Christmas presents: to give or not to give…

'More Presents!' photo (c) 2005, Aaron Jacobs - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
So.. I just had an interesting, errrr, ‘debate’ with my husband. To be fair this is not a new debate, it has reared its head several times in the last few years – usually at my insistance, I just can’t seem to help myself… As soon as the subject of Christmas comes around we discuss whether it would be better to give the gift money to charity or a needy cause, rather than buying tat for our nearest and dearest.

Most of the people we buy Christmas pres for are financially blessed. They really don’t ‘need’ anything tangible (if they did I would feel better about this whole debate!), or anything that we could buy. Kids that we buy for, have ooodles of presents, on top of the already overflowing toy boxes. It seems to me totally wasteful and wrong to be buying presents for these people when we could be really and truly blessing a family that is in need, or providing food for a starving family, or sleeping bags for the homeless. The truly in need.

My husband totally disagrees with me and so far we have not managed to come to a compromise. we have done things like buying gifts from charity shops (marginally cheaper, but lower class of tat…) or for own own kids asking people to combine to get a larger gift that we couldn’t afford. This is all well and good, but doesn’t solve the wider argument. My husband believes Christmas is the perfect time to be showing Gods love and by blessing those around us with a gift, (tat ot not). I understand where he is coming from but I feel that our nearest and dearest are far more blessed by coming to spend time with us as a family, sharing lunch, dinner, Christmas day etc, and equally we are all blessed by that too.

What really gets me is the needless waste of money Christmas is. Our parents are not easy to buy for. they have all they need and are usually unforthcoming about present wishes (if there are any). The huge number of kids on our lists are all very blessed and do not need any more toys! other random adults tend to get random books or other tat, as we have no idea what to get them.

I would much rather bless those truly in need but am I being too ‘bah humbug’ about this? are there better ways to bless people at Christmas, or is it just about giving, regardless of the gift?

Biblical Metaphors: The Temple

Hmm, just a thought that came to me this morning… When we see Jesus turning over the money lenders tables in the Temple… could it also be a metaphor for us, ridding ourselves of the sin within our own bodies? In order to honour him?

This just came to me this morning, prompted by the word ‘temple’ in a tweet! So much of the bible, uses symbolism and metaphor and can be read several ways, not sure if this is just me putting my own spin on it. But…

Mathew 21: 12 – 14 says this:

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says:

 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

 I know the obvious point being made in the Mathew passage is about the temple not being used as a house of prayer, as a sacred palce but when where dishonesty is thriving. However if you look at the use of the word temple in the corinthians passage, relating to us as Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, one can read the Mathew passage a different way…It implies to me that when we sin, we allow it to enter our own bodies, (perhaps through thoughts, it doesnt have to be an internal thing) and therefore, then we are dishonouring God but by allowing that within our own temple, our own body, as it houses the Holy Spirit…

Thoughts anyone…?

 

Stuff I like..

I know everyone else has been doing this for yonks, but I keep coming across other peoples posts that I want to share. So here is my first round-up of stuff I like…  (and twitter names in brackets for those that are that way inclined..)

Which aptly brings me to the first post from Jon Acuff at ‘Stuff Christians Like’. This week I loved his post on people praying with British accents… :   @jonacuff
I know that your prayers don’t travel on a more direct route to God than mine. I am well aware that there is not an “express prayer lane,” that gets prayers to heaven faster. But every time I’m in a prayer group and someone prays something with the “Queen’s English,” I’m pretty sure that prayer gets heard by God first.

Banksy goes for religion. Thanks to ‘Changing Worship’ who in turn pinched this from Richard Littledale. A fab new work from Banksy, collaborating with MOCA in L.A. Just love this picture on so many levels…  @changingworship

God of the Moon & Stars. A friend used this clip in a talk recently. The video is a little cliched but I just liked the song. The lyrics are quite thought provoking in places. (may blog on this at some point…)

A21 Campaign:  I know I have flagged this organisation up a few times, but if you haven’t checked them out, please do: Human trafficking is the second largest global organized crime today, generating approximately 31.6 billion USD each year. There are 1.39 million victims of commercial sexual servitude worldwide.

Worship Central: Spirit Break Out  (@worshipcentral)
The Worship central guys are based at HTB, this is their latest album and I LOVE it! the title track ‘Spirit break out’ is amazing (although the rap is very HTB, darling…!!)

Inherit the Mirth… a whole selection of faith/church based cartoons. I admit I have totally used this one without permission so please do go look at their site and maybe buy a card or two!

Primary School Sex Education

So, ok I know I have written on this before but this time it was flagged up by ‘Christian Concern’. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but don’t dismiss it just because it was raised by ‘them’. Today the Lords are debating the issue of sex education in primary schools. CCN says this:

Sex
education campaigners, and some backbench Peers, want to make sex education
compulsory in primary schools by forcing a vote at the Report Stage of the
Education Bill on Monday 24 October. At present primary schools are not forced to teach sex education, yet if it becomes part of the national curriculum then highly expicit resources are likely to be used for children as young as five.

This concerns me I have to say. When I wrote about this issue before it was in reponse to a Catholic blog where I was concerned by the  extreme reaction of some parents to the issue. However I still find myself concerned with it on a personal level. As a parent, and perhaps as a Christian parent, I want to protect my childrens childhood. We live in a society where kids are exposed to sexual images in advertising, on the TV and elsewhere from such a young age. Of course it isn’t just sex, it’s violence, swearing and so on, too. I feel a bit like Mary Whitehouse as I write this, and perhaps there is still a place for someone like her, well not perhaps at all… There IS more of a need for someone like her now. The 9 O’clock watershed seems non-existant anymore and I have even turned off breakfast radio on occasion as I have been concerned about the discussions.

Don’t get me wrong, I am no prude, and I do extol the benefits of sex education. Regular readers will know my background, I was not a ‘no sex before marriage type’, and in fact I got pregnant at a young age. (I did get decent sex education at secondary school – I was just filled with the idiocy and arrogance of youth and was having a good time…) BUT… I think it is so wrong that our kids to exposed to so much at such a young age. Thankfully we live in a small rural community and so they are quite protected here.

What worries me about this issue, is firstly, the fact that schools will have no choice over whether they teach it or not (and this is to kids from the age of 5). I know, living in a small community that the lives of my children are very different to those living in large towns or inner cities. The experiences of kids within more urban areas, more naturally, are exposed to things earlier and more frequently than those in more sheltered areas. Schools are different and they should be allowed to make decisions on this based on their own demographic, their own pupils. Too many of these decisions are made at a national level and foisted down the line without taking into account individual circumstances.

Secondly I worry about what they will teach them. The Christian Institue have produced a report here. showing various ‘approved’ literature. I am sure this is produced to make their point, but much of what they show worries me. I have no problem with kids being taught the facts, from a reasonable age and when it is appropriate, and with the correct terms, but really do they need to know about m*stubation and where the clit*ris is? (I am probably opening myself up to numerous spam bots here, hence the *s and not because I am being  a prude!)

Lastly, I really don’t think this will make a jot of differnce with the teenage pregnancy problem in this country. Most teenage pregnancies are over the age of 13 anyway, by which stage the kids will have had sex education at secondary school. My own opinion is that whilst there are a minority of kids who really may not know the consequences of sex, the majority do know the risks of getting pregnant. The problem is no different to 50 or 100 years ago, we still get pregnant in the same way as we always did. It’s just that now it is so easy to do it! It’s hardly surprising that as more and more kids are experimenting with sex before marriage or even just at a younger age, statistically the numbers of kids getting pregnant are going to be higher.

And thats before I even include my Christian views as to what they are taught about when to have sex, and whether they should be taught about ‘waiting’ or what the bible tells us about sex.

Really, do we need to expose our primary school kids to this? At our local village primary they cover it in Class 4, (which includes years 5-6) which for our local area is absolutely perfect. They chose what to cover and how, according to the kids present. What is so wrong with that? Why does it need to be dictated from governement down…?

DDO update

So… my twitter followers will know that I saw the DDO on Friday for the next step of my discernment jounrey. To be honest I had no idea what to expect. I knew my VC had completed her report on me but I didn’t know what it said. I almost half expected the DDO to send me away for a 6 month placement  or similar, before going further. And I was all prepared for a bit of a battle.. but thankfully, grace abounded and that was not necessary!
So it was 3 hours… but we basically went through his previous report on me and what my VC had written step by step and filled in any gaps. There were a lot of questions and a few ‘ok, anything else…’ prompts in places. It was hard to know what to say as I couldn’t see what he had written in front of him and I think I missed a few key points because of it. For example when asked what I felt ordained ministry was, I didn’t give a list of roles of the Ordained Minister, I told him what my key aims were. So needless to say he told me the Bish will want to hear more on what ordained ministry is. Good heads up and I will gen up.
Also realised I must not ever, EVER,  tell the Bish that I take communion without a minister present as it is against Church Law. Oops.. (note to self, shut mouth on this issue, do not debate whether this is right or not!) more on this in another post..

All in all though, it went well and he expects me to see the Examinig Chaplain in November and the Bish before Christmas, with BAP in the spring… Blimey..

So whilst I still stand by the fact that I will not jump through their hoops unnecessarily, or tell them things they want to hear if they are not true of me, I do feel a little bit of ‘genning up’ is required. It is probably 9 months since I read ‘Being a Priest Today’ and to be honest I did find it rather dull (to say the least), so perhaps now is the time to study it with more interest!

What is worship?

I’ve been thinking recently about what worship is (again)… I have been challenged by some things at church, where changes have been taking place.  But within that, it is abundantly clear that regardless of anything else, God wants us to worship him.

Aside from that, my Spiritual Director has been advising me on studying the bible via topic, so I have been studying worship, what the bible says about it and what we think it is.

Worship to many, means the music in the service, and I admit I am probably one of those, I always confuse my non-evangelical freinds when I talk about ‘the worship team’. Evangelicals know this means the band. But of course they are right to be confused. God doesn’t just ask us to worship him in music.

The bible talks about bowing down in worship; kneeling. The wise men (oh, oops I mean Magi) came to worship the newborn Jesus; it tells us to honour the Lord, to serve Him. I love in Mathew where it talks of the women seeing Jesus after his resurrection. It says:
And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. (Mathew 28:9)

I really wonder what they did. It says they grasped his feet and worshipped him. I don’t suppose it means that they burst into song. Perhaps they declared their love for him, perhaps they were bowed down in front as they grasped his feet (probably couldn’t do that standing up, let’s face it..). I imagine they were delighted, relieved maybe; laughing, smiling perhaps, and even fearful – after all they had seen him die. I think if I were them I’d give him a big hug. Could all of this be worship?

I love the Changing Worship Blog and came across this post recently looking at the Lenny Kravitz song ‘are you gonna go my way’, which idiotically had never occured to me that it was about Jesus. derrr…;)  But that’s beside the point, the point is I love the blog because it (I mean him – Robb, the writer) is focussed on alternative worship, usually rock-based, and I love that. If the church is going to move forward, we need to look forward. And not only that we need to look out – to people who are, lets face it, never going to come to a ‘normal’ church. Not difficult really, but to some it seems like the end of the world… If the bible can refer to worship as many different things, shouldn’t we be drawing lessons from that?

I’m sorry this post isn’t longer, there is so much going round my head, but I think there will be more posts as I analyse it all (probably too much…) and I would welcome input or suggestions of places to visit on this subject. thanks :)

Dominant Christians

Ok, we all know one, don’t we?  a DC – dominant Christian. You know, the ones who hog all the prayer time, speak out prophecy at every opportunity, can talk for hours on the subject of faith and what it means to them. To be fair, some of them are truly inspiring (and I know a few of them too), others just get up everyones noses, even though we try not to let it, because ‘that would not be very Christian of us, would it?’

I have been struggling with some things that have been spoken to me and about me, prayed over me, or revealed to me, in prayer by a DC. I have felt pressured, condemned, have lost belief in myself in some areas. Last weekend I had a revelation (and I don’t use that word lightly), when I realised through a series of events, that these things are just not true.

I actually felt like someone had lifted a weight off me when I realised what had happened. These things had been spoken over me and I had believed them, I had taken them in and accepted them.
I was reminded of the scriptures:

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat it’s fruit. 
Proverbs 18:21

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”  Mathew 12:36

When we are children we proudly chant ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’. The thing is, that’s just crap. Words really do have power, and when we speak them over someone, they really can cause damage. Particularly to the vulnerable. And especially if spoken by someone who seems to have authority. It’s hard to disagree with a DC isn’t it!?

We have to be so careful what we say to people. If one really feels they have a word that could be negative, then we have to weigh up so carefully how and if we should share it, not speak out all over the place, regardless of what damage may be done.

Kingfisher prayer

A friend of mine shared this with me and I rather like it, so now I’m sharing it with you…

Prayer is like watching for the
Kingfisher.
All you can do is Be where he is likely to appear, and Wait.
Often, nothing much happens;
There is space, silence and Expectancy.
No visible sign, only the Knowledge that he’s been there And may come again.
Seeing or not seeing cease to matter,
You have been prepared.
But sometimes, when you’ve almost Stopped expecting it,
A flash of brightness Gives encouragement.

“Disclosure”, by Ann Lewin –
20th Century

Giving God TIME

Whats the most precious thing we can give God?

aside from ourselves, or perhaps in conjunction with it, I reckon it’s ‘time’.

I was in a meeting last night where we worshipped and then it just led into silence. And it felt so calm and still. I didn’t feel like I had to say anything, I didn’t feel awkward it was just so calming sitting in silence, before God.

And it made me think, that for most of us, the thing we lack most is time. Time to pray, to do the things we want to do, or to just ‘be’. So, to give some of the precious little time we do have to God, is special. more than special it’s one of the most important and valuable things we can do.

So much hate, so little time..

I am really saddened as I write this. I just saw a tweet making fun of Westboro Baptist Church for annoucing that they will picket Steve Jobs funeral, tweeted using an iphone… That is bad enough, and indicitive of the hypocrisy at work within their organisation. However it is not that, that I found so bad – that is just quite funny. I followed the link out of curiosity and a few links later I arrive at a truly awful website.

My goodness if that website isn’t the very pit of hell I don’t know what is. Such vitriol and hatred. I cannot begin to descrie how I felt looking at the site, I mean I don’t think I am naive but I am amazed that people would feel so happy with these kind of opinions that they would even put their names to it.
For example:

blank blank has no hope of heaven, and you know it. Yet, you refuse to tell him the truth and enable him in his sin. God Hates Fags and Fag-Enablers alike — you are all worthy of death (hell). Read the words!

..and then I read lists of US soldiers funerals they are planning to picket, presumably simply because they were gay. These men have fought for their country and this is the reaction they get, pickets at their funeral? I am all in favour of free speech but surely this is illegal? Surely it is inciting hatred and potentially violence?

The Church in general has a lot to answer for, but this…? No wonder people get so angry with the church in general.

I just don’t even know where to direct my anger with this, I expect it’s not new to many of you, but I just cannot imagine how these people think that they are Christians and doing Gods work and yet be filled with such hatred. Regardless of what you think about homosexuality, God tells us to love. God is Love. How could a God of love be encourgaing people to such hatred and anger? Not my God that’s for sure.

postnote:
I have removed the domain name of the website I found (above), after it was flagged up as blocked, but I did feel unsure about including it originally, as the last thing I wanted to do was publicise it.