Compassion

I’ve been thinking for a while about sponsoring another child with
Compassion. We already sponsor a little boy in Uganda and it’s so lovely to get his letters and photos and to see how our little
contribution makes a real difference to his life. So… I decided over the last
few weeks (having got some paid work!) that it was time to sponsor another
child. And I wanted to write about this because I was surprised at how
difficult I found it. Last time we were at the Big Church Day Out, we just
picked a photo and went with it. This for some reason was much harder. There
are so many kids needing sponsorship, and their little faces look out from the
computer screen. Man, I wish I had the money to sponsor them all…

The Compassion site is well set up so you can choose a child under various
categories, including the country they live in, their age, or even their
birthday. I have to say at first I found this really hard. It seems to be geared towards our
western society, where we can choose everything in life and what we like,
according to our own terms. In this case, even children. It felt like I had the
power to choose which child would have their life transformed…

However, needs must and actually although it initially seemed a bit consumerisitc,
the reality I guess, is that they need our money, and if the best way to get
that is to pander to our western ways, well then do it. For some it will
probably make the difference between whether they choose to sponsor a child or
not.

Anyway having got over this, I decided to narrow it down to Haiti, as our
daughters school is twinned with one there. We already sponsor a boy a similar
age to our son so this time I wanted to choose a girl similar age to our
youngest daughter. In this case the choosing mechanism was brilliantly
efficient. But then came the tug on the heart strings. 10 little girls popped up on my
screen, all similar age to our daughter, and all in need of help. How would I
choose? I began to read through the bios for each one, but that just made it harder,
and I began to weep, especially seeing a young girl, the same age as our youngest, as the longest waiting, having been on the list for 210 days. The difference
between my kids lives and these girls is just the circumstance of where they
were born. I am truly blessed to live in the UK, have a wonderful family and
that we have enough money to eat and live to our hearts content. These girls
have next to nothing. The reality of such needless poverty in our ridiculously wealthy
world really struck me, looking at those pictures. And I know it’s not easy to
change things, even trying to get stuff  or financial aid sent out to the school in Haiti that we
have links with is really hard. Right now my bedroom is full of a load of old junk waiting to go to a
carboot sale. There are things in that pile that these kids really need or
would dearly love to have, but I cannot get it to them. In this day and age
that seems so unfathomable.

Compassions mission is: In response to the Great Commission, Compassion exists as an advocate for children, to release them from their spiritual, economic, social, and physical poverty and enable them to become responsible and fulfilled Christian adults.

This September Compassion have a goal to see an extra 2000 children released from poverty. Can you be one of those sponsors? Please do think about it, it costs just £21 a month and just think of the difference that will make. You can visit the compassion website here   (I would love to encourage you to sponsor a child from Haiti. However if you are in the UK Haiti isn’t an option on the UK site, so you need to call them up if you are in the UK, or go to the US site if you live there.)

The Lorax… a kids church activity…

So we took the kids to see The Lorax Movie this week. They have been on about it for a while and we finally managed it… I have to admit I was intending to have a little kip whilst in the darkened cinema but actually I loved the movie and so sleep was postponed… If you haven’t seen it – do. It’s a brilliant illlustration of looking after our planet and what greed can do to you. And it’s absolutely brilliant for sermon illustrations, there are so many angles you could take. The bit I really loved is at the end when all the trees have been cut down, and the beautiful countryside we saw at the beginning decimated, BUT… one boy has been given the last remaining seed for these beautiful truffula trees. And he manages against all the odds to plant it and with that to convince his town to change. At the very end we see all these tiny trees beginning to shoot up.

This morning we had an all age service looking at the feeding of the 5000. I was doing a kids activity and my friend who was preaching had the idea of growing cress. So I used the Lorax as an illustration on what God can do when we offer him very little. We used the seed from the movie to represent the little thing we would offer to God this week, asking people to think what they could give, maybe 5 mins of prayer a day, offering to take a meal to a neighbour in need, or being especially nice to someone at school etc. Then we planted the seeds to represent this and to see how God would multiply both our seeds as they grow and hopefully what we had offered him this week. We used the phrase ‘Little is Much When God is in it’ and put in on truffula trees (the ones in the Lorax). It worked so well I wanted to post some pics! Our kids are so creative… and for all kids workers it was an easy one to organise and also v cheap!!

Human Trafficking

Ok, so I know I post about this issue quite a lot but it really is one of those things that makes my blood boil. Did anyone watch this weeks Silent Witness? It was a 2-parter with the storyline based on a group of lads grooming girls for sex and then imprisoning them and forcing them to service clients. As any Slient Witness fan will know it’s usually pretty grim and gory and this one was no exception, but in this case I really think it showed the true horror of this awful crime. The main protagonist was shown being incredibly hateful of teenage white girls, classing them all as sluts and whores and this was clearly born out in his treatment of them.
 
Watching things on TV we can become desensitized to the issues involved. We see human bodies almost daily on the news, TV dramas use such realistic make up and special effects that we have got used to it, and politicians and presenters bandy around statistics without even considering what they mean. But this is a very real crime for girls all over the world, and even under our own noses. We live within 15 miles of Gatwick which means it is something our local police force are more than well aware of.
 
This Silent Witness was just awful. I guess for me because I have read a lot about human trafficking and understand to some small extent the scale of it, it just was so real. And also as a mother of a 16 year old daughter the very real threat of this kind of grooming is also a concern.
 
The A21 campaign estimates that there are around 27 million slaves in the world today, but as they say, we can start by helping the one. To one girl who is rescued from this horror the difference is immeasurable. In their newsletter this month you can read about Anika, one girl who was rescued and rehabilitated with the help of A21. Please give it a read. We cannot ignore this issue. Slavery was abolished worldwide in the 19th century and yet still this goes on, and is one of the biggest organised crimes across the globe. We cannot ignore it.

To be (a vicar)… or not to be.. ( a vicar)

I’ve just been looking back over my blog. It’s funny when you look back and see some of the things you have written before. A while back ago I wrote about feeling called into ministry and to be honest really trying to avoid it at all costs. I was definitely in denial…. Now, almost 2 years later, I have been through discernment, got selected and could even be studying in a few weeks (except that I am taking a year out before I start). Wow…
So that was a lesson in:
A) God is a God of surprises and
B) God has a bloody good sense of humour…

So, 2 years ago I wrote a list of points on why I should not be a Vicar. And I thought it might be interesting to look back and see what my responses would be now, to my 2 year ago self…. (the original questions are in purple italics..)
1: I am SO not equipped. I
haven’t even read the entire bible yet and I have no idea about the books – I
mean am I the only one who thinks of Emmerdale when I see the ref: Amos? (and no
I don’t watch it and no, I’m really not that old…)

Seriously, Emmerdale…?
A well quoted line is that ‘God doesn’t call the equipped he equips the called…’ cliche maybe but then cliches do tend to have a teensy bit of truth in them…
I don’t think even the best bible scholars can recall the whole thing, it’s more important to have a love for Gods word and a desire to get into it and allow God to speak through it..

2: I am nearly 40 for goodness
sake. don’t the church need new young bright things to take it into the future?
right now I feel neither new, young or bright, distinctly dull might be nearer
the mark actually…

I must have been rather age depressed then, as I am still nearly 40 but just closer to it now! The church needs people who are passionate about God and about the church. Age is not an issue…

3: I am stepping back from
work because I can’t have my cake and eat it (but oh boy do I love cake. no, I
mean real cake, that wasn’t a metaphor). SO, why would I want to throw myself
into something as huge as this when really I want to be a stay at home mum and
bake all day…

Seriously, do I really want to be a stay at home, bake all day mum..? Either way there are options regarding time worked and it’s up to you to make the ground rules and draw the lines. Anyway, this is the Church of England, at this rate the kids will be at uni by the time I get ordained…

4. Seriously, a dog collar? In
my youth I was a bit of ‘crusty’, and whilst my clothing has improved
dramatically over the years, let’s just say that old habits die hard. Boots and
leggings are my preferred dress. I don’t really do smart and the thought of
robes and collars makes me want to run (as do a lot of things about this). and
anyway what is the dog collar about? where did that come from in the first
place? as they say – must have been designed by a man…

Yes well, not much to add to this one….;)

5. I live in a rural idyll.
It’s like something out of ‘Country Living’. It’s like going back 50 years. I
regularly go out leaving my door unlocked (probably shouldn’t advertise that too
far…), everyone knows each other, and looks out for each other. we walk across
the fields to get to school, a school which has only 100 pupils in the whole
school. The kids all play out in the road in the evenings. It is lovely. we
always say moving here was the best thing we ever did. SO WHY? would I want to
uproot everyone and move to some far flung corner of the country where I am
pretty sure we won’t be able to recreate what we have here… (and I will
have to wear a
dog collar…)

Rural idyll? perfect for parish ministry… arghhhhhh!!! bring on the city life!!

6. My 14 year old will hate
me. Actually she regularly tells me she does anyway so maybe that should negate
no.6..
but if
I, a) become a vicar b)make her move c) both of the above, let’s face it, I will
be toast…

Well she’s 16 now and by the time we move (if we have to) she will have left home (here’s hoping…!)

7. I love my church. Matt
Redman comes to my church sometimes. It is C-O-O-L. I don’t want to have to find
a new church, we just found this one. It’s the first church I have really felt
comfortable in, that I feel I belong in. And what’s more, after training I will
have even less choice as it will be my job (eek) so then I can’t just check out
all the churches in the area, I will have to go to mine. Unless of course I get
a job here, now that would be ok I guess.

Yes my church is cool but already I have ideas on how to run church. When the time comes I will be busting to get into my own! and bizarrely I have just been offered a job at my church – answer to prayer anyone…?

8. Will making church my job
take away the enjoyment? I don’t want to be in a position where I have
to go to church because even though I love my church now, let’s face it
sometimes Sunday mornings lend themselves rather well to lie-ins, right? And,
well, being a Vicar would kind of take that away. Unless I’m in a very sleepy
parish and then they probably wouldn’t notice ;)

Hmm. well sometimes yes, sometimes I would like to go to church and just worship, to just come and put myself at Jesus’ feet rather than being called upon to help/speak/ show someone new where the lavs are… But then I can go to other churches occasionally to get that and indeed already am.

9. I do not like liturgy, and
I don’t have to be a prophet to know that could be a problem with the
Bishop…

Yes, well now I know that this is a problem with the Bishop. But that’s chichester for you… Still I got selected so can’t be too bad…

10. The PCC. need I say
more…?

Indeed. best avoided at all costs…

11. I just put my husband
through rather a lot by starting my own business and then less than 3 years
later deciding I want out. I think he would rather like me to get a ‘proper
job’

I now have a salary! hurrah!! who says money doesn’t make the wordl go round…. ahem.,I mean, my husband has completley come round to the world of ministry and is now fully supportive… actually in all seriousness he’s just been made worship pastor. hahahahaha!!! love the way God works, what was that I said about sense of humour… ;)

12. If I’m honest I don’t want
my friends at church to know about this, because even though they are all Christians and in
theory won’t judge me, I am sure they will all have an opinion on what kind
of Vicar I would make, and you know what, frankly I don’t want to hear
that.

too late…
actually everyone has been very supportive and confirmed a lot of what I have felt in myself. You cannot go throuhg this process alone..

13. ditto the above for my
non-Christian friends just minus the line about not judging – they will. and I
still don’t want to hear that.

ditto above again. Amazing how my calling has promoted sooo many conversations with non church-goers about church/faith/God etc – great tool for evangelism!!

So… if any of you reading this are in the purple italics category, just hang on in there…!

The next step… overcoming disappointment

So I’ve been thinking a lot about this coming year (I mean in the academic
sense, from September). I have chosen to take a year before I start my
ordination training for various reasons, one of which being that there are
several things I would like to do before I get on the band wagon of
training/curacy etc. I have written about this here,
but I have been giving it a lot more thought and prayer recently. September
suddenly seems really close and there is nothing concrete in the diary yet. On
top of which my church has offered me a part time post from September which
will take up a significant amount of my time. (and this is a total answer to prayer!!)

I think the key to all of the things on my previous list is my desire to
experience more of God. Not in “an experience” kind of way, but in a daily,
real, I want more of God in my life, kind of way. I guess part of that is that
I worry once I have started training I won’t have the time to devote to prayer
and seeking God that I do now, and I want to really get that cemented in my
life in a way I can take forward into ministry life. But then I realise that is
also rather naive, as I know this is a journey that will continue to the end of
my earthly life and be evolving all the time, especially I would imagine once
in ordained ministry.

So on my list I had (among other things) these:

1:
Visit somewhere the Holy Spirit is really moving (and I mean really… hugely,
massively, undeniably)



5:
Be a bit (more) crazy for God, spend time getting out there, praying for
people, in Tesco, in the street, in the dentists… spreading some crazy love!

And
the more I pray about this, whilst it would be amazing to go off to India or
Africa, or go spend some time with Heidi Baker, in reality, number 5 could actually
bring about no.1! So it’s about my heart attitude. Going off to some far flung
corner of the world I have been seeing as the hard bit, but actually I now think
it’s the easy bit! How easy to raise some money, head off to the middle of
nowhere where the spirit is already moving. Much harder would be to step out in
my daily life, in every opportunity I see, in every chance God gives me to be
Christ to those around me… I preached last week on Nicodemus and encountering God and I said this:

And we can encounter him
every day. Not just the first time when we give our lives, but every day if we
want to, in the opportunities he gives us, in reading his word, in others
around us, its all there for us. That’s what I want, what I seek, not just an
experience, a one off encounter, but a daily truth, a daily meeting with my
King that informs my whole life.

So
the truth is, if I want that, I have to step out, to risk rejection and
ridicule, but also in that risk, be completely open to God using me for his
kingdom. The times I have done that I have been so blessed and amazed by Gods
faithfulness and His ability to use us wherever we are. And if I am going to do
that I want to be accountable. In reality it’s what we should all do, daily –
be available and ready for God to use us – in whatever way, and that will be
different for each of us. But then I can easily not do that, because right now,
I am shying away from it. I described this feeling a while back as being like
someone pressed the pause button (then I realised it was me holding it down).
After the feelings of anger and disappointment in the aftermath of our friends
death a few months back, that’s what it felt like, like I was on pause, like I
couldn’t or didn’t want to really allow God to use me, for fear of being hurt
or disappointed again
So
it’s really time to unpause that button and click play. And I need to be
accountable about that, because it is going to be really hard. I feel the
reluctance in me. Not a reluctance to come to God, but a reluctance to step out
in faith and believe again for miracles. I still believe in a God of miracles
and I am still so hungry for him, but there is still this underlying ‘something’
holding me back.

So
now, for the next couple of weeks – until September starts ( I know I could
start right now, but it’s kind of comforting to have a date to plan for!) – I am
going to pray about what that looks like for me – how am I going to encounter
God daily and enable others to encounter him too…

Encountering Jesus: Nicodemus

Our summer series at church has been on encountering Jesus. It was my turn to preach on Sunday, so for those that are interested here is my talk. The passage was John 3 1:21…
We have been looking at
People encountering Jesus. This week we see Nicodemus, a member of the
Sanhedrin, coming to see Jesus at night.
Read
passage: John 3:1-21
There is
so much in this passage, one could talk for hours on the various things covered
here, but we are looking at encountering Jesus and here is a man encountering
Jesus. It’s interesting that the dictionary says that an encounter is a
meeting, often unexpected, often brief. I always think an encounter is also
something memorable, not just a meeting, but a happening that stays with you. All
of which we could say about Nicodemus’ meeting with Jesus. Nicodemus appears just
3 times in the bible and this is his first mention. But across these brief
mentions we see how he is changed by his encounter with Christ.
So who
is he? Obviously important enough to be mentioned but not enough o appear
outside Johns gospel or mentioned more than a few times.
The
passage tells us he is a member of the Jewish Ruling Council, The Sanhedrin. Which
is basically a political and religious ruling body for the Jews, largely made
up of the Pharisees and Saduccees. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, They were known
for very strict adherence to and were hugely knowledgable on mosaic law. They
believed in the coming of a messiah (unlike the sadducees)
Pharisees
were mostly mentioned negatively in the bible! Often we see Jesus  berating them for their hypocrisy.
So often
when pharisees are mentioned we automatically view them in a negative light and
yet here is one of them coming to see Jesus and clearly being changed by what
he finds. What we do know is that they believed in God and protected their religion
vehemently. Some in more destructive ways than others. Nicodemus is not the
only Pharisee to visit Jesus but he is the only one mentioned who seems to do
so with humility and real curiosity, not just to try and catch him out.
So we
don’t know much about Nicodemus for sure, there are various theories and
accounts of what have been him, but according to the bible we just see him
these 3 times.
For
Nicodemus, part of his knowledge of scripture would be the expectation of a
coming messiah. So is this actually what he suspects when he goes to see Jesus?
There is so much unsaid here – for example why did he go at night ? Often
people suggest it was because he did not want to be seen – for Pharisees
external behaviour and appearance very important (Jesus picks them up on
this…). For him to go and actually speak to Jesus in the way he does would have
been a very big deal, when the council was so openly angry with Jesus. But
Nicodemus clearly saw something in Jesus that they didn’t.  Some think this is cowardly coming at
night but I think the opposite, that it would have taken great courage to come
and visit him, at night or whenever.. But he knew there was something different
about this man. He comes to Jesus. He doesn’t wait until he’s in the temple, or
nearby, he actively chooses to go to him. 
He treats him with respect, unlike the other times we see Pharisees talking
to Jesus, He calls him Rabbi (teacher) he recognises something within this man.
And of course he says: we know you are a teacher who has come from God, for no
one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him’…
An
aside: (interesting isn’t it how he says ‘we know..’ we – how is he referring
to? Its clearly not the council! Were there others with him not mentioned? Perhaps
Joseph of Arimathea who we see with him later? Or are there others who he
represents..? anyway… we cannot know..
The
thing about Nicodemus is that like so many, he is seeking something, seeking
the messiah, that’s what his religion is all about, he is  seeking answers, and he recognises
something in Jesus, but he’s not sure what that is, he can’t understand. And
yet he humbles himself, this man, in a great position of power and influence in
his community and in the council and comes to this stranger who has appeared
almost from nowhere and made a big impression. He goes to him with all his
questions.
In some
ways he reminds me of me, if I’m not sure about something or I want to know
more I seek out someone knowledgable and ask questions of them actually a pain in
the backside I think sometimes! Get an answer and then ask more, or dispute it
– and that’s exactly what Nicodemus wants I think. He’s not being difficult, or
rude he just wants to know more! 
He hears what Jesus says and doesn’t understand – he says ‘but how can
that be..?!’ v9.
And in
vs 10 – as Jesus points out, this is a man who should have all the answers, he
is an expert in the law, he is probably someone who others would seek out with
their questions and here he is, completely humbled, being chastised by Jesus, a
lowly carpenter from the countryside! It’s hard to actually understand the
enormity of what is going on here. But Nicodemus allows this, he is hungry for
the truth.
And yet
despite chastising him – ‘you, are Israel teacher, how do you not understand
this…’. Jesus clearly has compassion for this man because his tone changes and
reveals to Nicodemus the very essence of the gospel, one of the if not the most
often quoted lines in the bible: vs 16: for God so loved the world… and he goes
on.. he almost offers Nicodemus a challenge doesn’t he? Its your choice, its
there for you, if you want it, if you can take it, the truth is there, eternal
life is there for you.
And the
same challenge is there for all of us…
We don’t
always get it do we, like Nicodemus, no matter how strong your faith, sometimes
there’s things we just don’t get, don’t understand. No matter how good our
biblical knowledge, our intelligence, or our position in life, our standing in
society if you like. Still, there is always the great mysteries of faith. Nicodemus,
even after all this we cannot be sure that he gets it right away can we? We
don’t see in this passage what his immediate response would be to Jesus’
challenge.
But the
next time we see him is in John 7.
Jesus
has been speaking in the temple courts and the chief priests are getting
angrier by the minute and want to arrest him:
45 Finally
the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked
them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
46 “No one
ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.
47 “You mean
he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him?
49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a
curse on them.”
50 Nicodemus,
who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does
our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been
doing?”
So they
ask has any of us believed in him, no of course not, but then Nicodemus speaks
up in his defence.  He says,
exactly what he has done – can we condemn him without first hearing him… he is
clearly a man on integrity.
Whatever
happened during that meeting with Jesus and his subsequent reflection on that
has given him the courage to speak out in front of his peers and elders.
Something has changed in him.
How
interesting that the last thing we see Jesus saying to him is:
Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not
come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
21 But whoever lives by the
truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have
done has been done in the sight of God.
When Nicodemus
first meets him it is at night, in the dark and yet here he is coming out into
the light, revealing himself and standing in defence of Jesus.
And then finally..
 we see him after Jesus’ death, very
publically helping Joseph of arimethea with the body, and providing spices and
myrhh to embalm the body.
John
19:38
38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea
asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but
secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he
came and took the body away.
39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the
man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of
myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.[e] 40 Taking
Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen.
This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.
It’s
interesting I think that Nicodemus journey in these passages is actually a
classic example of someone seeking God. First they have an experience of seeing
others talking, acting on their beliefs, they are interested.  Then there are the questions and the courage
to come forward to actually ask them. a step into the light if you like, and at
last, the final step, openly accepting the Lord. Perhaps not fully
understanding but choosing to make a stand, put a stake in the ground and
publically make a declaration.
I love
this story because it just shows, wow, if Nicodemus could do it, in his
position of standing and authority, risking all he had, the respect he had, etc
then can’t we all?
Maybe some
of you today are a bit like Nicodemus, are you still seeking/ are you still
asking questions? Not quite stood up and said, ok this is the way I am going to
go…
Nicodemus was a scholar.  he went to go and to understand the
doctrine Jesus was teaching, seeking real answers to his questions. Instead he
got what he didn’t understand.
But that’s often what its
like for all us, we can have a great knowledge of the bible like Nicodemus. We
can observe laws or ways of living, but that is not encountering the one who
came here for all of us. We need to experience him to encounter him, to know
him, to allow our lives to be transformed..
In our human understanding
we cannot begin to comprehend all that Jesus is, all that he did and does, but
we don’t have to, we just have to accept him as the one we want to follow and
he will begin to open our eyes.
But
there are so many things that stop us completely doing that aren’t there? Life,
busyness, fear…
Have you
ever known you were going to meet someone well known, or respected or someone
you admire? How did you feel before hand? In advance there is much preparation.
There’s  great excitement, but also
fear and anxiety – what will I say to them, what will they be like, will I make
an idiot of myself? What will I look like in front of others there…? And
encountering Jesus for some of us is like that. There’s a great story in one of
the alpha talk about a young guy who has been doing alpha and is really excited
about Jesus but he’s worried what his friends and family will think. So he goes
to speak to his pastor and confesses his worries and says, if I give my life to
God,  do I have to tell anyone, and
the pastor says no of course not, that’s up to you. So he goes home, goes into
a quiet room and prays and gives his life to Jesus. And afterwards he is so
excited he just runs into another room and tells all his friends/family I just
have my life to Jesus! The one thing he was concerned about in the first place.
Because in the moment of encountering Jesus all his fears were gone. He had met
the king.
That’s
what its like encountering Jesus. Unknown, scary, exciting, life changing,
challenging, joyful, yes sometimes painful, a huge rollercoaster ride, but its
like nothing else on this earth.
And we
can encounter him every day. Not just the first time when we give our lives,
but every day if we want to, in the opportunities he gives us, in reading his
word, in others around us, its all there for us. That’s what I want, what I
seek, not just an experience, a one off encounter, but a daily truth, a daily
meeting with my King that informs my whole life.
Can you
imagine what life would be like if every person who called themselves a
Christian opened themselves daily to an encounter with the king. Yes it would
be scary, there would be challenges of course, for some of us the very thought
of speaking to someone about our faith or praying with a stranger would turn us
cold, but we don’t need to fear, because if we just trust in him, all will be
well. Can you imagine what this world would  be like if we were all open to that daily encounter?  Imagine for a moment how that would
impact us, people around us, society. Wow, I long for that – that is the
kingdom of God, coming on earth…
So I
think some of us maybe are still a little like Nicodemus – got some questions
but are we going to keep asking or are we going to step into the encounter? I
think there’s also some of us who maybe have been Christians for a while but
feel they haven’t really encountered Jesus for a while. And I really want to
pray for you…

Some thoughts on private education..

This is rather off my usual topic but I read an article in todays Times about private education and mentioned some known left-wingers being slated for putting their kids into private education which made me think. I do have a son at private school currently and I do sometimes feel that I have to make excuses for this, which is crazy! I love his school and so does he.
As some background on where I am coming from this may help: As a child I spent time in both private and state education and my kids will be following the same path. My Mum was a teacher at the local private girls school, which had a deal with the local boys school whereby teachers at both got reduced fees at either school. I know this is still the case for many private schools but in those days the reductions were significant and enabled my parents to send both me and my brother to the respective schools for secondary education. Prior to this we both went to the village primary and moved at the ages of 11 for me and 9 for my brother – so he did prep school too. My brother went to the same school my Dad went to, which sounds very grand but really it wasn’t. During WW2 my Dad was sent to stay with his Granny ‘in the country’ as his parents lived in London, running a shop and they thought he would be safer there (funny though that a bomb dropped a few doors away from him in the country and never in the area his parents lived!!) I believe his Granny then funded his education at the local school. My Dad talks about being one of the few day boys and also how those that were there felt a real sense of responsibility in being educated privately and they should be ‘giving something back’ to society after their education.
For my own kids, each of them has or will have had some private education, all funded by Grandparents. But they will also be spending some time in state education too, my oldest having just finished her secondary education all of which was spent at the local comprehensive.
Clearly I come from a ‘middle class’ background, but I also, during my ‘off the rails’ period rebelled against that and went very leftie for a while, so now I seem to be made up of a whole selection of opinions and ideals. When my oldest went to her private school at 5 I really struggled with the idea of her being privately educated but partly this decision was as we were moving house and not in any official catchment area so there wasn’t much option. And as my Dad said to me at the time, it’s all very well having your own ideals and opinions but don’t foist them on your children.. (whole other debate there..!)
So, actually I don’t have a problem with private education persee. There are people who say it is unfair that those who can pay get a better education but my own experience with middle of the road private schools (we’re not taking Eton here…) is that often the education itself is not hugely better, what you get more of is the overall rounding of your child, the opportunities to excel, the sport, the extra curricular stuff. Of course there are smaller classes, which is great, and certainly for our son has been great as he is quite bright – not a genius, but he is bright – and so where he wasn’t able to be pushed on or challenged at his primary school, now he has opportunities to go forward. Now I am not a pushy parent and I don’t think all children should be pushed, but for him he was bored at school and so then he would finish work and start mucking around – this came up in every parents evening before and now not once! In fact his teacher said in the last meeting that she was happy that he didn’t get involved with the boys who muck around! He is also very sporty and now gets to play sport every day, with competitive sport against other schools every week. So for him, this move to private education has been fantastic, and he is absolutely thriving there.
However I do not expect him to come out better qualified for life, or at more of a chance of getting into uni or more likely to be a leader or world changer because of the school he went to. I think he will be getting many more opportunities and will have a chance to achieve more of his potential at a younger age, but it is simply wrong to think that if you pay for a childs education they will excel in life. In fact most ‘middle class’ kids I know who were privately educated at the same time I was are not in much higher positions in life because of their education. there may be a few more doctors and less cleaners (sorry for the stereotype) but I wouldn’t say dramatically so. And there were a fair few, like me who threw our education in our parents faces and went off the rails totally…
And on top of all that you get the parents who feel that because they have paid for their kids education they expect more of them. I know that for us, as we are very blessed that grandparents have and are paying the fees we probably won’t feel that, but I hope that I never expect more of them simply because of their education. All I want for them is to be happy and to have the opportunities to realise their potential in life.
Although the two private schools my children have experienced are wonderful, there has been the odd parent who sends their kids into private education because they see it as a sign of status. This can be challenging but we try to avoid the issue! And in fact most parents we have met have been lovely and very down to earth. Including the ones who lived in a stately home – the first time we pulled up at the house I thought we had arrived and then realised we were only at the stables… ;) In fact that alone is why I am an advocate of not doing private education all the way through. At some point your children realise the price of everything, and not necessarily the value…  I remember a point when we were moving from our last house (a tiny end of terrace) and our daughter (age 11 at the time) asked if we could have a pool in the next house… our answer was you can have a pool but then we won’t have a house… at that age she went to the local comp anyway, which gave her a more balanced view of life and people. There are huge benefits to private education but the downsides are that you don’t get such a cross section of people attending so your kids get a narrower view of life. Of course if you don’t live in a good area that can be a benefit (!) but I do think its good for our children to know what life is like across society. Another downside of course is the money – and we aren’t even paying the fees but the uniform alone is extortionate and because of all the sport they need so much more!! then of course there are endless trips to places which are on offer (which we have had to say no to…)

One thing I would like to see more of is scholarships. If your child is particularly bright or gifted you can apply for a scholarship but these days they just cover 10 – 20% of the fees which still leaves a massive amount payable and makes it totally inaccessible. In years gone by you could get full scholarships and I would love to see private schools giving back a bit more by offering some to kids who would never be able to attend otherwise.

So if you are someone who slates people for sending their kids to private education, please think again! There are a whole host of reasons why people do it, we are not all snobs who want our kids to be the next top banker or MP (eek, heaven forbid…) and that old argument about it being unfair to be able to pay for education is crap – we could just as easily say it’s unfair that people can pay to eat better food…

Finding out about Haiti

So, my daughters school is twinned with one in a very rural part of Haiti. This is largely thanks to a friend of mine who felt God calling her to to Haiti and to make links between these schools. She went out to Haiti earlier this year with another friend and God used them mightily while they were there.

She had an idea to see if some of the kids from our school could meet some Haitian Olympic athletes, and she only went and managed to arrange it!! I don’t know how she did it, Gods favour I am sure, and so luckily enough I was able to go with her last week with our kids.


Waiting for the team to arrive!




Presenting them with a banner made by the kids!


It was a totally amazing day and all sorts happened but I want to focus on Haiti itself. Whilst we were with the team it was really interesting chatting to the Chef de Mission (team co-ordinator) about their training and funding and his desire to see more sport in schools there. Bringing hope in places where often there is very little.

Haiti is a small carribean island, and one of the poorest areas in the Americas (according to wikipedia) something which my friends experienced first hand whilst they were there. As most know the island was hit by a massive earthquake in 2010 in which over 200,000 people died (some estimates put it at nearer 300,000) and it destroyed much of the capital Port au Prince. More rurally many places were harder hit because buildings were not as substantial.

The school which my friends went to visit is up in the hills outside port au prince. The school is overseen by Yverose, and her husband, who gave up everything to come and help after the earthquake. The school employs several teachers and they even manage to give the kids a meal each day as many of them would not eat otherwise. Not only did they get the school up and running but they took in children whose parents were killed in the earthquake. They currently look after over 20 plus children and live totally by faith, trusting in God for all their needs. They do not have regular support from larger humanitarian organisations but get occasional help from the UN and from people like my friends raising money for them. For more info, you can see their Facebook page.

It’s sad that after so many natural disasters we see masses of initial reporting and then there are those left to pick up the pieces and deal with the every day issues – those committed to help in forgotten places and then those like my friends who do notice the needs, from the other side of the world, and do something about it.

Haiti is still suffering hugely, over 2 years on from the earthquake, and that doesn’t look like changing in a hurry, so let’s not forget there are still those out there that need help and support.

Olympic Fever and being a Christian…



Olympic Rings on Tower Bridge



 

Like so many others I am loving the Olympic Games. Not a huge sports fan, I was enthusiastic about the once in a lifetime aspect of it all in advance, but that’s about all. However ever since it started I have hardly torn myself away from the TV coverage! I am a newly found olympo-phile!  The thing I love most though is the fact that it seems to be bringing our nation together. For once we have something in common with almost everyone in the country. Even those initial doubters seem to have been converted!

Last week we headed up to London to meet some Haitian athletes – will write about that tomorrow – and we didn’t even go into the Olympic park, but the atmosphere across the city was amazing. On the train from our home station people were chatting about what event they were going to see and the medals that had already been won. We even handed out our spare olympic branded biscuits to those sat near us! At London Bridge we were greeted by smiling stewards in their manly pink olympic tabards (!). Even on the tube people were happy, chatting to each other like long lost friends, not strangers who happended to be off to the same event. People queued sedately (but of course, we are British), chatting away, we met atheletes and coaches from all over, happy to have photos taken and sign autographs, we even met one of the olympic chaplains or Pastors.

The olympics have forged a new found national pride, an atmosphere of joy, a season of togetherness that I don’t think anyone (even Lord Coe) could have foreseen. And I pray this continues…

However last night a friend challenged me on this olympic fever. Saying that as Christians is it right that we celebrate and shout and scream for these people in a way we don’t do for our faith? At first I thought he was being all ‘bah humbug’, but has he got a point? I mean if we are happy to so publically venerate the olympics and our Team GB and other athletes, why not Jesus? Why are so many of us so sedate about our faith and our King yet will shout and scream at the olympics, rock stars and gigs…? Is it just British reserve? clearly not as we have seen over these last 2 weeks. Is it fear? Is it because it’s not easy enough?  Is it because we are worried what others will think of us? There is safety in numbers of course and we have all been raving about the olympics, it’s been easy because everyone else feels the same. Bu what would it take to unite this nation in Jesus I wonder…?

There has been lots written about the Olympics but if you are interested these are a couple of feel good posts on the subject:

Seeker: Running for Joy  this hasd me in tears!
and Steve Tilleys Olympic Thoughts

edit: and another good post here from Voyage of a Forlorn Treasure

Blog Ratings August 2012 // Religion and Belief// Women Bloggers

Here are the August e-buzzing ratings for women bloggers in the religion and belief category. Well done ladies!!
A few new ones this month, so there are 21 on the list. I have added in Vicky Beechings other blog, Cyber Soul, which wasn’t on my previous list and Talking Christian which also wasn’t registering last time. As with last month, if you know of anyone who I have missed, please let me know.
Iave added a colum to see how the positions relate to last month, but haven’t managed a funky graphic yet – really should have paid attention in maths class. Hopefully will get the hubby on to this later!!

Blog Title August 2012 rating Progress Position
iBenedictines 6 →← 1
Cyber Soul (Vicky Beeching) 8 2
Vicky Beeching
(Religion, Ethics and Rock and Roll)
18 3
Lay Anglicana 24 4
Dreaming
beneath the spires
40 5
Maggi
dawn
44 6
LLM Calling 46 7
A Reader in Writing 49 8
Looking Deeper 50 9
Learning from Sophie 55 10
Living Stones 57 11
Living To Please God 63 12
The Vicar’s Wife 69 13
Significant Truths 71 14
Revising
Reform
72 15
Apples of Gold 74 16
Seeker 77 17
RevRuth 81 18
Tracing
Rainbows
86 19
Help I Work with
Children
92 20
Talking
christian 
95 21