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…!

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.

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…)

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…

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!!!!!

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.. ;) )

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… ;)

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…

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.