Mother Christmas

My mum is a very popular preacher, approaching retirement through personal circumstances, and this christmas may be her last one at the local church to our family home. It feels a bit sad and nostalgic, but I think she is also optimistic about the next stage of life.

When I was a teenager I was mortally embarrassed most of the time by my parents, not least my mum’s preaching, however looking back now, I can’t get over how brave she was to challenge all the stereotypes within the church of england, and become one of the first female vicars to be ordained. I know her father who was still alive at the time was immensely proud.

My mum and I have had many conversations about parenting, as one does, however I am always amazed by her tenacity,and drive to find the best solution for us kids, and this is now extended to her grandchildren! We have certainly given her lots to worry about over the years. Watching my daughter’s determination to learn to crawl and try to walk, she reminds me alot of my mum!

I do not know if God is a woman, however my experience of God is not dissimilar to my own mother, in that he often carries on supporting us, when most people would have given up.

Sometimes however it doesn’t seem like he is doing much. Why are there famines, wars, murders, cancer and illness? Why can’t he stop this happening? Well, maybe because he lets us get on with looking after our planet?

He is certainly not adverse to a bit of risk taking..He gave his son, the saviour of the world, to a teenage virgin, and a carpenter who had no experience of parenting, did not even live together, and were about to be exiled from their family and home-land! Social services would have deemed this a risky placement! 

It is his trust in us that is so amazing, as he sees what we can be, as well as what we are now, and wants us to come to him through his love and our own curiosity rather than by appointment.

Happy Christmas!

P.S Have attached mum’s sermon for any followers!

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Tis the season

It feels quite weird at work at the moment as we are being asked to find savings from our budgets that are quite challenging, given that most of the money we manage goes into supporting vulnerable adults and older people. At the same time we are all getting ready for christmas and trying to relax and enjoy the festivities. We are facing uncertainty about our own jobs, and increasing pressure to hit targets.

This week at cell we are looking at James, who was incidentally Mary and Joseph’s lesser known son. His words are challenging but help us see that there will always be conflicts between our desires and the demands of the world and the way God wants us to live. Many Christians face bigger challenges than us in the public sector at the moment. For example, Mary and Joseph had to go into exile after Jesus was born and were first time parents  who had no family and friends around them, let alone Mumsnet, Facebook and mobile phones. This must have shaped how they saw the world, and how they later brought up their family. While God put them in a difficult situation, he helped them back to Israel, and helped them raise Jesus and his brothers in a normal community despite all the odds against them. 

 It is difficult to hear the nativity story with fresh ears as it is so familiar, but in church this week we were focusing on Joseph. When Mary first became pregnant it is clear Jospeph was sceptical about how their future together might pan out, given that it was unplanned, and potentially an unwanted pregnancy at the time. Even though they know their baby was the Messiah, they would have had no comprehension of the impact the man Jesus would become, would have on the world. Throughout the bible, God often seems to put people in difficult or dangerous situations for a reason, that they don’t understand at the time. 

However if you have grand plans and think highly of yourself, James is also unforgiving

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. 

By focusing on today and what good we can achieve in the time we have available, and what God’s will is for our specific circumstances, some of the bigger picture can feel more manageable, even if it’s a challenge.

 

Joseph the unsung hero

#mce_temp_url#

Today at church we were looking at Joseph, I wasn’t really on form, due to a rough night of sick children, and a few too many glasses of rioja. I was distracted by my gorgeous daughter who didn’t want to go to sleep, and was looking very cute. There were lots of activities going on in the church around us, and people were talking about a whole host of community activities that the church is involved in.

A friend of ours passed away this time last year, and we all went up to the funeral in deep snow. It was emotionally draining and a reunion of friends we didn’t really want to be at. I hope his soul is resting in peace as he was a lovely man, and is very much missed. At this time of year, there is sometimes a bitter-sweet feeling to all the arrangements and planning, but I am sure it was the same for Mary and Joseph.

Joseph was a carpenter, probably a fairly straightforward man. He didn’t believe his wife was carrying the messiah, after an angel had visited, he thought she’d had an affair like the rest of the village. Mary was put in a really difficult position, but eventually Joseph came round to understand what was happening and supported her. This meant leaving everything and everyone he knew, and going away to start a family without any financial or emotional support from the people who loved him. Also having the responsibility of parenting the messiah, how scary is that? As a first time dad, wouldn’t he be a bit nervous? What an amazing man!

Our daughter was born in March last year, and the memories are still fresh in my mind of those first few weeks and months. Although Jesus may have slept at night and never cried, it would still have been  hard work. After Jesus was born they had to go on the run, and live in exile, fearing for their lives. After things had settled down Jospeh and Mary went onto have more children including James who’s chapter we have been looking at, and it seems clear he was a man of high principles and good character.

As they say, God moves in mysterious ways, but if he was going to be “textbook “ about sending down a son to us all, this isn’t how you would imagine it to start off. He sent his hope for the whole world to be looked after by first time parents, who then become homeless refugees without any support from her family, who were busy getting ready for a big community event somewhere else.

 

 

To me, it is such an unlikely story, it has to be true!

 

Sowing seeds of peace

James 3, v 13-17

One of the downsides about being at work full-time and having my husband at home full-time is that I often feel we are doing something wrong, because it’s a different set-up to most other families. I spend alot of time thinking how nice it would be if I didn’t have to work and my husband had a well-paid job so we would just be like everyone else.  People tell me how much they admire me for juggling a career with small children, and how tough it is, and how they had the same issues when their kids were small, but often I feel like the odd one out at work. Most of the people in my team either don’t have a family or their kids are older and less likely to wake up at 4am for a party on a school-night.

This week we were looking at the book of James again and had a long discussion about how easy it is to say the wrong thing and set off an argument without realising, or to gossip about people at working a way that would be hurtful if they knew what you were saying. One phrase stood out to me more than the others

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

 

I think I definitely could do with being less envious and enjoying my life the way it is now. I won’t have this time when the children are small again, and rather than wishing I was at home more often, I need to enjoy the time I do have with them, and make the most of it. I also need to be more appreciative of how well my husband looks after the kids and our home.

I am quite a laid back person, but have always taken my career quite seriously and am now in a senior position of leadership within the council. Instead of wishing I didn’t have difficult decisions to make, I need to be proud of my achievements and work opportunities that other people don’t have.  

 

Like many women I worry that someone is going to “find out” that I am in fact an imposter, and should not be taken too seriously.  However since looking at this passage I’ve tried to be wise at work in a more godly way. This has mainly involved not talking over people, listening to others more and being less defensive if I think someone is criticising me, and trying to see things from their point of view.  James points out:

 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.