Holy Week Reflection 7 // Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday – in the Grave

Read: Luke 23:50-56

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 13 and 14 click on the numbers to get the audio

 

Artwork: two choices today:

‘The Deposition’ Ugolino de Neriolook close up at the faces of Mary and Jesus 

 

or Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’ sculpture (click on the titles to see the paintings)

 

  • Both these pieces depict the raw emotion of a Mother with her dead son. Can you feel the sorrow through the artwork?

 

Prayer Points:

  • As we come to the end of the week’s reflections, why not commit yourself afresh to the Lord? You could use this prayer – The Methodist Covenant Prayer which Methodists repeat every year in committing themselves afresh to the Lord.

 

I am no longer my own but yours.

Put me to what you will,

rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,

exalted for you or brought low for you.

Let me be full, let me be empty,

let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours.

So be it.

And the covenant made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven.

Amen.

 

 

 

Holy Week Reflection 6 // Good Friday

Good Friday – The Crucifixion

Read: Mark 15:21-41 perhaps 2 or 3 times

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?
  • Imagine yourself in the text, at the foot of the cross, how does it make you feel?

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 11 and 12 click on the number to get the audio

Painting: ‘St John of the Cross’ by Salvador Dali Click on the title to see the painting

 

  • This painting was inspired by a drawing, kept in the Convent of the Incarnation in Avila, Spain, which was done by Saint John of the Cross after he had seen a vision of Christ during a powerful spiritual experience. Dali talks of the unity of the world in Christ through his own interpretation. What does it speak of to you?

 

Song: Strange way by Martyn Joseph

 

  • A cleverly written song on the Crucifixion, have a listen to the lyrics and see what stands out to you and think about why.

Prayer Points

  • We sometimes talk of nailing our burdens or our sin to the cross. What do you need to let go of and give to the Lord right now? Lift it to him in prayer.
  • Pray for those who are persecuted for their Christian faith around the world.
  • Pray for those you know struggling in their faith

 

Holy Week Reflection 5 // Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday – The Last Supper

Read: Luke 22: 7-30 and/or John 13:1-17

  • What, if anything, stands out to you? 

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 9 and 10, click on the number to hear the audio

 

Painting: ‘Journey with Jesus’ by He Qi click on the title to see the image

 

  • There is much symbolism and many references in this picture, what stands out to you?
  • Where would you be in this picture?

 

Prayer Points:

  • Focus on the line from Luke ‘…my blood is poured out for you…’ Spend some time thanking God for the amazing sacrifice he made for you.
  • Pray for those in positions where service is key, perhaps the emergency services, medical staff or armed forces.
  • Pray for those who serve you personally. At home, work, church or in the community…

 

 

Holy Week Reflection 3 // Tuesday

Tuesday – The Greatest Commandment

Read: Matthew 22: 34-40, perhaps 2 or 3 times.

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?
  • How important are these commandments to you in your life? In what ways do you show the love of Christ in your daily life?

 

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 5 and 6(click on the numbers of get the audio)

Painting: ‘God Hold Me’ by Charlie Mackesy

Available here but you need to scroll down to item 74

 

 

  • Can you imagine yourself in this painting?
  • Can you think of a time when you have experienced God holding you in this way? Perhaps you might need to experience this now in a situation you face?

 

Article: Holy Week in an Unholy World

 

  • Does this article resound with you?

 

Prayer Points:

  • As above, imagine God holding you in an embrace like the painting. Can you invite him into a particular situation you are facing?
  • For situations in the world that need God’s embrace more than ever right now, for example for those grieving in Syria
  • For someone you know who needs to feel God’s embrace afresh today

 

Visit: Pop into our Easter Encounter Space at TRINITY Southover, open all day today from 10am – 10pm. Explore the Easter story through the prayer stations.

 

Holy Week Reflection 2 // Monday

Monday – Cleansing of the Temple

 Read: Mark 11: 15 – 19, perhaps 2 or 3 times.

  • What, if anything, stands out to you?
  • What are the things that make you angry? Why not spend some time thinking about a time when you were angry, frustrated or annoyed recently. Spend some time reflecting on how Jesus might have reacted to that situation?

Listen: Stations of the Cross by Malcolm Guite 3 and 4Click on the numbers to go to the audio.

Illustration: Modern interpretation of Christ driving the money changers from the temple’ by Anthony Freda/Daniel Zollinger (click on the title to see the image)

  • What is your instant reaction to this picture? What emotions does it raise in you? Do you think it is fair as a modern interpretation?

Article: Following Jesus Means Being Political and Advocating for “The Least of These”

Following Jesus Means Being Political and Advocating for “The Least of These”

  • Does this article resound with you?
  • Does following Jesus mean being political to you?

 

Prayer Points:

  • If you feel led to do so, pray into the situations you thought about above where you experienced anger.
  • Pray for an issue of injustice, for example those who suffer because of race, religion or sexuality.
  • For those you know who struggle with unresolved anger

Preach // Palm Sunday 2017

 

Palm Sunday 2017 10am // 11.15am at TRINITY, Lewes

Luke 19:28-44

 

>> Holy week timeline slide

 

Anyone know what this is? If you can read the small print you can probably work it out. It’s not a tube map but a cleverly drawn timeline of Holy week. Palm Sunday – Easter Sunday (and beyond), different people in different colours, using accounts from all 4 gospels, including scripture refs.

And we are here – at the beginning of the week, what we now refer to as ‘Palm Sunday’ – when we remember the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, in what is usually called his ‘triumphal entry’. It’s the absolute contrast to what happens in just 5 days time (point to Friday) when we remember Jesus’ death on the cross on Good Friday. And exactly a week before his resurrection which we will celebrate next Sunday.

 

For many of us, if we are honest, this will be a normal week, perhaps a working week, we might not have the time to even consider that we are in Holy week or what it even means to us. We might simply go from one celebration – Palm Sunday today – to the next – Easter Day – without considering the in between. And that’s life, we don’t often have time to stop, reflect and consider until we are forced to perhaps by life’s circumstances or we deliberately choose to take time out to do so.

But I think that if nothing else, at this time of year it’s a great opportunity to really think about the truth of our faith, the unfailing love that was the fuel that led Jesus to the cross.

For us. For me. For you.

It’s easy sometimes to take for granted what Jesus did, we talk about him going to the cross, or we use phrases like ‘laying things at the foot of the cross, or carrying our cross, or we might wear a symbol of the cross, or have one in our homes. But what does it mean to us? Truly and really?

This week I want to encourage you to take some time even if just a few minutes a day to reflect on that and I’ve actually written some notes which will be online if you want to use them. 10 mins each day.

 

And we are going to start that this morning by thinking about triumph and it’s counterpart sorrow.

 

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Palm Sunday

And here today we start at the beginning of Holy Week. Palm Sunday. But it’s not really a beginning at all, it’s really part of the culmination of Jesus’ life, of all that he came to do. And if we think about it in human terms it’s really the wrong way around – in one sense, this is a funeral procession not a triumphal one, and yet the death we see later in the week is the very victory over death.

So, here Jesus comes into Jerusalem in triumph. All who saw and were cheering, or waving branches were welcoming him as a king. It’s joyful, it is a celebration, they waved Palm branches and laid their cloaks before him on the ground. A modern day equivalent might be perhaps the Queen visiting today and hoards of people lining the streets just to see her, and waving union flags or singing the national anthem – it’s that equivalent – a royal welcome. There was huge expectation.

I want to show you a clip of what it might have been like back then…

This is from The BBC’s The Passion series and give us an idea what it might have been like….

>>>> Clip from BBC The Passion

 

I do love this clip, of course it’s full of artistic licence and those petals look distinctly like they are made of modern paper, not very 1st C Jerusalem, but I find it really helpful as a focus.

The scene is so emotive,

The crowds calling his name,

Laying their Cloaks on the ground

Palm branches wafting in the air, people’s faces alight with joy and hope

The petals scattered by smiling children onto a smiling Jesus

All around is celebrating, shouting hosanna, hosanna

Onlookers swept into the delight, led on by the disciples,

 

And yet…. If we fast forward just 5 days

 

Instead, onlookers jeer and question as the disciples scatter

Instead of shouts of praise are angry cries of ‘crucify’ ‘crucify’

Instead of the beauty of crimson petals falling, drops of red blood, fall on those same streets, not falling upon Jesus, but from him

Branches are forgotten, trampled under foot, dusty and dirty, under the feet of soldiers, animals and…

cloaks on the ground are replaced by the heavy feet of Roman soldiers,

hope has quickly vanished and replaced with angry faces.

The atmosphere has darkened, instead of joy, hate fills the air

 

Just to warn you this next clip is quite graphic…

 

>>> Clip 2 Contrast

 

 

Those two clips show such vast contrasts in the life of Jesus just a few days apart and yet, they are both necessary parts of his mission here on earth, his role to save us all from our own brokenness, from the evil inflicted on this world by the Devil.

Triumph and sorrow are all part of his Victory.

And that is what I want to focus on today – the triumph and it’s counterpart sorrow.

I chose that word sorrow carefully, as the opposite to Triumph, because an obvious one might be be defeat or failure, and yet there is no defeat or failure here because as Christians we can be sure of the ending, we know that Jesus overcame death, he did the unthinkable, he won against death. Both spiritually and physically.

And yet he had to experience such extremes of life to do so.

And I would venture to say that it is the same for us. Just as Jesus knew what the ending would be, we know that ultimate truth, that is the truth that should underpin our daily lives, that whatever we face there is an unbelievable future in store for us.  

But before we get there we have to navigate this fallen, yet beautiful, loving and yet hate-filled, triumphant and yet sorrowful world. And that can be flippin’ hard can’t it?

 

And we can just as much see that in things Jesus’ faced

– his friend Lazarus died and he wept at his loss. Even though he knew that death would not win, he still suffered the pain of losing a friend.

 

Isaiah 53: 3 tells us:

He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. (NLT)

 

– The bible tells us God is love and yet we see in the OT God being filled with wrath,

He’s a jealous God

      

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me…

Exodus 20:5

 

– and yet a joy filled God:

For as a young man marries a young woman,

so shall your sons marry you,

and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,

so shall your God rejoice over you.

 

Isaiah 62:5

 

And here in v 41 we see the second of 2 verses where Jesus cries.

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

 

 

Whilst our future in eternity is in a place where tears will be dried, there will be no death of crying or pain, as Rev 21 says

 

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea…. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

 

For now, though we do have to face those things and it would be unrealistic to expect otherwise. But let’s be sure – suffering and hardship, illness and pain – none of it comes from God. That is not his intention for us. I am still amazed by how many people accept that. Like it’s some kind of punishment doled out on us for some perhaps unperceived sin. Rubbish! Look crappy stuff happens, it’s the result of being in a fallen world, where the devil has a foothold and we all have free choice.

 

That doesn’t mean God doesn’t or can’t use it for his benefit, for I know that he can and does. I think I’ve told before of how when I had a back injury a couple of years ago and had surgery meaning 3 months off work and lengthy recovery period that despite the hideous pain, I can look back on that time as a blessing as God spoke to me so powerfully through it all. I think of people like ‘The Heavenly man’ (Brother Yun) who suffered horrendous persecution in China because of his faith, being in prison, tortured for years and yet now his story touches people all across the world. Thousands of people have heard the gospel through him and his story.

Or a friend of mine who tragically lost her baby at 17 hours old to a Group B Strep infection. In her grief she channelled her pain, led by God and started a charity to raise awareness and to fight for routine testing to stop other babies dying.

Nothing is wasted in God’s kingdom.

However sometimes it isn’t that obvious where God is at work, sometimes it’s a wilderness, or a barren landscape where it is hard just to hang onto an iota of faith because of our journey, let alone see where God is at work.

 

In our passage we read:

 

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

That’s pretty harsh isn’t it? Even in his triumph as he approaches Jerusalem with people calling out praise to him, he weeps in sorrow for a lost city. For the people who won’t enter his kingdom with him…

But I believe that moments of triumph help to sustain us in times of sorrow. God gives us amazing experiences or knowledge of him to hang on to when we need them most.

I love how this is depicted in the second clip I showed you earlier – that in the midst of the pain Jesus was experiencing as he walked to his death carrying the cross, he looked up and saw, one assumes in his imagination, the girls from a few days before scattering petals on him and he seems to gather a renewed strength to carry on.

I wonder what those moments might be for you? A moment of clarity of Jesus at work in you life that gives you strength?

 

////////

 

But our triumphs are not just ours to keep and treasure, they are also for the glory of God.

As the disciples enter Jerusalem with Christ it says

‘’then he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

 

They praise God for the miracles they have seen. And yet the Pharisees, one assumes in fear or offense tell Jesus to rebuke his disciples, to tell them to stop and he simply says, ‘If they keep quiet the stones will cry out.’

Because all creation is made to praise the Lord

 

 

Psalm 66:4

All the earth bows down to you;they sing praise to you, they sing the praises of your name.

 

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

 

 

Isaiah 55:12 English Standard Version (ESV)

“For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you  shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

 

 

We are part of God’s creation and called to cry out in praise, in worship and in testimony to the greatness of God.

And yet so often we fall short.

And we are not alone.

It’s all very well reading here how the disciples shouted in praise and worship but in 5 days time they all, scatter. Of the 12, John is the only one at the crucifixion. Peter denies Jesus 3 times, despite being warned he will do so, and Judas sells him out.

So we can draw comfort from them, that they were with Jesus every day and still they messed up.

 

////////

 

 but just going back to the stones crying out – I was thinking about Jesus crying over the city of Jerusalem and wondering whether we cry over our own town?

Lewes examples…

It doesn’t matter what our political views or how these situations arose, the question is, do we have compassion? do we weep for those amongst us as Jesus did?

There is so much more we can do – and I am so excited about our Love in Action plans and the vision for the new TRINITY centre at St John’s because it will give us a base from which to see so much more of God’s love spread across our town. We will have a much greater opportunity to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn, and to see lives transformed by the love of Christ.

Amongst the sorrow I want to seek the triumph of God at work. And I hope we will be united in that as a church!

 

 

//////

 

Because I think that is key to building faith, ours and other peoples – to seek the triumph of God in all we do. To look for those encounters with him that build us up as disciples of Jesus.

And it’s important to seek those moments in our present but also to remember them too from our past. There is such power in reliving things that God has done. I have various ways of doing that – I have a prayer journal, I write on my blog, I even have an ‘enouragement box’ for the days when I need some, it’s full of cards and letters people have written to me or thanked me for something I’ve done or said that has helped them. It was something I heard suggested at college and it’s really helpful. And my prayer journal – of which I have hundreds of filled ones in a box in my study – I look back on to remind myself of where God has been at work in my life. In times of sorrow that’s where I look for reminders of his triumph.

So I want to ask you… Where are those moments of triumph in your life? What is your experience of triumph? What stories of God at work in your life that can sustain you?

 

/////

 

As I said I’ve prepared some notes for this week, as a sort of aid to reflection…

Each day scripture from the Holy week narrative, poetry, images, prayer points and prompts to help you engage anew with the truth of what Christ has done for you.

 

////////

 

So this week as we remember the journey Jesus took from the triumphal entry, let’s take this opportunity to seek him afresh in our lives, perhaps we can look for moments of encounter or triumph, perhaps we can remind ourselves of the triumph amidst our own or others sorrow.

 

….. PRAYER…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holy Week Reflection Resources

For Holy week at my church, I have gathered a selection of resources and ideas to use as an aid to prayer or as a reflective tool, as we remember the week that Christ. Feel free to reuse or point people to it.

I have included passages of scripture from the Holy Week narrative, paintings and images, poetry in the form of Malcolm Guite’s, ‘Stations of the Cross’ and prayer points, so there is plenty of variety. You might find you just want to focus on one theme, perhaps just choosing to listen to the stations of the cross each day and reflecting on those, or looking at the paintings and seeing what thoughts they raise in you, you can do as much or as little as you would like or have time for.

There is a section for each day and I have kept the items, questions and prayer points simple so that if you are short of time you could do all of it in 10-15 minutes each day, but there is also scope to spend much longer if you would like.

The purpose of this set of resources is to encourage and enable you to interact with the truth of the gospel message afresh in your personal faith. Some of the ideas might be more accessible to you than others, some might challenge you or make you think, others you might simply skim over. There is no right or wrong way of going through this, it is up to you…

 

First one up tomorrow and I’ll publish them each day until Holy Saturday…

Preach // 26th Feb 2017 / Galatians 5 ‘Living by the Spirit’

Galatians 5:13-26 Living by the Spirit 

Given at TRINITY Church, Southover, 6.30 service 26/2/17

  

Right, what do we learn from this passage?

Is it just: no dodgy sex, no getting wasted, no seeking out witches for spells, and definitley no orgys? Sorry if that’s your evening’s plans ruined but it’s there in back and white…

But… this series we are doing this term at the 6.30, is all about what it means to live as a wholehearted disciple of Jesus in the modern world. So there is of course more to it than that.

You know so often we read the bible, or we talk about what we believe, or what the church doctrine says, people get bogged down in the ‘sensational’ stuff – sex, drink, debauchery, and you know Paul does tend to have a habit of talking about this kind of stuff, he’s always dishing out his thoughts, but if we can see beyond that stuff, there is actually a lot more here than just the ‘don’t do this’ instructions.

We are looking today at ‘living by the spirit’ and basically what Paul says is we need the Holy Spirit in our lives. To follow Jesus, to be a disciple of his, we are going to need some help, right? It’s not always easy being a follower of Jesus.

We want to follow him, we try to be like him, we try to act in a way that is honouring to him, but we get distracted – as he says: our flesh desires things that we don’t want it to desire. Anyone do ‘dry January’ or ‘Sugar free February’ or ever given up Chocolate for Lent? If so you might well know about your flesh desiring things you don’t want it to desire…

And actually I don’t think he is just talking about bodily desire here anyway. He is talking about things that draw us away from God, or from a Godly life, perhaps things that tempt us away. So for example he also mentions hatred, discord, jealousy and anger.

We need the Holy Spirit to help us, we cannot do it alone.

 

I love this, in The MSG version (verses 16-18)

 

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

 

I think often we forget about that part of the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit – or perhaps we are fearful or wary of it. But the HS is a guide, a comforter, one who comes alongside us in our every situation. We might remember the Acts passage where the Holy Spirit falls on the disciples for the first time and they speak in different tongues. Sometimes this is our only view of the HS that he makes people do crazy things. But he’s so much more than that. For example:

 

John 14:26 says he is a teacher, someone to point us to Jesus

Romans 15:13 that he brings Hope

 

The Holy Spirit is meant to be a part of our lives. Jesus sent him for us, he is a part of helping us to live as wholehearted disciples of Jesus.

So how are we guided by the HS? How do we live life ‘by the Spirit’.

Now, I’m not really a 3 points beginning with ‘p’ kind of preacher,

so we’re calling them keys ok? and I reckon that we can pull out some ‘keys’ if you like, some guideines from Paul’s writing, that might be a practical help for us all to live life by the spirit.

 

 1) Listen

We have to listen to God. To listen to what the spirit is saying to us, to be led by him. And we have to know HOW to hear him.

John 14:15-16 says of the Holy Spirit:

‘you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.’

 

So, if we are followers of Jesus, then the HS lives within us – he is there, it’s just we don’t often listen! 

In v. 13 Paul notes that we were ‘called to be free’. We have freedom from following Christ – freedom to not be tied down by sin, by the bad stuff we experience in our lives, because, Jesus takes away our shame and our sin, whenever we seek him and say sorry or we invite him into our lives.

BUT we also have freedom of choice, we get to choose how we live our lives and sometimes we just don’t choose very well! And I think a lot of that has to do with what we are influenced by – or by what we listen to in our lives.

So let’s do a little experiment – I want you, in a moment, to make some noise now. I want you to think of one thing that you follow, maybe a band you like, a football team, a designer, apple products, someone on Twitter, anything, anyone. Just someone that you would say you follow.

Ok everyone got one? So After the count of 3, I want you to call that thing out,

for example: Seagulls, or Justin Bieber,

ok everyone ready? After 3 shout it out…

 

123 ….

 

Noise…

 

Calm them down…

Right, now how many of those things that we shouted out, do you think you could actually hear? Maybe a couple of them? Maybe the person next to you shouted so loud you couldn’t hear, or maybe you were drowned out – did anyone even hear you?!

Because in life there is not just one voice calling us, there are so many things calling our name, enticing us to go with them. For example:

Advertising voices – you need the new iphone7, it’s so good, it’s only got one thing different to the iphone 6 but you really need it, you will be so on trend if you have it, people will be jealous of you….

Or it might be the influence of magazines and celebrities, or your boss at work, teachers at school or college, or your friends,

Or perhaps a more obvious one maybe – social media – who do we follow on Twitter? Facebook? Snapchat? Instagram? Whose voice do we listen to there?

And we have to find out way through all of that, all of those voices, trying to follow a path that is right for each of us, and learn to hear the HS speaking to us, guiding us. And that will happen differently for each of us. It might be through reading God’s word, or through prayer, hearing a voice in your own head, just an inkling or a feeling, through supernatural circumstances, it’s different for all of us. Which leads us to

 

So to lead onto key no. 2… 

2) Recognise

So we listen carefully and within that – we need to try and recognize the voice of the HS in our lives and amongst the distractions or – the acts of the flesh as Paul calls them – the things that pull us away from God.

So, what distracts you from listening to the Lord? From being led by his HS?

Look, it might be sex or money or drunkenness, as Paul is so fond of highlighting but it might equally as likely be, and I love how the message version puts this,

 

Vs 19-21

a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; trinket gods; paranoid loneliness; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival….

The things we allow in our lives, are the things that influence us and the more we allow them in, the more the influence us.

So here’s an interesting thing.

 

do you know what an algorithm is? I expect some of you do, basically it’s like a code or equation and there are thousands of them running the internet. So for example – Facebook has an algorithm that means it chooses what you see on your timeline, you won’t automatically see all the latest posts from your friends, you will only see the ones that the code thinks you want to see.

Or online advertising is another one – have you ever noticed how you buy something online or watch TV show online, then for weeks afterwards every website you go to has adverts for that shop or that show? It’s just another algorithm that has picked up you like that show or that shop so it keeps showing it to you.

 

Angela Merkel (the German chancellor ) said in an interview that “These algorithms – can lead to a distortion of our perception. They narrow our breadth of information.”

They actually distort the truth, because you only see what the algorithms think you want to see. So the more you look at something, the more they think you want to see it, and so gradually what you see gets narrowed down until actually, where we think we are choosing our path, we are actually only experiencing a very narrow sphere of life.

That’s online, but we do it in every part of our lives – for example we tend to hang out with people who like the same things as us, or have the same opinions as us.

So we really need to recognise what are the things that we allow to pull us away from a life lived for God? Who, or what we choose to follow shapes who we are, shapes our personal identity.

And you know we are living in a time where it is becoming more and more important for us to distinguish between the voices who are shouting out to us. The loudest or most retweeted or most viewed, is not necessarily the right one. Often the quietest ones, are the most important; or the most vulnerable are the ones telling the most truth.

So the one thing we can and should allow ourselves to be influenced by more than any other voice, the one we could allow to guide ourselves over any other, is the HS. No ifs or buts, it has to be. In any situation.

So we need to listen and recognise his voice above all the distractions. And there’s no easy way to do that actually, it’s about learning and practice, and seeking him in our every day lives . The HS speaks to us all in different ways but one thing you can do, is to seek the fruit of the spirit in your life…

 

Which is no.3

 

3) Seek the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life.

We don’t need to focus on the bad stuff. We listen, we recognise it, but then we don’t allow it to take us over. We need to actively seek out the fruit of God’s spirit in our own lives and make that the focus.

And what is that fruit? Well Paul tells us in verse 22, (NIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

And here’s the thing, sometimes we can get a bit worried about the Holy Spirit, I expect we’ve all heard or experienced for ourselves people ‘being filled with the Holy Spirit’ and then acting crazy or shrieking or shaking or whatever. And if you have nothing to hold that against, or nothing to compare it to, or no theology of it, that can be pretty freaky right?

 

I know people who think the only way to be filled with the Holy Spirit is in that manner, and I don’t think that’s true. Yes it does happen like that sometimes, in the bible we can read in Acts that when the disciples were filled with the HS at Pentecost, people thought they were drunk! God can and does work powerfully in things we might think are a bit bonkers, I have experienced that for myself, but that’s not the only way, he is so much more than that. So if you are someone who finds the whole idea of the HS a bit freaky or scary, let’s look at what Paul says and this is from the MSG version again:

 

 

22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

So living with the HS in your lives can and perhaps should lead to these things.

Are these things you could say about yourself? Perhaps not all the time, but when can you see these in your life?

When are you filed with joy?

Or when are you patient? Or when do you have a ‘sense of compassion in the heart’ or serenity?

Because these are all indicators of the HS at work. So if you seek out where those are happening in your life that can help to point you to where the HS is at work and learn to be led more by him.

If we’re having a bad time, maybe getting dragged into temptation, all those things Paul talked about – instead focus on where the fruit of the spirit is in your life, even if it might seem in small doses.

I’m a parent and you know sometimes that is bloomin’ hard, it’s emotional, exhausting, whether they are in nappies and awake 10 times a night, or 16 and slamming doors in your face (it’s also amazing too!!). But when I was having a particularly ‘I’m a crap mother’ morning a while back, and I was just really seeking God in it all, and I felt like he said to me – through the HS, – just take the moments of joy when they are there and celebrate them. Joy – a fruit of the Spirit.

It was a good word, because I was focusing on all the times when I felt I’d done a bad job – like the times I’d shouted at the kids (I would never shout at my children, right…), or the times when I’d missed a school event for work, or as happened the other week, because I’d made spag bol for tea which was of course the thing my children hate most in the world and ‘you know I hate it, I’ve told you 1000 times…’

Anyway, I was focusing on all those times and not the times we’d sat crying with laughter over a particularly spectacular fart (not mine) or a cat video, or the times we’d just sat and chatted about important life stuff unexpectedly, or the time we all went bowling or whatever…

So instead I’ve begun to look for those moments on joy and see where the HS is at work in all our lives.

So look for the moments where the fruit of the spirit is present in your life.

 

 

4) Serve one another in love

One of those fruit is ‘love’. And I’ve talked a lot about love recently, it’s something that I just feel we don’t fully grasp how important it is and how love should be a foundation in our lives.

Here in v’s 13- 14 Paul reminds us that:

rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself”.

 

So we need to act in love and serve one another in love. When we do that we are allowing ourselves to be led by the HS and it helps us to understand others, in serving one another, it helps us to proactively be like Jesus, disciples of his.

One of my favourite books of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee, It is a classic, written in 1960 it addresses issues of racism and prejudice and having to read it at school, I think it was the first time that I really recognised that injustice in the world often comes from peoples own preconceived ideas, that develop into prejudice or hate.

In it one of the main characters, a lawyer, Atticus Finch tries to help his young daughter, Scout, to understand that people are not always what they seem- he says:

“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

You know, when you actively seek to love someone, to come alongside them, to serve them, that is in part what you are doing. And it changes us as we do that. But again, I think we need the help of the HS to do that.

 

 

Some of you might have heard of a woman called Jill Saward who died recently. She was a Christian and a campaigner on issues relating to sexual violence. Having been the victim of a violent robbery and rape in her youth,

She was the first rape victim in Britain to waive her right to anonymity which she did in order to campaign and support others.

12 years after the rape, she met one of the attackers and reportedly forgave him for his role in the crime. Jill Saward was quoted as saying

 

“Of course, sometimes I thought it might be quite nice to be full of hatred and revenge. But I think it creates a barrier and you’re the one who gets damaged in the end. So, although it makes you vulnerable, forgiving is actually a release. I don’t think I’d be here today without my Christian faith. That’s what got me through”

Her husband said of her:

“She was always trying to bring joy and love to people’s lives, which is what she does at home too, and with all her friends.”

She truly served people in love…

Now I didn’t know her and nor do I want to twist what she said. But I believe that had to be the work of the Holy Spirit in her life. She could have given in to hatred, or anger and who would have blamed her? But she chose to walk God’s path, I believe she chose to be led by her faith and the fruit of that being that she was able to forgive, to act in love, in peace, goodness, faithfulness. She was able to serve others in love.

 

Now we might not all be called to serve in the way Jill did, or as in the picture before, mother Teresa, but if we allow the HS to lead us to situations where we can love others, I believe we hill reveal himself more and more to us and those around us. After all God is a God of love and so it is in his nature to want to share that love…

 

 

So 4 keys…

 1) Listen to the Holy Spirit

2) Learn to recognize his voice – and recognize the distractions that draw us from God

3) Seek the fruit of the HS in your life

4) Serve one another in love

 

Lead into prayer….

 

 

NOURISH // One Word for 2017

a nice healthy gluten, dairy and sugar free breakfast!

This time last year I began a journey seeking ‘joy’ as I chose that as my one word to focus on for the year ahead. It was a really helpful tool rather than choosing New Year’s Resolutions, to just let joy be a bigger part of my life, and not to let it be robbed away. I also have some wonderful guest bloggers to thank for helping me on my joy journey too, it was great to get different perspectives along the way, thank you all for sharing!

However as I reflected before Christmas on what my word for 2017 might be I realised that whilst I was thinking more about joy and trying to focus on it, the things that were robbing me of joy were still there: ongoing back pain, tiredness, not enough time to rest – they were still constants in my life. So, the challenge for 2017 is how to overcome those, or at least how to live with them in a more balanced way?

One thing I’ve started to do more of is really think about what I am eating and I’ll share more on that as the year goes on, but a word that has stuck with me out of that is ‘nourish’. How do I nourish myself? do I in fact? intentionally? Nourishment is all about sustenance, making sure we are fed with substances necessary for growth, health and good condition so the dictionary says. Feeding ourselves well – and not just with good food, but the dictionary definition also includes, holding a belief for a long time. We need to be nourished spiritually as well as physically.

It’s interesting that a passage I focussed on a lot last year was Jesus’ command to love your neighbour as yourself. But it really stuck me recently: AS YOURSELF. What does that even mean I began to wonder? I often rail against the cultural trend that seems to scream at us from every advert, window or poster that says we can all be perfect, we deserve it after all, focus on you, you, you; but here it is in holy print, love yourself. Not something I am all that good at as I am sure many of us aren’t, my recent post on feeling guilty at being a working mother was a testimony to that.

So I began to pray into that and explore it and I was struck by this passage from 2 Peter 1 –

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

 

So, He has given us everything we need for a Godly life. How often do we whole heartedly accept that? or live that out? That line alone struck me like a shot of Tequila… And then. It goes on…

 

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Might have been written for me in this moment, it’s all about being intentional – make every effort to add to your faith…

 

But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

I have to say I regularly question my calling to ministry, I mean I know it in as much as I know I have red hair, but at the same time I question how I am supposed to do it, how can I balance life, motherhood, being a wife? – which are equally callings on my life. All of this felt like a challenge to me. If I am going to be able to continue with these callings, keeping them in rhythm with each other and not falling apart, then I have to focus on me a bit more, and more importantly on me and God. As I reflected I realised that my joy is robbed away when I am not looking after myself, when I am in pain, when I don’t spend enough time with God. And in fact that last one should go first, because when I am completely focussed on God, then the pain is not as significant, my time is more balanced, and I am less grumpy! I don’t mean focussed on me in a selfish way, I mean that as a wife, Mum and minister most of my time is given over to others, but that’s the point, that it’s ok to make some time for ourselves too.

So what will ‘nourish’ look like? Well I’m not sure yet but there are definitely three strands to it: to be nourished physically, mentally and spiritually. And not just for me, but for my family too. I’m not setting myself any real goals, as I think this is going to be a journey over the whole year, seeking to live in a more nourished way, but I’m sure there will be plenty for me to post on here!

 

More on Marriage, Motherhood & Ministry // The guilt factor

Ok so this one isn’t just about being in ministry, I think it’s common for many Mums, and probably Dads too, but why do we, as working Mums, feel so damn guilty all the time? Guilty about not getting enough work done, guilty about not spending enough time with the kids, guilty about not fitting in a date night, guilty about not helping with the school PTA, guilty about not doing the housework, guilty about using Amazon and not going to the High Street, guilty about having to take time off when a child is ill, guilty about taking time off when we are ill, guilty about taking 5 mins for a cup of tea in a long day, guilty about wanting to have some time to ourself, guilty about not wanting to spend that time with our husband/wife/child, guilty about not going to child’s rugby match, guilty about paying for childcare, guilty that we aren’t f**ing perfect…?

I mean listen, this is not the 1950s, it’s ok that we, as women, go out to *whispers* work. As much as some of the older generation may at times question it, it really is not a big deal. We are not expected to swan around at home in a perfectly pressed, and home-made day dress, whilst scrubbing the floor, darning socks and making jam that will keep us going all year. This is the 21st century and society, largely but let’s not dwell on that here, has accepted, even embraced and welcomed women in the workplace…

But often I think it’s us that hasn’t quite embraced it. I mean many women work as many, if not more, hours in paid employment than their husbands. So for example in this house, everything around the house is shared, from housework to shopping, to kids school runs and playdates, Christmas planning, and my husband cooked Christmas lunch last week because, of course, I am working. We haven’t got the balance right, we’re transitioning from me working part time, where we still shared the home admin but I did more as I was at home more. Now it’s all shared and we are trying to get the right balance. However I still find myself feeling guilty when I haven’t got the time to do something I used to do, or that my kids would like me to do. I feel guilty when my husband does the ironing or goes to Tesco late at night because there is no food in the house. Why do I feel so frikin’ guilty? It’s no more my fault than his that we have no food, and 99% of the ironing is his shirts anyway!

My husband is a total love and said to me he loves that I work, and I quote ‘you have proper cojones‘ which is a total compliment but I’d like to point out he means metaphorically… ;) but still the guilt is there. I mean last year alone I have missed my Brother in Laws 40th birthday do, a family get together, had to organise my kids birthday parties around work weekends, finished the Christmas shopping with one day to spare and that’s just a few things.

But here’s the thing, we are our own worst enemies. I think guilt is about 2 things: fear and condemning ourselves which in itself about identity.

So, fear… what are we so afraid of? are we worried what people think of us if we don’t volunteer for the local community charity in our spare time? or whether our kids will turn out as delinquents because we didn’t make them home made organic humous? or that our marriage may fail because we’ve not cleaned the toilet for 3 weeks? Seriously what are we so afraid of? I’m not saying let’s ignore our kids but we survived eating additives and shed loads of sugar before humous was even an odour in the air of middle England didn’t we? We stayed out late playing in the road not giving our parents a spare thought before it was essential to spend “intentional family time together”; sometimes we just need a bit of perspective. And that is where identity comes in – we need to know, truly know, who we are. And that is we are all daughters of the king. THE king. We are adopted into his family, as we are, warts and all. And He just loves us…

1 John 4:16-18 says this:

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

So, we are loved and we need not fear because we are filled with God’s love. As this says, fear is to do with punishment – interesting – are we punishing ourselves? for not being perfect?

The bible also says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). So if God does not condemn us, why do we condemn ourselves? For those of us in ministry, do we not feel called to this? Did we not feel an urge to do this, a calling we could not ignore? If God has called us to this then he is with us in it. He is the author of time (a fact I remind myself of daily!) we can trust him with all we have to do and know that he is in it.

So come on sisters! We are 21st Century women, let’s be strong, be confident, and let’s not fear, let’s not feel guilty. What the heck, spend intentional time with our family, eat organic humous, do the ironing if you want, and if not I dare you to put your feet up for at least half an hour, watch crap on the TV, eat cake and be ok with it! And in that let’s just recognise who we are and who God has made us to be…