Thoughts of God

Fresh from the journey of Lent I am not in any hurry to start blogging again, as such, but I will begin to share some good quotes that I have come across.

canonyeo1

“Then exactly what are good thoughts concerning God?” Ignorance wanted to know.

Christian said, “…When our thoughts of God agree with what the Word says aboiut Him, then they are good thoughts. That means when we think of His character and attributes as the Word teaches.

“However, to speak of Him concerning ourselves, when we understad that He knows us better than we know ourselves, and that He can see sin in us when and where we can see none in ourselves; and when we understand that He knows our inmost thoughts, and that He at all times sees into the depths of our heart; and when we think that all our righteousness stinks in His nostrils, and that for this reason even with our best performance we still cannot stand before Him with any confidence, then our thoughts are good…”

Pilgrim’s Progress, Updated, Modern English by John Bunyan

Fellowship

Our relationships with other believers can be tragically shallow. Even small groups… can be more like superficial social clubs… Our fast-paced modern world makes it hard to slow down and invest in each other… Socialization and fellowship are [often] confused. They are not the same thing.

from Positively Powerless: How a Forgotten Movement Undermined Christianity by L.L. Martin (who blogs here)

This paragraph, from the final chapter of Laura’s excellent book, struck me as an incredibly powerful statement, and one that I know to be true. The vast majority of Christian encounters fall very much into the shallower end of fellowship, at best. The truest fellowship that I have ever experienced was that shared within Celebrate Recovery, where for a short space of time each week we could take off the ‘mask’ of everyday life and become our true, measly, weak selves. We could remove the Christian smile and the ‘hallelujah!’ attitude that pervades many churches here in the UK. Those things are not wrong, but they are wrong when they are constant and never tempered with the reality of sin and struggle.

Something miraculous happened at Celebrate Recovery. Every week, Jesus sat in that room alongside us as we confessed, and shared, and prayed, and wept. We grew to know one another at a deep level, we grew taller in our spiritual and emotional stature, we experienced profound and deep healing, and we experienced a true, spiritual fellowship. I pray God will bring Celebrate Recovery to our town, in His time. I know our town could use it! I pray that I will meet the right people, God-willing, to take on this none-too-small adventure.

Jesus… looked up to heaven and said… “I ask… on behalf of those who will believe in me through [my disciples’] word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

John 17:1,20-23 (NRSVA)

Reblog: When I Say I Am a Christian

Amen.

A Pastor's Thoughts

 This is a poem I shared in a recent sermon. I share it with you

“When I say, ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not shouting, ‘I’ve been saved!’

I’m whispering, ‘I get lost!’ That’s why I chose this way.

 

When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I don’t speak with human pride.

I’m confessing that I stumble – needing God to be my guide.

 

When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not trying to be strong.

I’m professing that I’m weak and pray for strength to carry on.

 

When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m not bragging of success.

I’m admitting that I’ve failed and cannot ever pay the debt.

 

When I say, ‘I am a Christian,’ I don’t think I know it all.

I submit to my confusion asking humbly to be taught.

 

When I say ‘I am a Christian,’ I’m…

View original post 47 more words

Big Head

“Who’s that?” I asked, pointing to the icon.

“It says who it is across the top.” said Frank, pointing to the Greek letters. He spelt out the name. I knew part of what he said meant ‘John’. It sounded like yo-annis.

“John the Baptist?”

“No, John the Theologian; the one who wrote Revelation.”

“Ohh.” I nodded. “But why does he have such a big head? He looks like an alien.”

Frank raised his eyebrows and shook his head. “There’s no mystery with you, is there?” His eyes crinkled. He smiled one of his rare smiles, one that is just for me. I thought how much I love this man.

He picked up the icon. “Oh, look. It has writing on the back. Let me see…”

He began reading the Greek and translating, “I think that means ‘Byzantine’…”

“I bet I know what it says,” I said and took it calmly into my hands, “This… icon is… a replica of…”

“How are you reading that?” Frank said, puzzled.

“Er… It’s got the English translation directly underneath…”

Frank chuckled as he said, “I honestly didn’t see that!” And he gave me the same look the girls gave me when I solved their wooden puzzle in a couple of minutes the other day. As if I needed to let them in on the secret. Only there wasn’t a secret; I just figured it out.

I think the bible can be a bit like that. We expect things to be somehow holy and mystical and somewhat obscure, but when you take it for what it is, and you don’t take random bits and bobs all out of context, there are a lot of things that are very clear, and very direct (and that all hang together, with a common theme), yet are still often ignored, even by those who claim to take the bible literally. I almost want to say ‘those who take the bible literally literally’ because there are some of us who, although we take the bible at face value, don’t take it absolutely literally and don’t believe it takes itself absolutely literally. There are those of us who think that to try to take the scriptures literally literally is to do the bible, and our Creator, a grave disservice.

So what I’m getting at is this: if Jesus says it, maybe we should do it, don’t you think? You know, all the ‘love one another’ and ‘forgive’ and ‘don’t hate because that’s as bad as murder – even if you don’t think it is, I (Jesus) say it is – because hatred in your heart kills you‘. And other stuff like that. Let’s cut the cr@p and get down to business. Jesus says His ‘yoke is easy’ (Matt 11:30). So why do we make it so difficult? In the words of – um – someone: take a chill pill, Bill. And don’t cry over spilt milk.

St John005

Also, these icons really do show saints with enormous heads (this is not the exact same icon*, but is very similar).

 

*NB Icons are not intended to be objects of worship so much as expressions of prayer, and if words can be prayer, why not art? I love art history, it’s like the world expressing the essence of humanity generation after generation. I love architectural and engineering history for the same reason. Christian imagery can be incredibly beautiful and it is arrogant to think that because some of us, e.g. Baptists, choose not to have it in our churches it is somehow worthless (or worse). The desecration of the Reformation did nothing to change hearts and minds. I think that the Roman Catholic desire for imagery and the Protestant desire for lack of imagery arose from the same motives – a yearning for purity, for beauty, for purpose, for prayer and, most of all, for communion with the Divine: a genuine and honest expression of God. Here endeth today’s sermon(!). 😮

A Good Yarn…

“It’s a bit like that Fifty Shades of Red thing, isn’t it? I mean, Fifty Shades of Blue, er – black? Fifty Shades of um…” The young woman frowned as she gestured to her neighbour’s knitting.

“Grey.” The neighbour, a woman who looked as if she was in her mid-forties but was actually a good decade older, lifted the blanket proudly so we could all see the colours as they blended in gentle waves. Murmurs of approval wafted around the room.

The first speaker laughed, “I knew it was a colour!”

“I like using this wool because it makes patterns all on its own. I don’t have to follow any instructions! Have any of you read Fifty Shades of Grey?” The older woman looked around conspiratorially.

“Ooh, yes!” The large lady to my left said with glee.

“I found it in an airport and I thought I’d give it a go, see what the fuss was all about, but I put it down after three pages; it was so poorly written.” A lady with a mop of grey hair and a kindly face interjected.

I tried not to squirm and stayed focused on my yarn. This was, after all, an afternoon knitting group. I hoped someone would change the subject. I had not been along on a Tuesday afternoon before. The Thursday morning ladies were full of banter but not quite like this. I told myself ‘this is my reward for getting through all my tasks this morning.’ Still…

“I don’t care how it’s written!” The large lady bellowed. “A few commas and full stops aren’t going to put me off!”

“Me neither! I’m no prude! Hey, Liz, have you seen that new show on the BBC – The Guardroom?” The large lady’s other neighbour smirked. “Oh, damn, I’ve dropped a stitch.”

“Oh yes, I really like that. It’s got that Desmond feller in it.” Liz replied.

“I know. The arse on that one, eh? He turned around and I thought, ‘Ooh, just a bit higher, Des!”

“Have you seen The Guardroom, Maggie?” A*se Lady turned to the lady who runs the wool-craft sessions (I don’t know her real name – not that I ever use real names on my blog – but in my mind she is now indelibly the A*se Lady).

“I haven’t, no…” Maggie gave a short giggle, as if unsure what to say.

“You should!” A*se Lady said.

“Perhaps I’ll take a look.” Maggie agreed, pleasantly, her eyes fixed firmly on her yarn.

I offered up a silent prayer. This was not an enjoyable experience… I found myself longing for the conversation of Christian ladies and simultaneously reminding myself that one has to accept people as they are and how do you ‘do Jesus’ if you don’t interact? I briefly wondered if I should make a comment on the portrayal of women as passive victims of sexual violence but decided it probably wouldn’t go down too well. I admit these kinds of things spark off bad memories in me, so I’m never sure if my reaction is justified or not. I concentrated on my task, as if those rows of double crochet were in need of my hard-focused attention.

The conversation turned to the merits of cigarettes versus roll-ups, why rottweilers are such nice dogs and the best way to drink rum. Not having much to say on any of these subjects either, I kept mum (I don’t drink because I hate the taste, I’ve never smoked and I was too unsettled to offer my opinion on dogs). I learned that A*se Lady smokes but doesn’t drink, and that Liz had a very nice rottweiler, but he died after being bitten by a Jack Russell. There’s an irony in there somewhere.

The only thing I actually said throughout the session were words admiring one lady’s baby blanket and a ‘yes, please’ to Maggie’s offering of a cup of tea. I admit I breathed a sigh of relief when I came to the end of my cushion cover and genuinely couldn’t continue. I gathered my wool and hook into my bag and stood to leave.

As I smiled and said goodbye, Maggie got up to follow me. I opened the door and stepped out into the bitter air. Maggie closed the door behind her.

“It’s usually a bit quieter on a Tuesday.” she said, almost apologetically. “The Monday session didn’t happen so lots of them came today instead. It’s not usually as racy on a Tuesday. These lot are a bit too racy, even for me!” Maggie smiled.

“I’ll come again.” I said. “Thanks, Maggie. See you!”

********

Once, when studying the patterns of conversation in English Language A-Level (my first love was linguistics), my tutor said he’d be fascinated to know what a conversation was like when it was just women. I recalled this today because the way the women were talking actually reminded me of the way that (some) men talk. Usually there’s a very female-group-thing going on. We discuss our children and our families and the weather and, well, various things, but it’s always cosy and warm, slightly gossipy but not ill-natured. Just not today.

Mild Mannered Meanderings

Conversation with Chip on the way home from church:

“Mummy, I’m the only one in my class at school who is a Christian.”

Me: “Are you? How do you know?”

Chip: “I’m the only one who goes to church.”

Me: “Oh, ok.”

Chip: “Amelia is a… she’s a… something-or-other Christian. A Viking Christian.”

Me (suppressing a laugh): “A Viking Christian? Are you sure?”

Chip (hesitant): “Maybe… Er… It’s something like a Viking Christian… A Saxon Christian? A Catholic Saxon?”

Me (unable to suppress the laugh any longer): “Do you mean a Roman Catholic?”

Chip: “Yes! But she doesn’t go to church.”

An End to Violence: Where is the Olive Branch?

I began praying for Israel and the Middle East several years ago. I pray for strength and courage for those who face terrible situations, I pray for the work of Mama Maggie in Egypt, and I pray for peace.

 

The olive branch                                           ~ a universal symbol of peace

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”*

 

The situation in Israel and Palestine is sad beyond words. It is tempting to want to portray one side as ‘good’ and the other as ‘bad’. After all, this makes any response much easier… but this is the real world. There are no such things as ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ unless you’re nine years old. Humanity is too complex, and ultimately too frail, to be viewed in this simplistic manner. There have been acts of good and bad on both sides. Evil has warped (some of ) the minds of both Israelis and Palestinians. My brothers and sisters in Christ who happen to be Palestinian have been on the receiving end of Israeli violence just as much as their Muslim neighbours.

he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?” **

 

I wonder what would have happened if, during the decades of terrorism of the IRA at the end of the 20th century, Britain had bombed Dublin? Would there not have been international outcry? When I was a little girl my father’s London office was blown up by the IRA. If the bomb had gone off at the right time it would have killed hundreds of men and women who had nothing whatsoever to do with the political situation, my daddy included. I was at a railway station the day another bomb was due to go off. If the bomb had killed my dad, would I have wanted revenge? If the other bomb had killed me, would my family have wanted revenge? It is a natural response, but in Israel and Palestine, just as in Britain and Ireland, violence never solved anything. It never will. Violence leads to violence, which leads to more and more innocent victims  – be they Jewish, Muslim, Christian or none of the above. As I said the other day in my post about the turmoil elsewhere in the Middle East, evil begets evil. It has to stop.

 

When Love was flogged, when Love was spat upon, when Love was ridiculed and stripped naked and forced to walk to His place of execution, when Love was bound and nailed to a cross, He did not declare war or vengeance. Love could have called down all the angels of heaven with fire and trumpets and wrath. But He didn’t. Instead, the voice of Love said, “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.”

 

Please join me in praying for peace and a lasting end to violence.

 

‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’****

 

* John 14:27

**Luke 10:29

***Luke 23:34

**** Galatians 3:28