I choose to Praise Him in the storm

My Mum reminded me that is a year ago this week, the same day as Nix’s life ended, that my Nan died. My Nan was in her mid 90s, Nix just over 40. My Nan spent the last 10 years of her life in pain, frustration and annoyance and became more and more bitter as time went on. Nix fought to the last, loving all around her and standing on the promises of God.

Either way life is not fair sometimes. If my Nan had passed 10 or 15 years before, she would have ended it in happiness, not just waiting out her days. aAd yet for Nix, she had so much more to give, another 10, 15 years would not have been enough.

I can’t begin to understand all of this. As the book of Job reminds me, I am not God, I wasn’t there when he created the heavens, I can’t possibly expect to know why this happens. I mean He must allow it, otherwise he is not sovereign and all powerful, and yet I am sure that neither of these things were in His plan. That is the tension of faith, holding two extremes in conjunction with each other.

A friend of ours gave a talk at church some weeks back whick looked at this subject, holding things in balance with each other. At a time like this it was and is hugely helpful. If you would like to hear it click on the link. It should open in a new window and play automatically.

Talk 29/04/12

My Nan gave me her daily prayer book when she died and this was the prayer from the day of her death, and also the day Nix left us. I read it at my Nans funeral last year, it just seems perfect for this time.

Our
Father,

Unto
Thee, in the light of our Saviour’s blessed life, we would lift our souls. We
thank thee for that true light shining in our world with still increasing
brightness. We thank thee for all who have walked therein, and especially for
those near to us and dear, in whose lives we have seen this excellent glory and
beauty. May we know that in the body and out of the body they are with Thee, and
that when these earthly days come to an end, it is not that our service of Thee
and of one another may cease, but that it may begin again anew. Make us glad in
all who have peacefully died. Lift us into light and love and purity and
blessedness, and give us at last our portion with those who have trusted in Thee
and sought, in small things as in great, in things temporal and things eternal,
to do Thy Holy Will.

Amen

In all things I will praise you Lord. I choose to praise you in the storm.
You are the same yesterday, today and forever…

Pain & Disappointment

It is with great sadness that I write that lovely Nix passed away on Monday morning. Thanks so much to all who prayed in faith alongside her, even when I know some of you didn’t know her. It’s fair to say we believed for this miracle right up to the last possible moment. And when I say believed, I had so much faith for this, more than for anything ever in my life before. The bible tells us to go and heal the sick and I truly believed that she would not die. Not only that but it felt like this was part of something bigger, that God was stirring in our church and our communities.

So now it hurts.

I am so sad for her family, she left behind a husband and 3 children, all of whom are a total inspiration, just as she was. And on top of that I feel a huge disapointment with God. I am not angry, he is bigger and more powerful and more mysterious than I shall ever know, but I am disappointed. We believed, we prayed, we cried out to God and yet she wasn’t healed.  I know you can say ultimately she received her healing in heaven and I know she is having the most amazing time right now with Jesus, but I don’t and can’t believe this was Gods will for her or her family.

I met Nix 2 years ago when we first came to the church we are at now. At the time she was just at the end of the first course of chemo for breast cancer. I heard her speak at a womens weekend the church had and she was truly inspirational. She talked about how in all the pain, the treatment, the lack of understanding and anger with God, that she knew He was there right with her. She told of amazing ways in which he had spoken to her and blessed her in all of it. How people turned up at exactly the right point, or sent a message at a perfectly opportune time. She spoke of prophecies and pictures that had been given to her. I was in awe of her. And in awe of her faith. About 6 months after that I began to get to know her through a womens group at church and later doing a leadership course. She was always an amazing woman of faith.

Just over a year ago, she discovered the cancer had spread to her spine and then late last year to the liver. There were various treatments but in the end there was nothing more to be done except pray for a miracle.

In the last few months I was able to pray with her and although I went there to pray for her and for her illness, I always came away feeling so blessed. She once told me in an email that she was in awe of me, which was just the kind of thing she would say. I was so in awe in her and yet she would say the same to me. I just knew her for a short time and we were not even that close, but she touched my life as I know she has touched so many.

Right now it is hard to see where God is glorified in all this but I know He is being and will be. Even in her illness and death people are being brought together and raising questions of faith. Some of the local primary school mums even asked for a prayer meeting to be organised for them as they didn’t know how to pray! The last few weeks we have had a 24/7 prayer vigil for her that has brought people together in amazing ways. I feel sure that amazing good will come from this, the bible says that God uses all things for good and I know He can use all the pain, suffering and disappointment for His glory, although we can’t see how at the moment.

I am writing this to honour Nix and our Heavenly Father, so please don’t leave comments of sympathy for me, but if you feel able, then instead please pray for her family.

Praying for a Miracle

What a week this has been… those who follow me on twitter will know that I heard on Thursday that I have been accepted for training in the CofE. People keep saying ‘oh you must be over the moon’ and ‘are you celebrating?’. well the truth is no, not yet…
Regular readers will know that I have posted a few times about our lovely friend Nix who is battling terminal cancer. On Monday they were told she had a week max.

However whilst this is devastating news in earthly terms, they and we, are absolutely believing for a miracle. I feel like I have never had so much faith before, it is quite extraordinary! There have been so many amazing words given to her and others about her future, some from people who don’t even know her or that she is ill. A 24/7 prayer room has been set up to pray for her and it has been such a privelige praying for her and her family, in such amazing, God filled, peaceful surroundings. Some of the prayer times that have been had this week have been the most holy and spirit filled that I have ever known. God is up to something that is in no doubt!

I go to a fresh expression church, where we hire a school each sunday, so much of our prayer time has taken part in a summer house or the local parish church. It was quite amazing this week to gather with other members of our church in the traditional parish church and just cry out to God for this healing miracle. Such a profound and powerful time. God has spoken to me more this week than ever before, perhaps because I am listening more, perhaps because I am spending more time seeking him, but either way it has been, as I said before, quite extraordinary.

And so here I am, about to walk a new and exciting path.. God spoke to me so clearly on Wednesday that I knew when I got the call from the DDO that it would be a ‘yes’. And so there is no real sense of celebration, just a real knowing that I am on the right path, exactly the one that God has put me on, that all of this is happening just as God intended it to. Like all the pieces of the picture are being put into place and the image is just getting clearer and clearer.

I believe that Nix will not die. I believe it’s no coincidence that this is Pentecost weekend. I will not be celebrating my news, but when the Holy Spirit shows up and heals her, there will be the most amazing celebration ever…

There is so much more…

Creating a family charter!

I have been quite challenged recently with some teaching we have been doing,
and this has

particularly made me think about my family
and the way we interact with each other. I love my kids, I love my family but
sometimes it is bloomin’ hard work! When I am tired I get grumpy easily and I
get snappy with them. I have 3 children and so sometimes it’s a bit like crowd control,
when they are all wanting my attention at once. I have a teenager (and that
speaks for itself!) and I am also affected by my own upbringing and the fact that
my mum  worked full time, which I
resented and so subsequently I am worried about how much time I spend working.

Anyone who has kids knows that one of the
worst times is what I used to in pre-faith days term ‘the witching hour’, I can’t come up with a
better, more Christian term, but it refers to between 6-8pm, end of dinner,
getting into bed time. It’s always a nightmare, they are tired, I am tired,
there is still stuff to be done for the next day, often one of us has to get
out to a meeting or rehearsal, the kids don’t want to go to bed and we are all
tense. We have tried various ways round this and nothing has worked so far! And the thing is once we get into bed and snuggle up for stories it is so lovely, it’s just getting there that is hard!

My youngest two are only 2 years apart,
so subsequently they sometimes really love each other (which is so lovely to see) and
other times they cannot be in the same room as each other without bickering, stealing
each others toys or throwing things. Then there’s the old ‘telling tales..’  the incessant ‘muuuuuum… E hit me..’ ‘daaaaaad,
P came in my room’ and so on. There’s just something about that whinny tone
that instantly sends me round the bend! So, as I say, I love my family…

Joking
apart, I really do and it hurts me to see them treating each other (and us)
without love, or without respect. I don’t like punishments because they don’t work
and often get issued in anger. Something I read recently said that often
punishment is about withholding love, and that is the last thing I want for any
of them. I want them to know and to feel that our house and our family is a place
of love, Gods love and our love. So something had to change!!

So we decided to do a ‘family charter’ for
want of a better word. Not rules, or laws or something laid down by us, we
wanted something we could all agree on, ways to make our home and our family a
more loving place to be. So we explained to them all what we had in mind and
why we wanted to do it and how it was about involving all of us in the process. We laid out a sheet of paper and invited
them to write on it. The only rule was everything had to be positive. So we
couldn’t write ‘no shouting’ for example, but it had to turn into a positive like ‘talk
to other with respect’ instead of no shouting…

 We asked them to think about things we
could do together, in and outside the home, days out, what would be fun to do
and so on. The result was this…

We had such fun doing it as well and it really opened up the conversation about why we were doing it together… This is only phase 1 of course, the real work is to stick to what we discussed and work together! But already it is really useful to refer to and is at the moment hanging in the stairwell so we can all see it. I am hoping to do something arty with it too, that the kids can have in their rooms as a reminder. My prayer is that from this we will all grow, that we will all be helping to create a more loving environment and that it will be something our kids learn from for their own children… 

Call to Prayer

Regular readers will know that I have posted a few times about our lovely friend Nix who is battling cancer. Can I ask again, for any of you who pray, to please include her and her family in your prayers. Things are desperate, she needs a miracle and she just cannot wait. We are believing in our heavenly father for this miracle and standing with Nix and her family in it.

Please see her blog below set up as a call to prayer. They are hugely grateful for those who have already commented and committed to pray, but please do continue… Thank you.

http://nixhenderson.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/doctors-can-do-no-more.html

BAP: Guest Post: David Cloake

Here is the second in my series of guest posts about going to BAP. Today Father David Cloake from the wonderful ‘Vernacular Vicar’ blog tells us about his experience. Do check out his blog, for a wry and I’m sure he won’t mind me saying, sometimes comical, insight into the life of a vicar…

Mine took place in March 2006 when
the revised process was still fairly new. I was called to Ely and was quickly
surrounded by a dozen or so others who were as frightened as me. As with all
things, I didn’t go unprepared although preparations are few in number due to
the nature of the event. Here’s what I did:

·        
Memorised all of my papers, forms and statements  – not just the words but the unwritten
truths
(the more important aspects of the sponsoring papers, as you will
fast discover)

·        
Asked trusted critical friends to give me clues as to
how I behave under stress or pressure (I talk too fast and fidget apparently,
and suck in hard through my nose when I make statements)

·        
I prayed hard for a long time in an empty but locked
church so I could talk out loud and hear how daft I can sound at times, and how
pompous

·        
Tried hard to remember that I was there because I had
a right to be and that I was called to the process, even if not necessarily
beyond it.

·        
Had a book in my mind that I had read recently in case
asked

·        
Had three or four favourite passages from the Bible
that I could call on if asked

When there, you will have a sense
of having every movement and moment scrutinised. I am told that this is normal.
What is important, though, is that the selectors see who you really are, not who wish to be
portrayed as. Over meals, in those informal ‘passings’ in corridors – they all
add to the picture that they hold of us when they gather at the end. Indeed,
more of the ‘me’ discerned over those times reached the report than the ‘me’ in
interview.

A highlight for me was in how much fun it was. After the initial “Oh …. My …. God” moments at the
beginning, things settled nicely and I would even go so far as to say that part
of the process were fun. Everyone in the ‘room’ wants the same outcome – God’s
will for you. I came away claiming to have enjoyed it, and that was a wonderful
revelation.

The low point for me was not in the process, but after. I left the
Panel quite sure that it had gone well, but during the two week spell between
the panel and its result, I went from a high mood directly after to absolute
depths of despair ten days later. That is quite unlike me, and it caught me by
surprise. I was incredibly down in the days immediately before the result
arrived, simply because I had convinced myself by then that I had failed.

If I had to give five tips to those about to go, they
would be:

1.     
Be yourself whatever that means (I even went to my interviews
in a business suit and tie, because at that time that was what I did and who I
was – and much to the mirth of the gathering)

2.     
Be open to the possibility that you might actually
pass

3.     
Time the presentation scrupulously

4.     
Fill in your audit with good handwriting (I was told
off for mine) – the selectors need to read what you put and it sets them
against you from the beginning if they struggle (and they are under pressure
too)

5.     
Most important – is it you going to Panel, or a set of
projections from your ecclesial tradition? Fight for yourself, not your church
or worship-style. They won’t care if you are catholic or charismatic, but they
will care if that is the only thing you talk about.

If you are one reading this and
preparing a small bag of chattels for a few days away, then may God be with you
and those who will be praying for you back at home. If you are successful, they
will need your prayers by return!

BAP: Guest Post: Nicola Hulks

So, in light of going to BAP, I thought it would be good to get a range of opinions on the whole thing. So, there will be 2 guest posts from people who have been through it. Todays is from the lovely Nicola Hulks, who blogs at ‘Nicola Writes… The Next Step.’ Do check out her lovely blog!

I agreed to write this post for Jules in a typical gung-ho
Twitter moment and now that I am sat down at my computer I realise that this
will be the first time I put my thoughts about my Bishop’s Advisory Panel, that
was in March this year, to paper (or screen!) When I came home I found it
difficult even to talk to people about it, not least because that answer was
still in the post and I couldn’t bear to rehash it even one more time.

In many ways that is
the hardest time of all, that final waiting. Because it’s not just a three day
interview. It’s years in the making where you put your heart and soul on the
line. For anyone who is doing that, opening themselves up to be analysed and
critiqued by others, putting your future on the line – you are bloomin’ brave.
Be proud of that. God is.

So what of the BAP itself? As I sat down to my last meal of
the conference I couldn’t help myself but exclaim ‘I can’t believe anyone ever
says they enjoy this!’ to the raised eyebrows of the selectors. And a lot of
people do (or so they say…!) So it is possible (Hmmm…). That just wasn’t my
experience. My experience was one of feeling physically, intellectually and
emotionally drained. But lest I put you off there is an upside. The whole
process of selection for ministry, yes, drags you over the coals but my
goodness do you emerge better for it.

I am different now
than I was before I began this process and I was different after my BAP than
when I arrived at it. The selectors were astute and kind, they really did try
to get the best out of me. The other candidates were a dream. I left feeling
affirmed in who I am whatever result arrived in that envelope. And I think that
is the key. Whatever the answer give yourself the peace that comes from knowing
that you were yourself, that they had all the information there is to know
about you and that you represented yourself as you truly are. If you can leave
with that knowledge then you have done everything that can be asked of you or
that you could ask of yourself.

On a practical note there were a few things that really
helped me. The first was gin and tonic in a can. I kid you not. These were
recommended by the brilliant Liz. Those bad boys got me off to sleep and for
that I am eternally grateful. The next must have is a laptop and DVD box set,
something to take your mind of things. There is a surprising amount of free
time to be used up.

The next thing is a
big warm jumper (my room was freezing) and some comfort food. We were fed so
well but a comforting bag of cookies (yes, bag!) really helped me when I was
feeling low. Basically taking anything that cheers you, comforts you and
encourages you is a great bet. Lastly have a friend or family member on hand to
hear your woes (or tribulations!) as needed. Sometimes you just need the ear of
someone who knows and loves you.

Do what you have to do to be yourself in the interviews and
group sessions. People told me I must have a drink at the bar to be sociable. I
am usually the one who throws the parties but this time I just couldn’t handle
it. I took myself to bed with my can of G&T and I’m glad I did. If anything
I’d say drop the rules where you find them. Have I said it enough – be
yourself!

And so the much anticipated envelope did arrive and I did
get through to start training this September. I said I would cry whatever the
result and believe me I did. There was joy that what I thought God had been
saying to me had been confirmed. Celebration that I knew I had been selected
for this amazing role for who I really am. That my interviewers had seen what I
had to offer and ticked the box that said ‘yep the church needs that.’ And the
quick realisation that the journey has only just begun and that there are no
certainties on this journey, just faith.

So good luck, good on you and see you on the other side!

BAP: the aftermath (Part 2)

So… I am home!! what an amazing but yet utterly exhausting few days. I wanted
to write a report of the experience, partly to help me clear my head, partly to
point people to so I don’t have to explain it 300 times (!) and also hopefully
as an aid to those who might be going to BAP at some point in the future… Sorry it’s a bit of an epically long post!!

So I went to Shallowford House, just outside Stafford, a beautiful old house
surrounded by lovely countryside and well kept gardens, oh yes and a high speed
rail link running 20 foot from the door all night long. (So if you ever need to
go there, it is lovely but do take ear plugs!). The rooms were nice, plenty of
space, warm and comfortable beds!

 There were 16 candidates and 6 advisors and we were divided into 2
groups. The ‘secretary’, the lovely Hilary, was there to make sure everything ran
smoothly, and boy did it run smoothly. Incredibly well organised, we all knew
exactly where to be and when and with what and she was on hand to help if we
needed it.

It was incredibly intense, I think partly because everyone mixes together so
even at dinner the advisors are spread out on the tables and you are encouraged
to speak to them when you can. And from the moment we arrived on Monday
afternoon it was all go! Intro exercises first, then the ‘personal inventory’
(basically a 40 min session where you answer lots of open ended questions about
yourself, under exam conditions! then straight on to supper and then 9pm evening
prayer, after which a few of us went downstairs to the bar (I knew I wouldn’t
manage it the following evening).. but by 10ish we were all heading up to bed!
I didn’t sleep at all and not because of the trains, just think it was nervous
energy and they did warn us this might happen but not to worry about it, which
was a real comfort!

The following morning started with Communion at 7.30, straight on to
breakfast and then straight into doing our presentations (we all had to prepare
a 5 min talk and then chair a 13 min discussion, all timed to the second!). Rather
annoyingly in my group 4 of us talked on the subject of social media and the
church, (which I thought was a sure fire original winner) the last of which was
mine…so I had to do some last minute changing of questions but it worked well
as I was able to joke a bit about the things we had already discussed.

 So by lunchtime my brain was a bit addled having concentrated so much for
hours on end! I actually felt pretty grim after lunch and was a bit worried I
was coming down with something but having had chats later with some others, I
know several of them went and had a sleep, so I am pretty sure it was just the
intensity of it all. I was desperate for fresh air, being an outdoorsy person
it was awful being inside so much, so I took some paracetamol and legged down
the drive for a walk, managing to get the best of the one hour during the day
when it wasn’t raining and whats more saw a beautiful buzzard take off right in
front of me (sure that was a sign!)

 By the time I got back I felt heaps better and then was able to knuckle down
to the pastoral letter (which is where you have to write a letter in reply to a
situation they have given you, it was complex and there are things you need to
make sure you cover), then on to my first interview. Thankfully the advisor was
lovely and it was more like having a chat with a nice uncle! Then straight from
that to evensong and then supper. At this point I was really struggling with a
massive headache and the need to get some personal space! I don’t think I was
very coherent at supper so I rather hope that doesn’t count against me. Anyway
by 8, I was hugely thankful not to have an interview as some did, so I skipped
evening prayer, went to my room, shut the door and snuggled up with the paper
and chose to put all things BAP out of my mind. (For anyone going to BAP I do
advise having times doing this you really do need to be able to put it all down
for a while and breathe!)

 So by the next morning I felt hugely better and also had more space as it
was the last day. More prayer, breakfast and then the last 2 interviews, the
first of which was the ‘vocational one’ which you absolutely have to ‘pass’!! I
think I did ok and I feel that I was myself and gave a good account of myself,
but the advisor was very straight and didn’t give anything away so really hard
to know whether I should have said more (or less!) My last interview was at 2pm
then straight into the closing worship. So any free time I had was filled with
just going over the criteria and making sure I had points to make or reminding
myself what I wanted to get across.

The people were all lovely, and a real sense of camaraderie as we were in it
together. Advise for those going: do get to know people in your group on the
first day/eve, it really helped with the presentations and discussions. I also
found I didn’t feel so bad then being anti-social on the Tuesday. The advisors
were all friendly and I really did start to understand that they are also under
a lot of pressure, their time is much more full than the candidates, and on top
of that they stay on another day to finalise the paperwork etc  There were people from a wide range of
traditions and for me it was lovely being out of the Chichester diocese and not
having such a strong anglo-catholic emphasis, and realising that not all
dioceses are like mine! Just a real balance I felt and I will definitely stay in
touch with a few of the people I met there.  

Coming away I initially felt such a sense of relief, it feels like this date
has been hanging over me for so long! I will actually relish the time it takes
until I know what the result is as I can be free with no future date hanging
there. I don’t think I appreciated before-hand how much it had been weighting
on me. I thought I was quite chilled about it but now it’s done I realise that
I wasn’t at all! I also feel completely at ease because I felt that I was
myself and I did all I could. There is nothing I could have read or studied
that would have changed my answers, I had learned all I need to, read all I
could and was true to myself. So if I don’t get through I won’t feel ‘ I wish I
had said this or that…’ If I don’t get selected I know I will feel disappointed,
because I am human after all, but I also feel very free in the fact that God is
in control and if it’s not meant to be, then he obviously has other plans for
me…



Let Us Sing © Jules Middleton 2012

Another of my recent prints. I love this scripture! I actually designed this on for our worship leader at Christmas, when we did a secret santa but were not allowed to spend any money! (he does know it was me so I am not letting the cat out of the bag!!)

BAP: part 1

So… tomorrow I go to BAP. Otherwise known as Bishops Advisory Panel, previously known as Selection Conference/Abbum and probably other names too… This is the culmination of months of preparation, for me about 18 months, for some it is years. Despite much talk, meeting and advice from the DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands) I am not entirely sure what to expect. And so bearing in mind there will be many others going through this now and in the future I thought I would do a little feature, via the blog about going to BAP. Today are my initial thoughts and when I get back on Wednesday I will write post-experience, (or post-trauma!!) but I have also asked some lovely blog friends to write about their own experiences too and so for the first time will feature some guest-posts.

So.. my initial thoughts are veering from excitement to panic to last minute cramming to complete disdain and back to panic. The truth is I have done all the preparation I can, it’s just  getting the info out of my head into coherent sentences which will be the problem! And of course getting across the info that I need them to know about me. I took advice from a friend who went  to BAP last year who told me to remember to take every opportunity to show them the breadth of my knowledge and experience. Which coming from a more evangelical church I need to do…

I have questioned myself over and over with potential questions they might ask me, all week sounding like I am talking to myself. My poor husband is sick of me telling him about the role of a Priest and I think my kids will be delighted to have the kitchen table back which all week has been covered in papers and books!!

Above all I believe this is of God, I believe he is calling me and I have been obedient to the call. We have taken every step prayerfully and asked him to shut the door if it is not right. So here I am, the door still open,  and of course that may change after these few days and if so I will trust that it is of God.

So with that I will sign off, to pack and check my train tickets and make sure the kids dinner is cooked for tomorrow and make sure the school runs are covered and make sure my husband knows where he has to be and when, and then theres the mountain of ironing…. (actually I might just leave that, after all my Mum will be here tomorrow and she might just do it for me…!)

See you on the other side!!