of a transplanted tree which then died,:

"When have you tried to grow something where it doesn’t belong? If you’re like me, just about anything you plant doesn’t survive regardless of where you plant it, but think beyond plants…
When have you continued a relationship that’s unhealthy? Taken a job that drains you of your energy and talents? Committed to volunteer out of guilt instead of passion and service? Rationalized behavior or attitude you know isn’t appropriate?
We’re often planted in imperfect soil for a season, awaiting transplant. Isn’t that what life on earth is? It’s imperfect, and we make sacrifices. We deal with less than ideal situations at times…and yet we begin to feel at home where we’re only intended to temporarily live. Be careful of creating stubborn root systems in temporary soil.
Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times. Mark 4:8 (NCV)"
Trying to continue to 'grow' my dying relationship has to stop.
A lost friendship isn't something to mourn over. Nor are missed opportunities, past mistakes, difficult times.
Life is for living. Leave the past, move on in the present to the future.
Moving on.

Also on that theme, I was reminded of these useful tips for choosing how I spend my life - time, energy, emotion - by Karen Ehman. When Life is Too Loud for Quiet TimePeople-Pleasing + Passivity - Overcommitment,  Activity or Eternity and finally and most usefully: What's a Too-Busy Gal To Do?

Here are nuggets of wisdom: 
Every need isn't necessarily your call.
Make it your policy to pause.
Walk away and don't look back.
Don't take on more than you can pray for.
Live your priorities.
Stop second-guessing yourself.

She quotes from Renee Swope's book A Confident Heart:
“I know all of life is screaming for your time, but instead of giving your divided attention to many good things, commit to setting aside time each week to walk through the process of finding God’s things for you. A confident-in-Christ woman wants to know who God created her to be.  She is comfortable saying “no” to some things so that she can say “yes” to living the life God wants her to live.  She is intentional and secure about pursuing the spiritual purpose God has for her.”
Doesn't that sound like moving on?

Monday, 23 April 2012

Prayer and reflections

Just some thoughts from yesterday: I've had the phrase 'my soul clings to you' on my mind these last couple of weeks. We had Psalm 63 in our service yesterday evening and then I 'happened' upon it this morning...not a coincidence.
I know that true happiness and contentment is found when my soul clings to Jesus.

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. 
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night. 
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63, NIV

Be still
for the presence of the Lord, the Holy One,
is here.
Eternal One, I contemplate your awsomeness, your limitless power which flung stars into space.
You are too magnificent for me to understand.
So I gaze at your son, Jesus.
The enormity of his sacrifice leaves me breathless.
Jesus, I thank you for the cross.
Help me live my life in thankfulness.

Thank you for our world - beautifully made by you, broken by our sin.
By my sin.
I pray for  healing and restoration. So many places.
So many relationships.
Let me be...
Let me see the beginning of new things.
Let it start with me.

My soul clings to YOU.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Living gently

I started thinking about living gently when we were studying Ephesians: in Ephesians 4:1-3 we are told to be gentle:
 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
I wondered what it looked like to ‘be gentle’? What do you think?

Well, our example of course is Jesus.
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

2 Corinthians 10:1-3
By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you...  I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.  For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.

Gentleness is the mark of a Christian:

Galatians 5:22-24  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control... Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

Gentleness is counter-cultural. To be gentle, we are not to live as people of ‘the world’ do.
We need to pursue gentleness:
1 Timothy 6:10-11 suggests that we have to flee from pursuing money and everything that brings, instead pursuing ‘righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.’  

Proverbs 25:15 Through patience a ruler can be persuaded,  and a gentle tongue can break a bone.

 Can we cover ourselves with gentleness?

Colossians 3:12-13  says that, because there is no distinction between any of God’s chosen people, we must clothe (y)ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,  bearing with each other and forgiving whatever grievances  we may have against one another, just as Jesus has forgiven us. 

1 Peter 3:3-4 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 

Can we have a gentle attitude?

Philippians 4:4-6
 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

1 Peter 3:14-16   Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

To do all this, being gentle demands strength. Gentleness needs self-discipline.
Consider how it is the opposite of violence:

1 Timothy 3:2-4
 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.

Proverbs 15:1  A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Our instinct is to retaliate. It requires inner strength to refuse to react.

Yet gentleness comes from a position of weakness:

quotes about Jean Vanier (founder of L’Arche, communities where handicapped people live together) from Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness

Vanier's communities emphasize great humility and gentleness of a sort that is unique in the world - a humility that comes from weakness. He seeks to treat those who we see as "handicapped" as equals. His is not a condescending love; but it is a love that says, "you are as important as I am and I have weaknesses just as you do." It is a radical departure from the conservative who tends to ignore the downtrodden and the liberal who tends to condescend toward others in telling them what's good for them.

This kind of love is actually very much in tune with the love of Christ

So, do we appear gentle in every respect? A challenge!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

unity? A breakfast topic...

I wrote this a while back, just after our last ladies' breakfast...

The end of term is looming – a time when there are more squabbles than normal, disagreements, arguments and ‘fights’ of varying descriptions.  Friends fall out and there is a more fraught atmosphere than usual. That’s just among the staff, let alone the children...!  I am of course just joking, but stress and busyness do bring challenges, not least that it becomes harder to maintain a cooperative atmosphere. It becomes too easy just to concentrate on one’s own tasks and aims. In school, we start to lose the wonderful sense of unity which normally characterises our institution.

Isn’t one of the greatest challenges to the church today unity?  Nothing new there.  Even at the time of Paul, he was writing in his letters urging churches and even specific individuals - Euodia and Syntyche, for example – to get along with each other and to live in peace.
Paul prays for unity often - in Romans 15:5 he says:  ‘May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus...’

Sounds good, but why?  It’s because Jesus says so:
‘I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.John 17:23, NIV
Jesus and the Father are one – and so we are called to be one because of Jesus.

Studying Ephesians 4 recently, I was so struck by the command to be at one with each other: (Jesus)... handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ's followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ (vv 11 – 13, The Message)
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love....There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (vv 2-6, NIV)
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body.’ (v25, NIV)
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (v3NIV) Emphasis added.

But how do we do this?

Paul gives an ‘easy’ answer:
‘Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.’ Ephesians 5:21, NIV

Easier said than done! I was still left wondering ‘how’ when I came across this, from Colossians 3:13 – 17
‘So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
 Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.’ (The Message)
Paul gives quite a few tips:
 ‘Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3, NIV)

‘If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’ Romans 12:18
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit... Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.’ Romans 14:17, 19, NIV

Peace. Easier said than done, but so necessary: yes, we know we have to keep the peace and get along with each other, but how?

Honour Christ
put others first. (Ephesians 5:21, Contemporary English version.)  Sound familiar?

Yes, but how?
Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another. (Ephesians 5:21, The Message)

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
‘ Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.’ (2 Corinthians 13:11, NIV)

Yes, but HOW?

As I read all these verses on peace and unity, I realised that, if we just submitted to each other, loved each other with the same love with which Christ loved us, we would indeed live in peace and unity. Echoed so beautifully in the first verse of the Kenyan national anthem:
O God of all creation
Bless this our land and nation
Justice be our shield and defender
May we dwell in unity
Peace and liberty
Plenty be found within our borders...

Look at these verses: UNITY

Romans 12:5
so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Romans 12:10
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:16
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:9
The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

Romans 14:13
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

Romans 14:13
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

1 Corinthians 1:10
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

1 Corinthians 12:13
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

1 Corinthians 12:14- 19
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many....
But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

1 Corinthians 12:26-27
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Philippians 2:2
then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

So what are 'unity spoilers'?

Money: remember the parable of the rich fool? It spoiled the relationship between two brothers.
Jealousy and envy; anger: pride

When there is DISunity, do we make excuses for ourselves?  We say ‘ Yes, I know I did... but she ......’  This is where we need to be accountable to each other: Hebrews 3:13
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Hebrews 10:24-26
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

So let’s admit fault: pick ourselves up: and carry on, knowing that Jesus has forgiven us.

The Promise of the Empty Tomb

The promise of the empty tomb
Rips the rug from under your feet,
And says hold on tight
We’re going for a ride
Into the deep unknown

The promise of the empty tomb
Says the story doesn’t end the way
You think it will.
Yes, your future is set in stone,
But I carved it and it’s beautiful

The promise of the empty tomb
Says you are worth so much more
Than you think you are
You are to die for
And I did

The promise of the empty tomb
Drives nails through darkness
And says trust me
I have a plan
And it is good

The promise of the empty tomb
Rolls back the stone
Dances on death
And says why are you crying,
Don’t you know me?

by Chloe Axford

Monday, 16 April 2012


You know, the topic of mistakes, and failure, and sin has been so much on my mind recently that I was convinced I had posted about it.
Don't THINK I did. Perhaps it was just a conversation with a friend. Actually, thinking about it, it was just a conversation with myself.  It went like this:
"You're always making mistakes, messing up. You can't open your mouth without putting your foot in it."
"Yes, you're just not perfect (aka 'good enough')."
And then it hit me.
I don't really believe that I'm not perfect all ready. I say all the right things about 'not aiming for perfection', quote all the right Bible verses about being a work in progress, not yet perfect etc...yet my actions and attitudes demonstrate that I DON'T BELIEVE IT.
I believe I am right = perfect.
Because when I make a mistake - mainly through thoughtlessness, sometimes through over-enthusiasm, occasionally laziness - I beat myself up about it. I find it easy to ask for forgiveness from others but well-nigh impossible to extend grace to myself.
I've been wondering about the connection between 'mistakes' and 'sin'.  Does one ever equal the other?  When I make a mistake, should I 'have known better'?
Friends - a wonderfully gracious couple - said this.Their attitude is that, if they have acted 'in good faith', not intending to hurt or upset anyone, have asked forgiveness, made amends and sought reconciliation as far as possible, then they leave the consequences with God and move on.
End of story.
So I realise I need to ACT.
Accept myself.
Consider I am NOT perfect
Trust I am better than I was and will be more so in the future, by the grace of God.

That doesn't sound too hard, does it?

For more inspiration on imperfect parenting - yes, that is where most of mistakes come from and I am still learning how to be a parent when my 'children' are 24 year old adults - look at this and this.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Women's ministry?

Women in ministry... 
One of the blogs I subscribe to, by Ed Cyzewski has been running a series on women in ministry. Ed introduces it: "The Women in Ministry Series is a collection of guest posts that aims to:
  • Provide an alternative to the women in ministry debates by telling the stories of women in ministry.
  • Encourage women to explore their God-given callings."
Different women – in full time ministry – have been writing posts. They have all been interesting, but it was today’s that made me sad.
It was written by the Reverend Meg Jenista, a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  She was ordained at Third Christian Reformed Church in 2008, where she continues to serve as the Minister of Community Life and Witness. 
She began like this: “In 1963, Betty Friedan wrote, “There was a strange discrepancy between the reality of our lives as women and the image to which we were trying to conform, the image that I came to call the feminine mystique.” Friedan’s revolutionary research was the underpinning of the 1960s and 70s feminist movement, the aims of which have, in many ways, supplanted the so-called feminine mystique as the operational norm of gender stereotypes and feminine self-understanding in broader culture.  Reading Friedan’s work 40 years later within the context of church culture, I heard my own life experience explained to me. There is still an operational feminine mystique guiding our churches today, a one-size-fits-all mentality of Christian womanhood. I submit into evidence the "Women’s Interest" section of your local Family Christian bookstore. . .and the defense rests.
There is a dominant story in our Christian churches about what it means to be a woman. In reality, there are a lucky few women who naturally fit into this story. Other women subconsciously adopt this narrative, pretending it is their own, amputating the parts of themselves that don’t quite fit between the covers of the storybook.
Meg went on to discuss her struggles with her belief in her calling to be a preacher. She ends with “Being the person God has called me to be is so much more complicated than the tidy little story God’s people have offered me. Some days I would give anything to be one of those lucky few women who naturally fit into the story of the Christian feminine mystique.
Then I remember that complicated is real. And real is better easy. Thanks be to God.”
Now, I know very very little – practically nothing - about the ins and outs and the rights and wrongs of women’s ministry. I know that ‘the church’ – our worldwide body of believers who seek to live Christ-like lives – is, generally, happy for women to offer hospitality, to minister to the sick and to comfort the broken-hearted. I also know that in some areas of ‘the church’, the idea of women preaching is disliked, even forbidden – to men, that is. I gather that there is not such a problem if women preach to women.
So forgive me if I speak out of ignorance, but...excuse me? Is the message different? Are women Christians following a different gospel? Might a woman preach ‘wrongly’ if she speaks before men – even if she uses exactly the same words - rather than women?
Perhaps. Who am I to say? I know practically nothing.
But just two women come to mind.
Deborah, the judge who led Israel for decades. A prophetess, hearing from God. The woman who spoke to the people, who held court for the Israelites to have their disputes decided, who composed and sang a song which celebrated the role of two women in achieving victory. Surely she must have given a rallying speech before battle, calling on God to give the Israelites success.
But perhaps that is not ‘preaching’.
‘Preaching’, the dictionary tells me, is ‘To proclaim or put forth in a sermon: preach the gospel.’ And what is the gospel? The gospel is simply the good news that Jesus is alive.  
Think of Mary Magdalene.
Matthew, in chapter 28 tells us that after Jesus was buried, she and the other Mary went to look at the tomb and found that he had gone. Matthew says (verses 8 – 9)
“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
I wonder how Mary told this great news. Humbly, submissively, head covered and eyes looking at the ground in respect because she was speaking to men? I don’t think so.
The animated film The Miracle Maker shows her arriving at the house where they were staying. She was so breathless that she couldn’t speak. When she got her breath back, did she quietly tell one of the men and then leave them to discuss it, as men do, among themselves?
No. She PREACHED.  Probably, I guess, quite incoherently at first, such was her excitement. She preached with as much voice as she could muster to as many - men AND women - as would listen. She told the good news. She preached to men.
So, as for me – remember, I know practically nothing – I have no problem with women preaching the good news. Telling others, regardless of whether they are men or women, or one person, ten or one hundred – the good news.
Women in ministry, I know this topic of women preaching is actually far more complicated than this, but remember Deborah, remember Mary. Don’t let human expectations let you doubt yourselves or limit your telling of the good news.
Surely God’s gifting should not be constrained by man-made rules and regulations.
How to do that, with reverence and respect, is another story...

Friday, 13 April 2012

A Place at the Table - a Lenten reflection

A Place at the Table - 40 days of Solidarity with the Poor, written by Chris Seay, is an intriguing book which helps us travel through Lent. Each of the 40 days of Lent has a daily reflection; Bible excerpts based on The Voice translation,with added emphasis from Chris; a prayer; and a cameo of someone else's life: someone who, unlike most in the more affluent parts of the world, lacks the basic essentials of life such as adequate food or clean drinking water.
Much of the 'fasting' Chris Seay suggests makes good sense for anyone trying to live a life which honours Jesus, yet an added emphasis on these disciplines during Lent gives an incentive to refocus and reevaluate. His tips for eating include putting away our phones; observing the natural colours of the food we eat; savouring flavours, taking time to enjoy each meal; smell before we eat; develop the art of great conversation; establish rituals which focus on others - perhaps praying for specific individuals; and remembering the poor, finding creative ways of bringing the poor to mind with both prayer and gifts. Much of the emphasis is also on practical help through Compassion International or Living Water International.
Lent, however, is not all about fasting but also feasting: each Sabbath day has readings designed to help us celebrate the risen Jesus. I, personally, find the idea of 'feasting' during an extended fast a little difficult - somehow, I lose focus - but acknowledge that it is part of a long heritage of the Church. I am conscious, too, of Jesus' admonition to remain cheerful while fasting!
I eagerly read each day's offering, starting off with good intentions to fast for the whole 40 days. Sadly, I did not manage to keep up my fast entirely, apart from a vow not to read any fiction during Lent, which was a real sacrifice. However, I continued with the readings: the focus on reflection and prayer inspired me throughout Lent and I celebrated Easter with added thought and prayer.
I'm writing this review at the end of Lent, but the book - as it suggests at the beginning - could be used for any 40 day period of fasting. I'll go through it again. And my thanks to the Woman Alive Book Club who sent me the book. I had no idea it would be so interesting and inspiring!

Women's Ministry!

I have always craved women's ministry that is beyond the women bit. Ministry that connects me, through others, to Jesus and His fellowship. So I was thrilled to read this article from Sarah Bessey about just this...and the comments afterwards are priceless. She also wrote a follow-up article here: much to reflect on. One of her key points is that she'd like to see "churches stop with all of the programs and be a bit more simple and small by intention. Let relationships develop organically. Be open to new people. And love well."

I agree with her... but the advantage of programs is that they do give folk a safe structure within which to develop relationships, especially for us reserved Brits...

My daughter Cat now goes to a church in New Zealand (where she is working for Christians Against Poverty) which DOES NOT HAVE SMALL GROUPS!  Excuse me? How can a vibrant church meet the needs of members without small groups? With something which is, possibly better...SERVING GROUPS.  In a nutshell, it works like this: new members go through an introductory program and are then, based on their gifts and calling, allocated to a serving group - whether this is hospitality, worship, welcome...etc etc - which then becomes their 'small  group'.  

Programs and people...finding the balance within women's ministry and without...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Life is messy...

I've been reflecting recently on how messy life can be.  Even when things are going fine on the surface, underneath is a mess of misunderstandings, imperfect relationships and a bad case of 'foot in mouth' syndrome: aka 'saying the wrong thing' = tactlessness.  In fact, tactless should probably be my middle name.
And so, while I pay lip service to 'accepting my imperfections', 'coming humbly before the throne of God' etc etc, the reality is that every time I mess up it is a big deal.
So here are some thought-provoking links.
The first, is on the necessity of living - imperfectly - in community.  Ann Voskamp writes, reflects, blogs, publishes - 'One Thousand Gifts' has been inspirational.  I'll read this again when tempted to beat myself up over my mistakes.
The second is on reconciliation (which Ann touches on in the first blog post above).  This is what I read:
"HURT HAPPENS. If you haven’t already experienced this today, it’s coming soon…Somebody says something that grieves somebody else. Maybe intentionally, maybe not. Maybe it was by you, maybe it was to you. Either way, feelings are hurt or anger is stirred or withdrawal has happened.What now? God wants you to make the first move toward healing, regardless of who made the first cut. As you tell your kids, “Kiss and make up.” Or in grown-up lingo, be a “minister of reconciliation.”Whatever you call it, it’s your calling."
I'm fine with that, honestly.  Now I've just got to work on forgiving myself...

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Nearing the end of Lent...some reflections

During Lent, I've subscribed to a couple of messaging services which have offered daily encouragement. One has been 40Acts - absolutely brilliant and inspiring. The other has been The Carbon Fast, a Tearfund initiative which encourages us to think about ways of saving energy and protecting the planet. Much of what has been suggested I do anyway: cycling or walking instead of using the car, turning off lights, turning the heat down or off, when today's email arrived, encouraging me to avoid using the tumble dryer, I nearly didn't bother to read on. I am passionately against tumble dryers and am fortunate to be able to hang washing out to dry, or inside in a utility room. Not relevant, I thought - slightly smugly, I have to admit.
Then I read the post:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, (wo)man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. (1 Timothy 6:6-12)
No matter how long we live, when we die we will leave all our possessions behind. So travel light! Jesus commanded us not to accumulate treasures on earth. We are warned that seeking to get rich leads to ‘all kinds of evil’. When profits take priority over people and planet, the result is ‘ruin and destruction’, as we can see in increasing environmental destruction. In what ways is it ‘great gain’ for us to live simply? How does your life fit with this verse?
So yes, great encouragement to live simply. Lent has been a time of lifestyle evaluation and reflection, of heightened sensitivity - not that I've always been able to do anything about it - to the needs of the world. But the verse caught my eye for other reasons.
A Bible study group I attend has been looking at the theme of A Generous God. We've thought about these verses from Timothy frequently over the last six weeks. I've always focused on the beginning of the passage but today, as I come to the end of studying Ephesians with Good Morning Girls, the 'fight' caught my eye.
Ephesians 6:13-18 says, in the Message: Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
It's been so encouraging and helpful doing this study with a group of others. Just the other day, as we struggled to REALLY understand what 'rightrousness' was all about, Rose posted this definition: virtue, honour, justice, integrity, honesty, purity, faithfulness, uprightness, blamelessness..
Wow. I'd love it if my life looked like that!

Monday, 2 April 2012


In our online Bible study at Good Morning Girls we've arrived at one of the most inspiring passages in Ephesians:   Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 
Or, as The Message puts it: And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
Be strong. 
I realised this week that 'being strong' isn't something extra special I have to do. I don't have to think, when I get up, that today I will be 'strong' - though getting in the habit of putting on the whole armour of God as I get dressed is a good thing to do. No, being strong has to be part of my very being, my whole life.  When Richard had to deal with an emergency while flying this week, he didn't have time to do anything except pray - under his breath, not over the tannoy, which might have alarmed the passengers somewhat! As years of training and practice for just such a situation kicked in, so did the years of faithful Bible study and prayer. Trained and disciplined in the Lord's ways, he was indeed 'strong'. After he had landed safely, preventing, as the company's manager said, a drama from becoming a crisis, he knew that the Lord had indeed guided and protected him.
So that is my aim, too. To be 'strong': faithfully keeping going with study, prayer and the encouragement of meeting with others. Ladies breakfasts, home groups, prayer partner, friends - real and online, as I read wonderful blogs and inspiring, articles...
But that's another story.
For today, I am content with the reminder to 'be strong'.
(For a wonderful talk on this chapter from John MacArthur, click here.)