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Friday, 17 December 2010

Hope. Expectation. Anticipation. Preparation

This is what I decided to do for my prayer group session that I led last week. Its from my notes so isnt alwyas in full sentences...
13th Dec 2010
Advent: Hope. Expectation. Anticipation. Preparation

I wasn’t really sure what to talk about tonight. So I asked God for guidance and I felt that as we are in this period of Advent that would be a good starting point. So I’m not going to look at just one scripture passage but couple! And while I’ve been researching this I kind of knew what God was pointing me to, but I couldn’t quite put it all together. Then Yesterday at church a friend gave me this tea towel! (explanation: from an org called ‘not washed up yet’ it’s a kind of ministry!) and the card with it says this:
Hope…
At Christmas Hope came down – that is what Christmas is all about.
It is about Jesus
In the midst of the dressing up, washing up, wrapping up, even paying up, do not be slow to look for this HOPE – to go after it, this HOPE that does not disappoint, that changes everything, that brings light in our darkness, that rescues us from distress.

So, the passages that I have picked out are going to help us focus on that Hope that Jesus has given us and how we can live it in our lives. I’m not going to talk for long because what I want is for US to focus on that. So once I’ve finished I’d like us to split into groups and talk about our own Hopes, what we are hoping in Jesus for and then we can pray about them too…
As it says on the card, this time of year, Advent, for most of us it is so chaotic, All the Christmas preparation, sending cards, buying gifts, baking, cleaning, nativity plays, the list is endless and yet really Advent, whilst it is a time of preparation is also a time of anticipation, of hoping, waiting for the arrival of our King. Not just 2000 years ago, but also that in that hope he still gives us that he will come again.

The dictionary says:
Hope:
v. hoped, hop·ing, hopes
v.intr.
1. To wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment.
2. Archaic To have confidence; trust.

Aren’t they perfect definitions for this time of year?


First passage
Luke 1 : 26-38
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[
b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

We’ve all heard this loads of time I’m sure! Not a huge amount to add but it’s a good starting point! - As soon as the angel had appeared to Mary, for her began a time of waiting, expecting, literally! but actually this time of waiting had begun hundreds of years earlier. Mary must have had hope. Unmarried mother, stigma, she has to trust and hope in her God to guide her.
The Old Testament prophets forsaw the arrival of a Messiah that would come to earth as King. Specific in Isaiahs baby born to virgin.
Isaiah has some wonderful passages about the coming of the Lord… Showing the Hope that he and others had in God.

Isaiah 11 (New International Version, ©2010)
Isaiah 11: 1-9
The Branch From Jesse
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling[
a] together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den, the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.


What an amazing passage, showing the hope that they had… the first part talks about the messiah and what he will be like
Beginning talking of Messiah - stump – something cut down yet new life can come from this. Previous rulers/chaos. Also Christ – at the crucifixion. But… Christ is that branch… amazing description – like Isaiah is describing the most perfect person he can imagine, because of course he hasn’t heard about Jesus’ birth yet… which is exactly what Christ is.


and the second from v 6 talks about the world with the messiah in it. And actually could refer to the second coming, the new world… V 6 – 9 showing an idyllic world. One that can exist with Christ in it.


The Old Testament shows us that the history of Israel was not a peaceful one. There was much bloodshed, war and disobedience to God (perhaps rather like now…). The history of the area particularly shows that for hundreds of years Israel lived under threat of war or was actually at war. Focussing on God at such a time, you can imagine must have been very hard. But there were those with faith and with hope and the OT is full of references to the coming of the Messiah in whom they could put their hope. Through that belief they could imagine a different way of life

Commentary by Dennis Bratcher… quote:
‘Israel was weary of war and threat, weary of the divisions that had torn her country apart after Solomon, weary of the instability of a world in which power and the oppression that it brings were the controlling factors in the world. Some, like Isaiah knew that God's vision of the world was much different. They knew that the God they served was the same God who had heard the cries of oppressed slaves in Egypt and entered history to relieve their oppression. And they knew that because God was such a God, he would not forever tolerate oppression in the world.
And so they hoped. And they dreamed. They dreamed of a time when God would enter the world and bring an end to war and suffering, when he would establish his reign on earth and restore all creation to what he intended it to be.'


And that is what Isaiah is talking about here in v 6-9. He is dreaming, hoping of a new world in which God is sovereign, in which ‘6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,’
And isn’t that what we hope for today? We can today draw encouragement from this passage too, because it can also be prophesying (as it says in rev) A new heaven and a new earth, (Revelation 21:1-2)
And
on Gods ‘ holy mountain, where the earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord’…
What a great hope to have!


Jesus was and is the Prince of Peace, and as we look forward to Christmas we eagerly anticipate the day of his birth when we celebrate with our friends and family, but we can always, also be eagerly anticipating the peace that he brings to all, its like we have a taster of what is to come. We can have the dream that Isaiah had. We don’t know when it will be, but we hope and we dream expectantly.
And as we look around us today sometimes situations seem totally hopeless, but actually through Christ we do have hope.

Example: my trip to London with woman from church we visited.

Finish with scriptures… each reading one out – to focus on that HOPE before we split into groups.

Hope:
Romans 5
Peace and Hope
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we[
a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.


Hebrews 10:23
23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Isaiah 40:31
31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Micah 7:7
7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Saviour; my God will hear me.

Psalm 25:5

5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 33:20-22

20 We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. 22 May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 62:5-6


5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. 6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

Discussion:

Our hopes for the coming year/illness/work. breakthrough… pray through…

Friday, 10 December 2010

Angry with God

What a day... I left home this morning at 9.30 for a cuppa with my Nan at her 'home' and have just now got back from the hopsital. She fell 2 weeks ago and had been due to go in for an X-Ray and by some stroke of Gods timing the ambulance turned up to get her when I was there. So I went too. Have to say the hopsital staff were lovely, very understanding and treated her with respect, but there was a bit of waiting around. The thing is my Nan is very particular (control freakishness runs in the family then...) and does get very anxious when she is out of routine with only the slightest thing. But we did ok, I just talked to her throughout and she was calm, although in pain.
So... they suspected a broken hip and the paramedics and the doc on arrival were convinced she had. So when she got to X-Ray I prayed as much as I could (looking like a nutter talking to myself in the hallway...) that it would not be broken (if it was the result would be an op and a screw through the bone - Shes 95 - so that was not going to be a good option!). Anyway we got out, the doc said it was not broken and I was so grateful to God.
We waited for an ambulance to take us back, got her back in to bed - all an ordeal for a 95 year old who cannot weight bear on her feet, is very anxious and scared and in pain, and had already had to change beds 4 times today - either with the aid of a hoist or a Pat slide - not easy. Just as she was settled back in her own bed with a cuppa and was being pathetically grateful, we got a call from the doc saying actually he's had another look and thinks she might have a fracture after all and he wants to send her to another hopsital 15 miles away for another scan.
I am so angry with God right now. I just do not understand. I thought he had heard my prayer and healed the fracture. I was so thankful that he had mercy on her, and then this... WHY? I mean shes 95, has no quality of life and is miserable, shes now bed bound and cannot do anything for herself. I'm not suggesting for one minute that he should take her life, but Please Lord have mercy on her. How is it going to help her, having just got over the ordeal of a day at the hospital (and to her it really was an ordeal) to have to go out again at 5pm (having had no lunch either) to lie in another hospital corridor for hours, to then, even if they agree to do the op, she may not even survive. Even if she does will she recover? she'll be bed bound anyway. The doc was adamant she should go. Thankfully I didn't have to make the decision, my Mum did, but I mean what is this all about God? Please have mercy upon her, take her pain away, let her live the last years/months of her life with some dignity. PLEASE. What was the point of today? Why did we have to go through all that, to get back and find out she probably has fractued it after all? what is that about? I do not understand this Lord. I do not expect to understand everything you do, as it says in Job, I wasnt here when he created the heavens and the earth, but He is a God of Mercy and Grace, so why is he not having mercy on my grandmother?
ugh...
so cross... can't even express how much. Don't want to be angry with God but I can't help it. This seems so unfair and unjust.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Suggestions Please!!

Is anyone else sick of this snow? My blog has been rather neglected this week with the kids and the husband at home all week (thankfully all back to school today). Anyway I have a dilemna. Next week at my prayer group it is my turn to do 'bible facilitation' for the first time. A group of people take it in turns to do this and usually the passage they discuss is based on the sermon for the week. However next Sunday we have no sermon as the church is holding a party for the kids, and the adults have coffee and a band (should be good fun actually!)So, I have the choice of which passage to discuss. Which is rather like going into a sweet shop and saying you can only have one sweet. Where do I start? Christmas passages are a rather weak choice and actually cannot provoke much discussion, so that leaves about 99.9% of the bible to chose one passage from.
Help! Any suggestions? I need to discuss the passage I choose (or around the subject of it) for about 15 mins and hopefully include some 'audience participation'. It shouldn't be a sermon, but literally just facilitate the reading or understanding of that particular passage and it would be nice it it could be fun as well as interesting.... no tall order then....!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Mysterious Ways

You know they say that God moves in mysterious ways, which is a bit like saying we will never understand what God is doing in our lives, which may or may not be true, but its a bit of a non-comment if you know what I mean... Anyway we definitely had a mysterious happening last night, in fact it is actually rather funny.
Earlier this week, one evening a man knocked at our door. I spied the Anglian clipboard from some distance but it was so cold I had to ask him in, poor man was practically blue. This is in itself isn't unusual. We do get people doing door to door and I usually fob them off with the 'we've just spent all our money on an extension' line, which tends to work quite well as they can see that for themselves. We have also got double glazing, had our loft extended and had cavity wall so there's not much left to sell us really...! But this guy was on about sofits and fascias, which I have to admit we do need to be done and it had occured to me just that morning so I agreed to let a man come and do a quote (and almost instantly regretted it..)
So the rep came last night and of course we had all forgotten he was coming and were all set up for a bit of a jam - amps, guitars, mikes, all set our across the kitchen. However it did spark some conversation and I happened to mention that my hubby played in a band linked to our church. Which then set up an hour long conversation about faith and Christianity. The rep was a committed Christian and one of the first things he said was about the calling on his life. (a different calling to mine, in relation to street children in India - all very interesting). But the funny thing was how often he said the word 'calling' and how important he felt a calling was. At one point he looked directly at me and said 'if there is a calling on your life, it is your time to fulfill it. It is what God has prepared you for and you have to obey it, not to is almost a sin'. I was a bit taken aback and thought 'yeah ok, God I have got the message... I will stop dragging my heals!' ;)
Anyway we chatted lots and he offered to pray for our friend who is staying with us. Then we ended up praying for him too. In the middle of praying I just started laughing, I mean it was all so farcical, a double glazing salesman turns up at our house to flog us his products and I was stood praying on tongues for him - a guy I had never met, and we had spent hours talking about God. It was so funny. I just thought about what the me from a year ago would have said if she could see me now.
So when he had gone, I said to the others, 'was it just me or was he speaking to me?' and my husband was like, 'yeah he was here for you, theres no doubt!'. and I have to admit I've been having a few niggles over the last few days what with the bloomin' form, so his visit was rather timley to say the least.
So now I know God does need people everywhere and he defintely does move in mysterious and sometimes hilarious ways!!


PS: and we didn't even get the fascias...!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Memory failure

I seem to have regular moments of forgetting things these days. Sometimes it's worrying! other times it's minor. I think it's either a sign of getting older or it's a sign of having too much in my head! Today I went on a bit of a memory lane trip and was rather surprised by what I found. You see I always seem to remember my previous struggle with faith in a very negative way, I assume that I had no faith or very little anyway. But today I realised that must be wrong.
I am an artist and today was finally the day I sorted out my studio. I have done this before, reguarly in fact, but always rather half heartedly; but recently I have been feeling the need to really clear out. So this moring I started. It took me an hour just to go through my portfolio and it was surprisingly easy to chuck out stuff I had kept for years (some of it was from school!!) and soooo satisfying!
But what I did find was evidence of a real journey to seek God. In every 'phase' of my work was evidence of that seeking. I had forgotten how often I used scriptures in my work and even found some sketches I had done of Jesus (or how I perceived Him to be). It was really interesting and inspired me to work for the first time in ages. And it made me realise that whilst I sometimes dismiss the past, actually it was all part of this journey and much deeper than I recognised then (or now!)
I think it is really interesting how we remember things (or forget them) and how often the past can be clouded by our current thoughts and experiences. It was a very timley discovery for me and made me realise that revisiting the past in order the fill in THE form actually will be a very useful exercise rather than the painful trip I thought it would be.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Wonderful Wesley and the CofE

So, in true avoidance fashion I am spending the day catching up on important stuff, like reading, or baking rather than getting on with THE form. Someone at church yesterday told me it took them 3 months to fill in. eek! I was rather hoping a few weeks would do it. Not sure what the norm is? If I do it too quickly does that mean I am too eager, or have not spent enought time on it?
Anyway, so the avoidance is going well... :) and I have been reading a book called 'The Buring Heart' about John Wesley. Whicn has been a real inspiration. There is way too much of it to list here, but a few points that really touched me...

John Wesley spent almost his entire adult life travelling up and down the UK spreading the gospel. This much I sort of knew before. But what I have learnt in reading the book is the reality of this kind of life. He rarely made appointments to speak in places, he would generally turn up and rely on word of mouth for people to know he was there. In this day and age we would think that foolish, we would need a PR campaign, publicity and flyers, handouts to all the local churches... He had none of that and yet hundreds, sometimes thousands turned out to hear him preach. He really relied on the Spirit to move people to come to these places and look how the Spirit did move! Almost everywhere he went, people heard the Word and came to know the Lord in droves. Sometimes he would just take a chair from a nearby Inn, stand on it in the town square and just start preaching. If anyone did that today we would think them a nutter...

The conditions of constant travelling were not great and the passion he felt to preach the Word meant that he did not stay in one place for long and often felt a real urge to move on. One account in the book tells of how he rode through the mountains of Perthsire, in thick snow, all day! (in which 3 had lost their lives the day before), some of it was so bad he had to get off his horse and walk (and you can bet he wasn't head to toe in Goretex either...) Yet he would not turn back, such was the need to keep going.

He was not always well received and often peple would be incited to attack him, those who were not favourable to his style of preaching. What I found staggering is that often those inciting the mob were themselves clergymen. there are some awful stories of what Ministers did to come against Wesley, and in fact were it not for the Grace of God he could have lost his life on several occasions. I think my favourite bit in the entire book, made me laugh out loud. It is the account of a young lout running up to Wesley with his arm raised to land a blow, and yet as he neared Wesley, he suddenly lowered his arm and then stroked Wesleys hair and simply said 'What soft hair he has!'. How the lion turned into a lamb... I love the picture of this Godly man surrounded by yobs (and the 18thC mob was a force to be reckoned with...) hurling abuse and stones and then one of them reverts totally and comments on his hair!!!

What also struck me is how, whilst The Church of England rejected him, he tried to stick to what he felt was his calling and to his role according to his Ordination in the CofE. His desire was to reform and awaken the church.
Which gives us a good lesson for today I think. Some of us have a real desire to see the CofE reformed and reawakened, and yet there is so much anger and heartache in the Church. There are still clergy who are vehemently anti-anything new, any new approaches to 'church' or preaching the Gospel. They wil defend their position (perhaps not to the death..!) with any means possible, they may not incite the mob, but they use the Media instead, which is frankly almost as bad. I want people to see how important the Church is in our society and how damaging it is to have slanging matches in the press, so much angst and splits being formed. Withouth fail, everyone I speak to about my faith has a story to tell of how they had a bad experience in church, or why they won't go to church. It's crazy, people have such a negative approach to an organisation that should be the absolute example of Gods love for His people. Instead people see doctrine, rules, judgements, anger and bitterness. Is that really what we want people to think of the Church, Gods church?

(this is not directed at anyone in particular by the way, or any particualr group, so please no one take offence... it's a general feeling! and I do recognise that reform will be hard and probably painful to some, as has been seen recently, I think its just a general frustration that I feel...)

Friday, 19 November 2010

THE form... Part I

I say, Part I, as I suspect there will be several posts on this...

So yesterday I looked at the Ministry Enquiry Form for the first time. It is 13 pages long... yes 13....
Apparently they want to know rather a lot about me... I was told that I should be thorough in my answers but should not sit on it',as the process cannot go on until it's done. It is certainly interesting, some of the questions are very open and require much thought. Eg:
'What do you consider to be the main events in your life?'

Well where do I start? I mean is this the basics like marriage, kids etc or do they want to know
some deeper stuff like when I realised my Dad didn't have 'the word' on everything; or that not everyone in the world will like me...

This is another:
'Please tell us very fully about your family background, upbringing, formative experiences from childhood through to today. Please include details of family members from birth together with your family history'
I mean that's like my entire life! Surely they don't expect an autobiography...

So in true avoidance fashion, I have done the easy bits. like filling in my name and age. Actually I have even done the past employment history bit. But several cups of tea later and I seem to be stalling. It's not that I don't want to do it, I think I just don't know where to start. And the truth is it will require some visits to bits of my past that I probably don't want to go to just now.

So, perhaps just one more cup of tea...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

DDO, part 1.

So today was THE meeting... 2 1/2 hours later...bit of an epic... but it was all fine :)
The DDO was lovely and made me feel very at ease. I also felt really at peace today. I just know that this is in Gods hands and so there is not point in worrying, I just have to trust Him. And because I was relaxed I was just able to just be myself, so we basically just chatted for the whole time. He asked a lot of questions though! About my background, personally and about church, how I was involved at my current church, what I had done in the past, about my family, my job, spirituality, faith and obviously my calling. He was very encouraging, and I guess I must have said something right somewhere, as he said, ‘yes there’s definitely a spark there!’ and ‘I can see you’re raring to go’... He also told me more about the process and discussed finding me a Vocations Consultant which is the next step. So I have come away with a stack of papers to read and he’s going to send me a form to fill in and then we go from there.

I have to say I feel very excited! I think today was a really big step for me, in confirming my calling. I prayed before hand for God to shut the door today if it wasn't of Him, so to come out feeling encouraged and that he was happy for me to go forward was amazing. I feel on a total high! Which I wasn't expecting at all. I thought it would be a bit of a 'well, lets just see where to go next', which it kind of was too, but, well I'm not really describing it very well, I'm not sure what I am trying to say, other than it feels SO right and I am raring to go!! Now, I have so much peace about the process too. Don;t get me wrong, I am not under any illusions, I know I may not get to the end of the process, (and I don’t think it will be easy either), but if not I know it will be the right thing by God and I am just trusting in Him to lead me forward. But I am excited about the challenge, the process, learning a heap of new stuff and of course, following Gods will for me. BRING IT ON!!!!!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Women in Ministry

I was challenged by my curate, in our recent meeting, as to what I thought about women in ministry. I vaguely floundered around Pauls missive in Timothy and tried to debunk it, finishing with, 'so I can't see any reason why they shouldn't be...' He, rightly, told me that it was a rather negative approach to a positive answer and that perhaps I should explore it a bit more. So bearing in mind Wednesdays meeting, I thought it might come up in conversation, and that perhaps James was right! So I have read, googled, discussed and these are my conclusions:

Generally speaking opposition to women in the ministry seems to stem from 2 points:

1 - tradition
2 - Pauls various quotes, but particularly 1 Timothy 2:11-12


So, firstly, tradition:
Just because something has been done for hundreds, or even thousands of years, it does not mean it is 'right'. People smoked for donkeys years before it was discovered it was harmful to their health. In the early days I believe it was even pushed as being good for you (!) In biblical terms many people refer to the fact that slavery was pretty much accepted (or quietly ignored) for centuries by Christians and even by those in the early church and writers of parts of the NT. This is a great point, (although I hate to steal others arguements), in that slavery is something that was socially accepted at the time, it is mentioned in the bible at various points and so could be thought of as being a tradition, in that it happened and was accepted. But it wasn't 'right' and we would have a hard time defending it by any standards.


It is true that for almost 2000 years women were not allowed into positions of ministry within the church (and I refer largely to the CofE). In fact it was only during the last century that they were finally allowed in. Should this be a reason to not allow them to be in ministry now? that they haven't done in the past? Seems like a pretty weak answer. I mean how many other things would we not do, if we used that arguement? The church would never change or come up with new ideas (hmm, perhaps I have answered my own question there ;) ) I think Jesus would have been the first one to advocate change, I mean look at what he felt about those who rigidly stuck to the OT laws. Look at what he said about the Pharisees.
In one essay I read a great comment from Sharon Pearson:

The significant aspect of every story about Jesus and the women he met is that Jesus crossed all lines of propriety - religious and social. He did not do what was 'proper' according to his day. His very actions were a challenge to the cherished traditions of his own people.

And are we not called to follow Jesus' example?


Much of what we talk of as dogma, theology, doctrine, rules, regulations etc in the church today do not come directly from scripture. Much of it was put in place by those within the church years ago, admittedly they must have felt guided by God, but it does not say in scripture, 'this is how church services should be run', nor does it say this is how your church structure should be... Of course there are vague comments, prayers and so on, but there are not specifics. Perhaps if there were the church would be more unified - but possibly less interesting too ;) There is no clear distinction on how a church should be run, and the structures we put in place are humanly put in place, hopefully guided by prayer. But we cannot all be right about this. We cannot all be guided by God to form such different opinions can we?
So traditionally there have been no women (although I cannot quantify this, I am sure there must have been a few unofficial ones) in authority in the church. Traditions take years to form and centuries to undo. According to thesaurus.com a tradition is an 'established practice'. So can we really base a decision on something as important as women in the church on an 'established practice'. I am sure that it became an 'established practice' due to society's attitude towards women at the time and in subsequent years (which I will go on to below). But society's attitude to women has changed. Maybe not in every area, but in general women are accepted in hundreds of different areas now than they would have been in the past. They go out to work, hold down very important positions, they can be in parliament, can rule the country. So why is it that parts of the Church insist on denying women their chance to preach the Word, to teach Gods people, to be in positions of authority within the church at large?


2. Pauls opinion. 1 Tim 2:11-12 and others.

Paul is probably one of the most contraversial people in the bible. Some love him, others can stand him! Personally I quite like parts of Paul, but I do recognise why he gets up peoples noses. He says what he thinks, he's outspoken, he sets rules, he tells people when they are in the wrong. No one likes a know-it-all do they?! BUT he did a pretty good job in furthering the church in areas where the Gospel had never reached before, so he's a pretty important figure. Most of what he writes is specifically in relation to the churches he has started. And we must remember that when we read Paul, we are only hearing half the story, his books are actually letters and we don't know what he is responding to or what particular issues there have been in any one church that he feels he should address. For example in 2 Corinthians 11, when he addresses the issue of false apostles.

So the passage that gets commonly quoted is: 1 Tim 2:11-12

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

Now if you want to take part of the bible literally and out of context then that's fine, but you can't just do it with one bit, you have to do it with the whole thing. It annoys me intensely when people start quoting bits of the bible as justification for something that actually is rather irrelevant.I don't claim to be a bible scholar but you can bet your bottom dollar if I were to claim something using scripture as back up I would get my facts right first. I believe that the bible is Gods word, God given, but I also believe that you need to interpret it to really understand it. You need to look at the circumstances surrounding when and why something was written, particularly a passage so well quoted as this.
As I said we don't know if there is something specific Paul is referring to here. Perhaps the church in Ephesus (where Timothy is when Paul writes to him) has a problem with women in the congregation? In the previous 2 verses Paul talks about the dress of the women and how they should display themselves. He also says:
v10... but with good deeds appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (the bold is mine for emphasis)
This would indicate to me that perhaps there had been an issue with some of the women in the congregation, not behaving in a correct and appropriate manner. After all these are new churches, and this is a new practice for those attending, perhaps they are finding it hard to adjust to? (And in fact Ephesus was well know for the women worshipping the goddess Artemis, which would have had a very different set of rules). In these terms I don't think it is fair to take verses 11-12 without looking at the whole section from 8-15, which gives a far wider view of the situation and what he is saying.
Interestingly on 'Bible Gateway.com' the word 'woman' in vs 11 and 12 could also be translated as 'wife' and the word 'man' translated as 'Husband', which actually gives a completely different take on the whole passage, suggesting that this is a suggestion of how married couples should behave with each other, not about the church at all.

However.. if one does take it as it is literally written here, then it suggests that women can not teach at all. It does not actually say she cannot teach the Gospel, it just says 'teach'. But the church now doesn't object to women being teachers does it? In fact In years gone by teaching was an admirable profession that women were encouraged to go in to. The full passage suggests that women should not braid their hair or wear gold or pearls or expensive clothes. Do you hear the church telling women not to wear gold? or not to wear expensive clothes? No. So why pick on the one bit about teaching in order to make a point - it really doesn't stand up.

As I mentioned above one must look at the social circumstances surrounding them at the time. What we do know is that women were not educated, their role was in the home in a very traditional way. So it was not common for women to be in positions of power or authority, however there were some and some are referred to in the bible. It was not common place that is true, but that was the society in which they were living and to a certain extent so are we. Times have changed, but in the Church, women are still in a minority. But... they are still there.
Of those few that do appear in the bible, we also don't know how many others there may have been that were not recorded. Even Paul refers to women who have worked alongside him, such as Priscilla (wife of Aquila) and she is commonly mentioned in this kind of debate as in several places her name is mentioned before her husband, which just didn't happen at that time. The mans name was always put first and Paul would have known this, he would not have made a simple mistake like this, it had to be intentional, especially as it happens more than once. It is clear from the mentions of them that they have worked together, and Priscilla is referred to as having 'explained the way of God' to Apollos (Acts 18:26). If that isn't teaching I don't know what is! He mentions other women too who have obviously been working in ministry with him.
There are other women of course referred to in the bible: Deborah, an Old testament Prophetess and judge in a great position of authority; Miriam, wokring with Aaron and Moses; Mary Magdalene was a close friend of Jesus and travelled with Him; and I love the story of Mary & Martha, where Jesus effectively rebukes Martha for doing the traditional work that her womanly role dictated at that time, he says 'only one thing is needed, Mary has chosen what is better...'. (Luke 10:38-42). Man, if Jesus walked into my house I would rather be sat at his feet learning from him, than cooking or cleaning!

Aside from all of that, statistics seem to show that generally, women make up a larger percentage of Church attendance than men. And women love to learn from each other,they can relate to each other, inspire each other, and they naturally want to share with each other. Isn't this something that could really help the larger percentage of the congregation? There are so many aspects to being a priest and in so many of them women in the church could bless those around them in ways that men can't. (I am aware this is a sweeping generalisation but even in feminist terms we have to accept that men and women are different). I think women in the Church can make a huge input and impact on those around them. They can fill in some of the areas that get missed or glossed over in such a male-dominated world. So come on Church of England, get with the times for goodness sake, before it is too late.

(Perhaps I best keep some of this to myself on Wednesday.. ;) )

Friday, 12 November 2010

The DDO looms

A quick post and I probably won't write again until after this happens (because I am basically bricking it and unable to sit still, let alone string a sentence together). BUT... next week I see the DDO for the first time. I'm rather in shock as my Vicar was sure I wouldn't be able to see him for some time. I think I suggested after Christmas. So 4 days after seeing my Vic, yes thats 4 DAYS, 4, not 2 months as I had hoped but 4 bloomin' days, the DDO calls me. right in the middle of my sons birthday party. So, the first time I speak to the man who is going to have rather a large say in my vocation (although not so big as God admittedly), I am surrounded by over excited 7 year old boys wielding pointy sticks and poking them in the chocolate fountain. (don't ask, it wasn't my idea...). I am also surrounded by relatives who have not been enlightened yet about my calling. (must get around to that...). So when I realise who is on the phone I run upstairs to escape the noise and chaos, resulting in heavy breathing down the phone. I then have to run back down and then upstairs to get my diary. Brilliant. So the DDO now has the impression of a slightly over excited heavy breathing loony coming to meet him next week. I, meanwhile, am wondering what on earth I am doing.
Those around me who know what is going on seem to be totally unsurprised by the whole thing. I, on the other hand, am quietly going round the bend....
Funny thing is, last weekend someone said to me, you know I think God is going to accelerate this process, it's going to really speed up. Which of course I completely ignored, because I am relying on the snails pace of the CofE here to get my head straight.
So, by this time next week I either will or won't be taking the first steps to Vicardom. Maybe he will think that the first impression of the heavy breathing loony is spot on and kick me out there and then. Maybe, on the other hand, he won't. In which case at the very least I will get a whole new sphere of blogging material... ;)

Monday, 8 November 2010

Strangely absent...

I have been somewhat absent from my blog of late, being away on hols, being rather busy at work, being under the weather (again. so boring...) and a few other things, and I have missed it rather a lot. And I've had stacks of things to post on but no time, energy or occasionally inclination... Anyway I hope that this will be resumed now...
And I start with some news. I am being referred to the DDO. eeeeeekkk!! This morning I met with our curate, who despite the fact that I hadn't mentioned anything, had already assumed he was there to talk about ministry. Why am I not surprised anymore?!
It was actually incredibly helpful as my husband was there too, so he could ask about things that were concerning him. And we got a lot of practical advice which was great.
Afterwards, my husband asked me how I felt, and the thing is I didn't feel anything in particular, it was like it was just another thing in the process that had to be done. Which is not to say that I expected this outcome, I didn't. I felt completely that God would guide it and that if it was meant to be then he would refer me. But afterwards it just felt like I already knew that would happen. (does that make sense?). And I am not doing down our curate either who is frankly, amazing, and so inspiring and he really helped us this morning, touching on exactly the right things and helping us (particularly my husb) get our heads around everything.
So I have a bit of homework to do and I have a few concerns which I am sure will be aired in the coming weeks...;) But, the first step is made. From here, who knows? Well, other than God...

Random Act of Culture

I saw this on 'The Vicars Wifes Blog' here. I am not an opera fan, but this is so awesome. I feel inspired, but I'm not sure that an average version of 'Blessed be Your Name' in our local shopping centre would have the same ring...

Monday, 1 November 2010

Halloween


Ok so I'm a day late, but hey we've been away (and I'm sure there are hundreds of posts on this already..) But I have been pondering for a while about the age old issue of Halloween. We have always taken the kids trick or treating in the past and our village is particularly keen on it, especially for the Under 8s, in a completely harmless way, no egging, threats or tricks, just cute kids in costume asking for tuck.
However this year since our renewal of faith I have been thinking about it more and although I am not completely anti I do find the whole thing rather uncomfortable. We decided not to do trick or treating, despite most of the kids friends going out. Actually they weren't that bothered really! When their Granny asked about why they weren't trick or treating the 4 year old piped up 'God doesn't like it.' And our church was running a Bright Party so they all went to that anyway, and got stacked up with sweets which is all they were really after anyway.
Anyway seeing that our village goes in for trick or treating in a big way, there was no way we could completely avoid the issue. So the dilemna was: do I make a big deal about it and refuse to give out sweets or answer the door? or do we come to some alternative? Well I decided it wouldn't be particualrly loving to just shut up shop for the night, so we stocked up on sweets anyway. I wanted to bless people who came calling so we carved our pumpkins with crosses and set up an arch of light. I prayed that anyone who came through it would be blessed by Gods love, and we gave away stacks of chocolate! I'm still not sure what I think about it all but at the very least I don't want to turn people away who come knocking at my door.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Insight into me...

At my bible group one of the leaders asked us all to do a personality test. They are changing the group around a bit and I think the idea is to be a conversation point. I was my usual skeptical self ;) but I did fill it in. It's a bit like the Myers Briggs (and similar) tests. Funnily enough I have managed to get to the ripe old age of 36 without actually doing one of these before, so I was interested to see the results. And I was quite surprised to find that some of the answers were quite tricky to pin down.

The test had a series of boxes, with various phrases in each eg:
Gentle, Kindly
Persuasive, convinces others
Humble, reserved, modest
original, inventive, individualistic

In each one you had to chose which line was most and which was least like you. If it was picking one word it would have been easier, but sometimes the phrases didn't match up, so one word was very like me and then other not at all. Anyway, fill it in I did and I got back the results a few weeks back. We then dicsussed the system at group this week. I was frankly, quite amazed to find that the survey had me to a T, even the negative stuff I could recognise as being unfortunately correct!

So according to the oracle of 'The Personality System' test I am an 'Attainer (achiever, one who perseveres)'. hmmm... Part of the summary says this:
'Individuals who are attainers exhibit an objective and analytical style. They can be fiercely independent, but also enjoy working as part of a team. Attainers derive their motivation from internal rather than external sources; typically from personal goals and an inner drive to complete a task and be considered 'righteous' or 'a winner'. Their task focus may overide consideration for others, causing them to appear uncaring and distant...Their calm and steady character makes them a good leader, and gives them the ability to 'plan their work and work their plan'....'

Have to say, it is pretty spot on, even the 'uncaring and distant' bit sadly - must work on that. I'm not convinced about being a 'good' leader but I do like to be in control and take the lead (part of my downfall sometimes!)
When we went through the system at the group this week it was interesting to hear the group leader talk about how it works. Your answers effectively have scores and these are then plotted on a graph in various columns which are then translated into letter headings. Mine was S/D. S stands for Stable/Steady and D for Dominant/Driver. The group leader mentioned more than once that you don't often find Christians with a 'D', because, well, the implication was that Christians are peaceful, loving people, not dominant independant types... I chuckled to myself...

These are some of the D words: Demanding, determined, pioneering, skeptical, decisive, competitive. The S however was much more positive: loyal, relaxed, co-operative, consitent, deliberate and so on The only words I didn't really agree with were: patient (I am deifnitely not..) and passive (again, really dont think this is me!).
So someone in the group piped up, 'well if there were a Christian who came out as a D what kind of role would they have?'... I bet you can guess the answer already... 'Probably leading a big evangelical church...' (cue face falling from me...) And whats more my friend sat next to me just pointed at me and said 'Vicar'....
It's ok God I have got the message now... ;)
What I thought was very funny was some of the possible weaknesses flagged up by the test. They were:
Oversteps authority (who me...?)
Argumentative attitude (hmm...)
and: attempts too much at once
sound familiar to anyone else?! I laughed at the authority bit - I have never been good with rules, I just want to break them. Gosh, I can't even handle centerparcs (where we are off to next week, oh joy) because I feel hemmed in by the boundaries - it's like you can't escape!!

Interestingly this test also gives you biblical examples of similar people in scripture. Apparently other attainers are: Daniel, Job and Martha. great. Rather hoping I don't have boils and the lions den to look forward to.. Actually it is quite interesting as we are studying Daniel at church at the mo, so I was able to really delve into this. I like the line in the summary:
'Daniel challenges 'attainers' to stand up for what is right, and to determine to use their commitment to high standards as a positive infuence on those around them.'

So there you have it. I am a dominant yet stable person, or a steady driver, who won't adhere to rules... thats all you need to know ;)

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Beautiful

As part of my 'readathon', my lovely Dad's suggestion was 'The Book of Common Prayer'.
I was not impressed....
However he brought me a copy over and so I delved into it and I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised. I came across this prayer last night which I thought was simply beautiful:

Come Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten with celestial fire,
Thou the annointing spirit art,
Who dost they seven-fold gifts impart.
Thy blessed unction from above,
Is comfort, life and fire of love.
Enable with perpetual light,
The dulness of our blinded sight.
Annoint and cheer our soild face

With the abundance of thy grace.
Keep far our foes, give peace at home:
Where thou art guide, no ill can come.
Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And thee, of both, to be but One.
That, through the ages all along,
This may be our endless song;
Praise to thy eternal merit,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It's from the Section 'Ordering of Priests' (just doing some background..;) )

Monday, 11 October 2010

Law breakers?

As part of my readathon, over this sabbatical period that I have, I have begun to read the bible from start to finish. There is much of the Old Testament that I have never read, and if I'm honest I haven't been all that enthusiastic about. However I have been pleasantly surprised! It has been challenging at times it's fair to say, but that has been great. I love a challenge.
I think I have always had this view that the OT is just for Jews. That it isn't very relevant in the 21st Century. but recently obviously, I have reviewed that! Reading it is giving me clarity about much of the New Testament too. But the thing I still struggle with is how much of it do we just 'discount', if you like, as being pre-Christ? As in, oh well we don't have to sacrifice stuff anymore, Christ died so we don't have to do that. But what about all the rules and regulations? what constitutes a rule that should be obeyed and one that is ok to ignore? I mean the 10 commandments are a pretty good moral standard regardless of Gods instruction. so most people, Christian or otherwise, would probably not have a problem with them. And there are other laws too that actually could just be part of a general common sense approach to life. In fact some of the stuff in Leviticus about people with boils/skin diseases etc being put into isolation is surely just a simple and sensible approach to inefectious diseases, especially in an era where there was a very different approach to medicine! In a way the priests took a similar role to a modern day Doctor.
But what about the more contraversial stuff? What about where it says adulterers should be stoned to death and so on. Ok so this doesn't sit terribly well with our 21st C lives ;) , but what makes that decision for us? I'm not trying to be either flippant or dense, I just want to know. A good example, which jews obviously do stick to, is what the OT suggest we should and shouldn't eat. Why is it ok to eat a cow but not a pig? for example and why do Jews stick to this but Christians don't? (personally I am a veggie so I'm not bothered either way...) And indeed there are obviously bits of the laws that even Jews don't keep, I mean you can hardly stone someone in the middle of Stamford Hill can you?
What I'm trying to say I think, is that where do we draw the line? I, as a Christian, accept that the bible is the Word of God, so who am I to say, well ok, I accept but perhaps I'll ignore that bit, or just leave that section out...?

I used to think that the bible was like a guidebook that we had to interpret for ourselves and draw our own conclusions. I don't completely disagree with that now, but I would struggle with what conclusions I should draw from all those OT laws that we don't keep....

As always comments appreciated - I am trying to broaden my horizons!!

Friday, 8 October 2010

More Christian Humour...



Thanks to my friend Rob for this... although he did tell me not to post it, but as he has removed the offending word I am sure we're fine... ;) actually its almost funnier that he has removed it!!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Pursuit of Happyness

A few weeks back my husband and I sat and watched 'The Pursuit of Happness'. It's a movie starring, and I think directed by, Will Smith based on the life of Chris Gardner. Gardner is a struggling medical salesman, whilst his wife holds down 2 jobs. Their young son spends much time at nursery. The wife eventually gets fed up and leaves. Gardner struggles on, trying to sell the machines whilst looking after his son. If that weren't bad enough, the bills mount, eventually they become evcited (twice) and for months on end he and his son line up at the homeless shelter to have a room for the night, all the while lugging round the last remaining medical machine.
Gardner has big dreams, he wants a better life for his son and ends up applying for a space on an internment programme in a big trading bank, at the end of which 1 person gets a job. Only one. So at this point, he is a single Dad with no help, homeless and has no job and no money, yet he applies for an unpaid position in a huge bank. Needless to say he strives for that one job and against all the odds and all the crap that is thrown at him (and there is a lot) he gets that job and all is good. It is an amazing tale and one that would seem totally unlikely and simply the imagination of some hollywood writer. However it is true and Gardner was in fact involved in the filming.

Although there is no mention in the film of him having any faith there were so many points in the film where I thought that guy must have God in his life. You know sometimes stuff happens and you just know it is an answer to prayer, whether you have prayed it or not! At one point in the movie one of his machines is stolen (due to either his own stupidity or a genuine innocent trust of the human race, we are left to decide!). Later in the movie when all is at rock bottom he sees a guy on the street with the machine. He gets it home and eventually manages to repair it and then sell it, just when he has no money left. Or there's a time when he misses a space in the hostel by one place and all those aroud him vouch for him saying that someone queue jumped and that he should have the space. Thats from people who don't know him, and desperately need the space themselves. My favourite bit is the day before his interview for the intern programme, he gets arrested for not paying a parking ticket, and is taken from his home where he has been re-painting the room. So from there the following day he goes straight to the interview, just gets there in time but is unshowered, in his jeans and covered in paint. Somehow he blags the interview (through honesty actually). If that isnt a God moment I don't know what is!

This movie really touched me. I came away wondering if Gardner was a Christian and thinking about how people can carry on in the most awful situations (rather like chatting to the lady in London a week or so ago which I blogged about). His situation was so unfair, he worked hard, he loved his wife and his son and did all he could to provide for them, yet it all fell apart. How many of us would have given up hope at that point? He didn't, he had a dream and he did all he could to get to that dream. I was watching the movie willing him to be a Christian as it was such an amazing story of hope, of faith and of trusting in God in the most awful circumstances (Job comes to mind....).

So with the aid of Google I found out that he is a Christian, a very committed one. However I found myself a little disappointed, because they didn't even alude to it in the movie. How amazing a testimony is his, that in trust he went through all that and in the end God provided for him amazingly. Instead it's just another hollywood moment, a feel-good movie, shed a few tears over some popcorn and get on with your life. What a shame.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Harvest Festival - love it or hate it?

Whilst I usually try not to follow the blogging trendy topic of the week I can't help myself with this one. Harvest Festival - love it or hate it? Church Mouse and Charlie at Always Hope amongst others are on the case this week. Who would have thought the humble old harvest festival would be such a big deal?!

Look, I live in a rural village, surrounded by farms, so for me it is still perfectly relevant and ought to be more so - as Church Mouse says, half the inner city kids have to have the whole thing explained to them, but how sad is that? that they don't even know where their food comes from? And I'll not hear that old, 'well they have never been to a farm' argument - I have never been to a car factory but I know how my car works (well sometimes..) It should be part of the curriculum.

But anyway I am digressing. What I really wanted to say is that I think we all need to think a bit more around the subject. I don't disagree that in some places it could do with a bit of updating, but equally I don't agree with the negativity about buying plastic razors for the homeless (or sleeping bags at the church I was at last weekend!). I bet you that the homeless shelters and local charities who distribute all the produce brought in from these services don't gripe about it. I'll bet they are very thankful that with that extra input they can help so many more people. Yes it might not be your home grown apples or potatoes but these gifts are inherently more practical in the 21st Century. What we have is already a more up to date version of the Victorian Harvest Service.

I am also sure that traditionally churches used what they had in their local area to decorate the church and give out to people. So why not take that to the next level? What is in abindance on your area? Is it tin cans? get creative! And if you are in an affluent area where people would rather go buy stuff from the supermarket, or an area where razors and sleeping bags are more practical for your neighbourhood, then thats great.

But also I feel more importantly that we should be looking at this in a far wider sense in the 21st Century. And I don't mean in terms of carbon bloody footprints - what a nonsense that whole idea is anyway - its like saying, well I've just used up the entire forestry of one nation, in the process causing wildlife to die and affecting the balance of the area - but thats ok, I'll just go plant a few more trees, or better still, I'll pay someone else to do it for me and then I don't even need to get my hands dirty. (sorry bit of a pet hate...) ANYWAY what I was going to say is that we should think about the Harvest of Souls. 'Harvest' is a term bandied around a lot in Christian circles and it isn't usually referrring to the local apple trees, but more about the harvest of souls. Even the hymn (come on we love it really...) 'We plough the fields and scatter', whilst obviously talking about the literal harvest could be seen to be talking about a more spiritual harvest:

We plough the fields and scatter
The good seed on the land, But it is fed and watered
By God's almighty hand:He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft, refreshing rain.

Look at this verse above - we might be the ones doing the work, sowing the seeds, but it isn't us that brings people to God, it is Him. He is the one who feeds and waters us - 'by Gods almighty hand'.
It isn't always easy, there is the seeping cold of the snow, the really low times; there's the warmth of the sunshine, the good times when we feel God is right there with us; the breezes of things passing through; and the 'refreshing rain'. We get it all in life and it is God that guides us through it.

I like to think that at Harvest we are not only thanking God for the literal harvest around us, whatever that may be in our own areas, but also thanking Him for saving us - thanking Him for the souls he has led us to, to plant seeds in their lives. I'm sure we have all been in situations where you feel drawn to someone, you feel God has led you to them, you share a word, or the whole gospel maybe, but nothing comes of it. That person does not instantly receive Christ as their saviour. BUT a seed has been sown in their hearts and it is God that will use others to water that seed, to send it warmth, to feed it until their time is right to grow and flourish.

So perhaps there is more to harvest festival than pumpkins and plastic razors...

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

help!

well nothing is ever simple is it? I felt great last week. Finally felt like I wasn't going round the twist, had just about got over the denial, and well, all seemed rosy. How things change so quickly.
From there I went into total reverse. I don't even know why, there is no cause for it, no one said anything negative to me (the opposite in fact), but what I do know is that I wanted to crawl into bed and stay there for a week. I was hit with a massive amount of doubt, disbelief and negativity. The worst since our big renewal of faith. The old voice was back - 'but what if it's not real', 'is God really calling you?' 'is there a God?'. On top of that all is going pear shaped at work, some misunderstandings that have got totally out of control, one of those situations where you aren't entirely in the wrong but you have to eat huge amounts of humble pie in order to keep the peace. its do not fair!

I can't explain how all consuming all this has been. I don't want to pray because I feel like I am letting God down, I am not worthy enough for him to even listen to me, I can't be trusted. One of those times where what you really need to do is 'press in to God' but where you just can't face it. I feel afraid. Of what I don't know, I just have a pit of fear in my stomach. I feel like I am on an edge. That I could go either way - one way sees me walking in to my calling and being strong in my faith. The other sees me dropping off into no mans land and hiding my head and not thinking, so I don't have to deal with it all.

Help!
There is a part of me saying, 'pull yourself together woman, for goodness sake'. Another part saying,'its the Devil - you have made some pretty important spiritual decisions and so he's pretty darn pissed off, he will get at you whatever way he can'. Another part just avoiding the whole issue, which is not helping at all.

My heart knows all the answers. My heart believes totally in a loving and living God, who loves me and is calling me to do the good works He has planned. My heart cannot imagine a life without Him. My head, on the other hand is listening to the lies and doubts and creating obstacles along the way.

Needless to say the main argument I am having with myself is, 'how can I possibly even consider going any further with this when I cannot categorically say that I know God exists?' This side of me just wants to be a 'normal' Christian, someone who is happy in their faith and lives their life by it, but in a 'normal' life. Why do I have to step out and have a bigger role like this? I don't need to. I am happy being me thank you. Oh gosh, this is worse than the denial - bring back the denial please!

No idea where to go with this. need to pray but can't focus on it. Am finding so many diversionary tactics - was even digging the veg patch a moment ago, despite the fact that it was nearly dark. So instead I'm trying to get it all out here, might make me feel better.

Is this a stage? does everyone doubt their calling once they have finally accepted it?! Lord, help me...

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Life Changes

Right, well I know I'm not going crazy anymore, so that's a good thing...
Went to see my lovely parish priest this morning (so to clarify he's the Vicar of the church in my village, not the one where I regularly attend). An hour and a half and bit of sobbing later I can accept that.... monumental moment coming up... I have a calling. Ok, so I knew that already but it's fair to say I have been denying it. I'm not saying it will be easy to accept it, probably the opposite, but I can't deny it any longer.

Funnily enough he, ie: the parish priest, just happens to be the vocations chap for the diocese (I didn't know this before), so was the perfect person to talk to. (God moves in funny ways sometimes..) Anyway I poured out my heart, thoughts, anxieties, 100 reasons why I couldn't do it... He was perfectly gracious, despite my snotty appearance and general 'I can't do this' approach, and basically gave me total confirmation about all I have been feeling. He told me that what I said matched up to what other potential ordinands (is that the word?) say, that it made perfect sense, that if he had a tick list I would be ticking many of the boxes. eeekkk!

He asked me why the Church of England, especially I guess, as I attend a very evangelical church now, and I told him how I felt about the CofE (including that I don't agree with all of it!) and about my passion for the parish churches (which he has heard before). (too much to write all that here). To my surprise he told me that I had a very 'mature and balanced' outlook on it and it would be exactly what the diocese would want to hear. I didn't expect that at all - scary stuff ;)

He told me about the potential process and what would be the next step, which set me more at ease about the whole thing, about the timing of it and what it would involve. Which is really why I went to see him in the first place, to get the low down on what I would have to do, if I really felt called. I felt that seeing him was a 'safe' option as I wouldn't be admitting it to my own priest - I guess I thought that would make it official, with no going back and I wanted a sounding board first!

So he basically told me he thinks I should take the next step (ie: going to my Vicar and then the diocese guy whose title I have forgotten already...). I actually thought my heart would jump out of my chest when he said this, but strangely it wasn't with fear as I thought it might but with excitement. I really can't tell you how much of a surprise that was. It was like the last bit of confirmation I needed to feel ok with it all.

So... I guess I need to speak to my Vicar...
Can't describe how I am feeling - it's a bit like I've been through an ordeal and come out the other side - not that it was an ordeal seeing him this morning, totally the opposite, but I feel emotionally drained, exhausted really. But at the same time when I think about what he said to me I feel massively excited. At the school gate I wanted to run up to everyone and say, 'guess what....'. Of course I didn't, as most of them are not Christians and they would have thought I had gone mad. That will be another days step!

So after all that, I feel some peace about the whole thing. I can accept that there is a calling, I can accept that it is in Gods hands and time will tell what route I will be on.
I think that although I will speak to my Vicar, I don't want this process to start until after Christmas (and anyway he might suggest further away who knows), but I want to protect this 'sabbatical' I have (it is God given after all) and not rush into this. It will be Gods timing whatever I feel anyway!!

If you feel so inclined, please pray for me. Although I'm excited there is a part of me that is completely terrified too!!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Speaking in tongues

Yesterday I prayed in tongues for the first time. This was a bit of a surprise as I haven't been 'eagerly desiring the gift' and to be totally honest I am a teensy bit skeptical about it. It seems to be a subject that really divides people. Those who do it are enthusiastic that others should too, that it brings one closer to God, for that 'heart-heart' connection. Those that don't are often hugely skeptical, thinking it a lot of mumbo-jumbo.

Some months ago I did a bit of 'research' into it. The bible clearly talks about the discicples speaking in tongues in a few places.
Acts 2: 1-5
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.


but it seems that here they weren't doing it to talk to God but in order to spread the gospel to those whose language they didnt speak. Later Paul says in 1 Corinthians, something different, that we should desire the spiritual gifts but in this case, to speak to God. In 1 Cor 14:2

For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.

So is this one and the same thing? I have heard of pepole suddenly speaking in a new language (as in an actual language that they are not previously fluent in) and I have also experienced people praying in tongues, which mostly sounds like nonsense or possibly some sort of strange arabic dialect (not that I know what arabic sunds like of course...)
This passage bothers me too:

Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. 1 Corinthians 14:6-12

It seems that there are 2 purposes for praying or speaking in tongues -
1. to speak directly to God, to express what words cannot express.
2. to speak to others, whether in their own language or with a translation.

With both of these one is completely reliant on God for the understanding.

In my limited research I watched a video of man being monitored whist praying in tongues. The scientist suggests that the speech part of his brain is inactive in the process. Now of course, this is a clip I found on google, so I dont hold it as any great evidence, but that did stick with me.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZbQBajYnEc

And I was very interester that the Pastor in question says that those with faith have nothing to fear dfrom science, infact that science validates faith...

Going back a few more months... very soon after our big renewal of faith I was praying silently to myself during a prayer meet (there were just 3 of us) when I had words come into my head. The first was Yeshua, which I half recognised, so didn't think much about it, then the next one was 'habibi'. This sounded like total nonsense so I ignored it all. but over the next few days it kept coming back to me. So eventually I stuck it in google and the translation came back straight away: 'Jesus my beloved' and it is arabic. Now I am sure I had never heard that phrase before, so my instant reaction was 'wow' ok, so that really was God. From that I felt encouraged and tried to allow more words to come but it wasn't really happening and so I gave up.

fast forward back to the present... Last night I was at my prayer group and one of the girls asked which of us prayed in tongues. I was the only one who didn't so she asked if she could pray for the gift to be released in me. So I thought, why not?! although still abit skeptical, so I just said to God, look if this is for me I want it to do your work, to get closer to you, not to be able to say in a room full of people, yeah I pray in tongues. Or pray it loudly at church...
So she prayed for me and then after they prayed for me about some other unrelated stuff, so whilst I sat quietly I prayed to myself and words just started coming. When they had all gone I prayed again in bed and the same thing. The weird thing is I was not in control, it was like I could hear myself, I could hear the sounds but I wasn't chosing them. I have quite a visual mind, I guess because I am an artist that makes sense, and it was like I could see in my mind this stream of words ahead that my voice was following, so I was focussed on that, while my mouth was making the words. It was really quite strange but at the same time I had this great feeling of warmth and joy.
So this morning I have gone back to being skeptical, and thinking 'is it really from God?' But the same thing is happening, like I am not in control of the words. So I guess I now have the gift of tongues.
Love to know others thoughts on the git of tongues, others experiences, positive and negative...!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Hope

This weekend I was taught a lesson in hope. On Sunday night I went with our curate and a team to a church in London. He was preaching, we were there as the prayer team. As always he preached amazingly.

We had prayed in the car on the way up - he asked us to pray for words of knowledge for people who we could pray for healing. We were going to do this when we got there but the traffic was so awful and we were so late - Sunday evening traffic on the M25/M4!. As I was driving I couldn't really concentrate on praying but I did ask God to guide me and as I did I noticed the number plate on the car in front it was EX55... I felt God was saying 'excess', that there would be someone there who was suffering ill health due to living life to excess, or taking something to excess.

Anyway we all got up after our curate had finished and said what we thought God has shared with us. No one came forward for me so I started to feel a bit like I had got it wrong and mayebe I should have prayed harder. So I prayed for a couple of others who had coem forward with other problems. 2 or 3 people got healed of injuries - one who wasn't a Christian and he was amazed - it was really funny! He kept bending his legs and saying 'its really gone!'

Anyway I felt drawn to a lady the other side of the church so I went round and asked if she would like me to pray for her. I won't share all her story but she is an addict and has led a pretty horrible life. Been abused, been an alcoholic, been in prison and worse. and as she spoke I felt that she was the person suffering from excess. I wanted to cry her story was so sad. As I listened I prayed, Lord what can I say to her? She has such a hopeless life, what can I possibly say to her? But I really felt God saying, she has Hope, she is not hope-less. and actually I learnt something from her. Becuase she wasn't making excuses for her behaviour, she wasn't saying well I've had such a hard life, thats why I do this. The opposite. she said 'I know its a sin, I know God wants me to stop'. she quoted scripture at me far better than I could for her. she really knows God. and she was so humble.

Now I am sure she is one of those slight oddballs of the congregation, you know the ones people don't want to get stuck talking to, almost avoid so they don't have to put their Christian principles to the test, I am sure every congregation has one. And I admit that I stood there with my inital thoughts being about not getting this kind of person on leafy Sussex and that I would hate to be in her situation, and how did I get stuck talking to her, but as she went on my heart broke for her. but actually she has a close relationship with God, probably more so than I do. And Actually it was a privelege talking to her. I would like to think that in her situation I would be as hopeful, as faithful, but the truth is I'm not sure I would.


You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word. Psalm 119:114