Update…

I do not like it when I cannot post on my blog. Some would call this a kind of addiction and perhaps it is. But I think the reality is that it is keeps me sane. I find it very therapeutic to write and I have a real need to get things out of my head. In writing I often find an answer to things that have been going round for a while, which is probably why my posts are often a bit disjointed.
Anyway, I rather hope that as the kids finally go back to school for any decent length of time and my husband back to work, and lots of responsibilities that have been looming finally gone, I can get back in routine. (I am also obsessed with routine…)

So anyway over the last 3 weeks various post ideas have been going round my head so much so that I just don’t know where to start. So instead I am starting with a quick round-up of the last few weeks. Perhaps to remind myself that I haven’t been slacking (!), or perhaps just to get it all out of my head so I can move on… This is the last 3 weeks in a paragraph:

Tower of London (with kids not as an unwelcome break); swimming, movies, tea (lots of); singing in the pub’s open mic night for the first time; more ill health (but hopefully on the mend, gosh its sooo boring being ill); sunshine!, painting – front door not canvas, enormous ironing pile, BBQs, Easter Sunday – awesome massive service with Matt Redman; 24-7 Prayer room; latest visit with VC;  DDO comes to visit; lots of reading; Sunday lunches with friends and family; digging a friends veg patch; walks, picnics; Bluebell Railway; DVDs a plenty; building camps in the garden; paddling pool; very messy house; veg planting; McDonalds for tea; 4 hours in front of the telly followed by street party & BBQ…

Hopefully by Tuesday normal service will be resumed!

Cartwheeling Verger

I expect the whole blog world is going gaga over this clip (so apologies if you’ve seen it 100 times)  but as I’ve been blog-absent for a few days I hadn’t seen it – just read about it in this mornings papers. I love it. It looks like a spoof clip! but I am sure no one would have gone to this much trouble to spoof it. I just love the thought that just minutes before, this ancient building would have been filled with royals, dignitaries, celebs, you name it… and I am sure the whole team at Westminster Abbey must have been under so much pressure, I reckon this shows the relief that it all went so well. What fun! And I’m impressed he can even cartwheel anyway. Most blokes are not quite so co-ordinated!

Volte Face

(sorry second time of posting, it deleted half the post last time and had to start again. grrr blogger…)

Last weekend I was asked to share some testimony at a joint churches service on Easter Sunday evening. The subject was ‘how do we know Jesus is alive today’ – the answer being that he is working in my life and countless others. I was asked for some examples and one that I seem to have shared a lot recently is about some words I felt God had given me in prayer.They were ‘Volte Face’. I didn’t know what it meant other than asuming it was Latin (odd language for God to use though!). Anyway it wasn’t, it seems to be dervived from French or Italian, meaning a change of opinion or position:

Volte-face (pronounced /vɒltˈfɑːs/ or /voʊltˈfɑːs/) is a total change of position, as in policy or opinion; an about-face.

The expression comes through French, from Italian voltafaccia and Portuguese volte face, composed of volta (turn) and faccia (face). In the context of politics a volte-face is, in modern English, often referred to as a U-turn or a flip-flop in the UK and the US respectively.

I have realised over the last few months of rather intense reflection on my life how much these words are true of my life. I knew we were transformed in Christ, but not to what extent. It seems there is not an area of my life that is untouched by Gods hand. Where I was stressed I am calm; where I had to be in control I have let go; (in fact have pretty much no idea where my life is going whereas before, the next 20 years where mapped out..); where I wouldn’t talk about my faith, now you can’t shut me up – I wouldn’t even do the reading in my old church, now I am leading a service every now and then; I pray for people at every opportunity, before we said we would never be the kind of people who asked others to pray about things for us… Oh dear, how God laughed I am sure…
And throughout all this change, and transformation, and U-turns I have the most amazing calmness about me. I can’t believe how unfazed I am by all of this. I don’t mean in terms of being calm all the time, I still shout at the kids sometimes, but underneath all of that there is a sense of peace. Perhaps I am finally becoming the person God intended me to be!

Pressure…

As I sit here watching Masterchef and seeing the pressure the contestants are under I have been thinking about the pressure I put on myself. In all situations. Even with this blog, I have had a hectic few weeks because of the school hols and being busy with commitments, and yet I am still thinking, I really need to post something…

I thought this was something that I had overcome. But perhaps that is what makes me, me…? Whatever I do, I throw myself into 100%, well more probably. I have to know everything about what I am doing, I embrace it, I dive right it. I do not do things by halves. I am sure this can be a good trait, in that I put my all into things, but sometimes I think I go too far. I put so much pressure on myself to do well. Failure is not an option, in anything.

It’s almost like I have to prove something. But to who? Is it to myself? To God? I don’t think I have sussed that one out yet.

I wrote a few weeks back about accepting a compliment and finding it hard. I think that is related to this too, in that perhaps I cannot accept when I do something well. Because I know I could do better.. Am I a perfectionist? Is that an unattractive quality? Am I not enough?

Ultimately none of it should matter, what should matter is that I do my best and I do it for God. I think I find it hard to accept that God will love me no matter what. Love has always been an issue for me, as I have written about before, but is this what this is about too? Love has a lot to answer for… that and our ability to both give it, and receive it.

24-7 Prayer Room

This week I have been involved in a 24-7 prayer room, setting up some of the stations and doing some kids activities. It has been really interesting to be part of. At least 5 churches came together to organise it and several more have sent people along to pray as well as independant people who have come of their own choice. It has been such a blessing! So many people have met with God there this week. People have wept, prayed, worshipped, sang, got creative, tried things for the first time… and the best thing for me has been the unity. It has been great to see people who don’t know each other, from different churches coming together in their joint love of Christ.

 I love this picture, from a station where you tie knots in a piece of string to represent things that get in the way of your relationship with God, then you tie it to the cross. Then you take a new piece of string home with you to remind you, you are renewed in Christ. I have tied mine to my wrist as a permanent reminder! Although it has fallen off several times, not sure what that says about my faith… ;)
I set up a few stations for the praise and worship area, with a vintage theme (so they basically represented half my house…) which had the obligatory bunting included…
And we have got through at least 60 bunting flags, I have had to restock the bowl twice!

Our Tree of Hearts: The text reads:

Praise the Lord for his wonderful deeds, let your heart leap for joy, Praise him in your heart…



The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. Psalm 28:7

I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1

My eyes have been opened to so may things in this room. My favourite station was ‘Have tea with Jesus’, where you sit at a table and imagine what you would say if you were having tea with Jesus. It is set up with mugs and all! And on the table is a copy of the book ‘Dinner with a Perfect Stranger’ where the main character gets invited to dinner with someone proffessing to be Jesus. I only got to chapter 2 so not sure if he actually was, but it certainly made me think…

I found myself wishing there was somewhere one could go to like this, 24/7 all year round. (And before anyone says go to your local church, ours is not open all the time!) There was just an amazing air of calm and peace in the room, and none of the distractions of home. I wanted to stay all day, it was just so easy to pray in there!

What should be the correct Easter week prep?

I love the school hols as for the first time (since not working) I can actually enjoy spending time with the kids in the hols rather than stressing about childcare. But my gosh where does the time go? I realised today that it has been a week since my last blog post and yet the post ideas are queueing up!! I literally have not had a spare second… Sadly I can’t get the scheduling thing to work for me either. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, blogger obviously has a mind of its own – or perhaps it’s a cunning form of censorship…

Anyway it has caused me to think about what one should be doing in ‘Holy Week’, because mine has been far less than holy I can tell you. I guess last year Easter must have been at the beginning of the hols, but I know that I had time to relfect on Easter before it was upon me. I read a lot about the resurrection last year, I wanted to look at it from different angles and get a real ‘handle’ on it.

This year, by comparison, my kids have been off school, my husband has been off work, I have been involved in setting up a church 24/7 prayer week and subsequently I think I have prayed less this week than any for the previous 6 months! I’m sure Holy week should be more about gentle reflection than running around like a headless chicken. (Note to self, mention this to school holiday planners before next year…) Has anyone else had this craziness or is it just me?

I realise tonight, as I have come back from setting up for tomorrow mornings kids activities, that it will be Good Friday tomorrow and yet I feel totally unprepared. I have not prayed, I have hardly opened my bible, I feel like I am letting God down.

It’s so easy to get bogged down in the busy-ness of life, something I have fallen to in the past, and miss the really important stuff. This is what has happened this week. Last year, as a church, we held an event on Good Friday and I remember feeling exhausted at the end of the day and really could have done with some quiet time and yet this year I am in the same position. Will someone please remind me next year that I should not book anything in Holy Week…

The Future of the Church

I’ve been inspired recently by a number of books/reports/conversations about the future of the church. In particular I just finshed the CofE Report from a few years ago ‘Mission-Shaped Church’. I don’t suppose it will be of any surprise to you to know that it totally struck a chord with me. What I find frustrating is that it seems most of the church are comepletely ignoring it, so what is the point in the ‘management’ commissioning a report and then doing little about it? The report basically challenges some long-held beliefs about church attendance, and raises potential ways of looking to the future. Yet in my own experience the age-old petty squabbles and arguments of the traditional church are still ongoing. As a member of a fresh expressions church, all too often I hear the complaint that our church is ‘sheep stealing’ from other local churches. To which I have little sympathy. and I mean none. If you cannot provide the spiritual nourishment that your parishoners need, don’t complain when they go elsewhere. I had a conversation recently with someone related to ministry, nowhere near our church I shuold say, but where there was a similar plant in her area and she was bringing up the same accusations. And, ‘if only we had had those resources…’, ‘if a few couples came and livened up our congregation’… It was sooooo defeatist. If you want to change your church, DO IT! It’s no good not wanting to alienate people. I’m sorry to say it, but most of those who would be annoyed by change will be dead in 20 years (or 10…)… Now I am not anti- the more traditional approach to church, as I have said before I recognise there is a place for it, but what I am anti is when people moan about falling numbers but are not prepared to do anything about it. And I can think of several examples near me where that is the case…

What ‘Mission-Shaped church’ talks about a lot is the need to ‘go to people’ rather than expecting them to come to us, which is something I have been banging on about for ages. no one told me I could have been quoting from a CofE report (and I probably wouldnt have believed tham anyway!)  A line in the report says:
Yet there is still considerable resistance in practice to giving church plants and fresh expressions of church the right to Anglican citizenship. In a few cases the process of acceptance and recognition has been so reluctant and slow that valuable resources to the Church of England have been lost.

By valuable resources I am assuming they mean skilled people, again which I have seen. People so disillusioned that they go somewhere else, often outside the CofE. So what are we doing about it? Not enough frankly. WAKE UP SLEEPERS…! where will the church & Christianity in ths country be in 50 years time if we don’t seriously addresss this NOW?

I am thinking about Pioneer ministry. Can you tell…?

What is Heaven…?

Recently I’ve been thinking about heaven. It’s a word often used lightly: ‘this ice cream is just heaven’, a good holiday retreat is ‘heavenly’, even Belinda Carlise sang ‘ooh heaven is a place on earth…’, perhaps she wasn’t far from the truth…
I am reading (amongst a million other books, really must focus…) ‘Surprised by Hope’ by Tom Wright. It’s an interesting book and has challenged me in so many areas. What has got me thinking most though, is why we are obsessed with heaven. I mean as Christians we can pretty much guarantee that it is going to be a good place, right? So why do we feel this amazing need to know now what it is like?

The bible is surprisingly unforthcoming about what it will be like. There are a couple of visions but not much else. There is also very little said about what happens to us after death. Yet the world, our culture seems to have a specific view – heaven is ‘up there’, in the clouds, angels and harps that kind of thing, all generally speaking inspired from the art world – both literary and visually. But there is little descriptive scriptural basis for that kind of view.
Tom Wright is suggesting that heaven will be on earth. not just in the sense that we have the kingdom of God within us, but a future, post-death heaven after a bodily resurrection. And in that sense, it is important to clarify between the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God and the heaven of the afterlife. As Christians, followers of Christ, we carry Christ, and therefore the Kingdom of God, within us. But is it true that there is another Kingdom of God, a heaven where we will go after death? (if we’re lucky…;) )

Interestingly many of the references to heaven in the bible simply refer to it as the place God inhabits, where his voice comes from, where he rains various things down from. In that sense heaven is undoubtedly ‘up there’, above us (although when the bible was written they still thought the earth was flat – so is that above us in the UK or above us Australia, hard to know…) But is that the same heaven we will be going to after death? Well not according to the bible, because that says that there will be a new heaven and a new earth and that we will not remember the old one or have need of it. (Isaiah 65, Revelation 21, 2 Peter 21)

Personally I’m not that bothered about what it is like. It is an interesting subject, yes, but I believe that after my death I will, in some way, be spending time with God (assuming I don’t cock it up between now and my death…) and that is something I can really look forward to. Even if my body is resurrected (rather than some kind of spiritual resurrection of the soul) then I can’t believe it will be anywhere near what it feels like to be human now. We are talking about eternity so whatever its like, it’s got to be miles from anything I can imagine for myself and in that sense what is the point wasting my time trying to imagine what it will be like? And if I’m wrong, well then I guess that’s it and my body will rot away somewhere and I won’t be any the wiser anyway…

Some time ago I read on a blog (might have been Lesleys) an alternative view in which God came to earth whilst the believers were whipped away to heaven, and those that chose to stay with the desperate, non believing, hurting souls were in the true heaven, the true presence of God (thats how I remember it anyway…) and that really made me think. (whilst I am not sure it was particularly scriptural) Would a loving God really leave all those people behind to fend for themselves in some kind of ‘hell’ on earth? and wouldn’t it be far more like Jesus to stay and help those people even if we were condemning ourselves to a life on a broken planet with the desperate and hurting. Or perhaps we are already doing that?

Ordination Training & Funding

Can someone help me out on this? Does funding for ministry training vary in different dioceses? Someone told me this week that the diocese takes a large chunk of your partners income to cover your tuition cost. Is that right? Apparently at his college there are a few house husbands (wives in training) as they can’t afford to work… slightly freaked us out…. I was under the impression that we would get money if I studied not lose it! Can someone point me in the direction of a good source on this? I will be contacting my DDO but need a heads up first really… Also does it vary if you are studting part-time, rather than full-time? All help gratefully received!

The Beautiful Game?

This week I have been putting together some prayer stations for a local 24/7 prayer week. The theme I have been given is praise and worship but in particular relation to the beauty of God. I’ve not done anything like this before and it seemed all my stations were becoming very Cath Kidston and ver definitely girly… So I went online to find some more male-influenced ideas and found it very hard to find anything! No wonder there are not many men in our churches, we just don’t cater for them! has anyone got any ideas for less girly prayer stations? And please don’t tell me they don’t have to be stereotypical, I do know, this is just the way it all worked out… Anyway this is what I came up with, what do you think? Bit contrived maybe? would appreciate advice… :)

Football: The beautiful game?

Football is sometimes referred to as ‘the beautiful game’, when players move in symmetry with each other, pass to one another as if they are of one mind, or control the ball seeming to defy gravity. When we move in symmetry with Gods will, we are moving in His beauty, as part of His bigger plan. Can you see yourself as part of Gods bigger plan? What opportunities has He given to you, what doors have opened as part of the bigger plan? Thank Him for those opportunities. Or are you a lone player on the field? Do you feel lost? Ask God to reveal his plans for you as part of his ‘beautiful game’.