Reblog: If you preach that wealth and health are a sign of God’s favor, what do you do when you begin to lose both?

Laura Martin’s book ‘Positively Powerless’ is an excellent book. It addresses the completely overlooked issue of the ‘positivity gospel’ – the subtle, yet pernicious, sibling of the prosperity gospel. Both reduce God and Jesus to little more than a vending machine. If you have not yet read this book, please do. It will change your thinking and may even change your life.

 

Enough Light

The theme of my book is about the perils of the “positive thinking” movement – how it overtly and subtly influenced Christianity – ultimately weakening our everyday lives of faith. My emphasis was primarily on the subtle. The overt, such as the development of the prosperity gospel, I only briefly touched upon. But my point is that I have 2 interesting links to share:

      • In February, CNN had this article about Pastor Eddie Long who died of cancer and his ministry fell apart: The Bishop Eddie Long I knew, 3 revelations from a megachurch pastor’s messy legacy. The article addresses, in part, how the prosperity gospel fails when it comes to dealing with adversity. “But there was something undeniably sad about Long not being able to level with those at New Birth who’d stuck by him when everyone else had fled. I suspect some of that inability comes from the…

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Plans

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Image from The Study Gurus

 

Men are accustomed to form plans and then afflict themselves when these fail…

from Flowers from the Garden of St. Francis

This would very aptly read ‘Sandy is accustomed to form plans and then afflict herself when these fail’. Funny how God speaks to us so succinctly sometimes. But then He reminds me, because He has given me grace through reading His Word, and through the words of those that love Him:

 

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.

Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV)

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the hearts.

Proverbs 21:2

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

from the hymn The Heavenly Vision, Helen Howarth Lemmel

And b r e a t h e …

Wounds

I break my Lenten blog silence today after learning of the terror attacks in London yesterday. There are no words to describe the wounds of terrorism. They last far longer than the act itself.

In the 1990s I was at a railway station near to London that was due to be blown up on the day that I was there. Fortunately for me, the bomb did not detonate. Similarly, my father’s offices were blown up in a terror attack that killed two people. The UK has a long, sad history of terrorism, dating all the way back to the 17th century when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Will we make effigies of yesterday’s killer and burn them on 22nd March, as we do with Guy Fawkes every 5th November?

The difference, I suppose, is that (other than the terrorists who were brutally punished) no one died back in 1605. The difference too is that the plotters back then had genuine reason to display protest at parliament. They suffered extreme persecution as Catholics in a Protestant country. What persecution had the terrorist of yesterday suffered? I don’t know anything about him, but I would hazard a guess that the blood is on his hands and no one else’s. What twisted rhetoric made him think this was a ‘right’ thing to do?

My deepest thoughts and most heartfelt prayers are for the families and friends of those who died. May they know the love of the Comforter. May they know the peace that passes understanding. May they reach out for help and find Jesus there with His hands willing and His arms open.

Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to pray for those who do us wrong. How do we show these extremists the radical nature of God’s love? How do we reach out to them in their darkness and show them the Light of the World? Before we rush to condemn, to avenge the wrongdoing and crush the endless, aching hurt – please remember these words:

God is love… There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…

and

We love because he first loved us.

extracts from 1 John 4:16-19 (NRSVA)

Rise Up and Walk!

Silver and gold have I none,

But such as I have give I thee:

In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth

Rise up and walk!

These lovely words are from Rob Evans, aka The Donut Man, and form a children’s song paraphrasing chapter 3 of the book of Acts.

Cheesy. Corny. Cutesome. My kids used to love Donut Man when they were small. What a beautiful illustration these words are of how God works in our lives, how He uses the unexpected to accomplish what we never even imagined possible, and how He doesn’t need what we think is necessary to do what He needs to do.

Lord, help me, today, to ‘rise up and walk’, and may it be for Your glory.  Amen

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

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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.

Auf Wiedersehen

The funeral for my mother-in-law went well. It is always a sad time, the farewell of a loved one, but for followers of Christ it’s a celebration, too, of the life the person lived, of the end of their final journey. When a woman devotes her life to serving God, to loving the unloved, the sendoff is always bittersweet.

God was there in the bright February skies, in the new-formed heads of tiny snowdrops lining the lanes. God was there in the musty old church, He was there in the coffin, in the pallbearers, in the tears and smiles of friends and family. It was a fitting tribute to a remarkable woman. I am so thankful to have known my MIL, to have been accepted as part of the family, and most of all for her very lovely son, my husband, who would not be the wonderful, kind, intelligent man he is today without his mother.

I imagine Jesus stretching out his hands in welcome and my MIL stretching out her hands with that big, warm smile on her face.

Jesus says, “You made it!” and MIL responds, in her wonderful regional accent, “I can’t believe it, I’m ‘ere! At last!” Behind Jesus she spots her husband, no longer old or infirm, but remade and whole and happy, and then she sees her parents, her sister, her friends… Hurrah! They all say. Welcome home!

So for us it’s not so much ‘goodbye’ as ‘auf wiedersehen’ – till we meet again.

Thank you, Jesus 🙂