Bad things happen to good people

Hi, this week has been a washout in our house – lots of different viral infections joined us at my daughters birthday party. Coincided with some great stuff happening at work and our daughter turning five. We haven’t left the house much and I’m practicing my nursing skills and trying not to be too grumpy!

I don’t know about you but I always feel it’s unfair when we get ill. It’s just one of those things but I always look for a reason.

As a child I didn’t understand why things aren’t fair in life, and probably  still struggle with that. I’m no different to anyone else – I’m no saint -but it seems sometimes that some people get an easier uride.

I’ve learnt not to worry about that so much now as I have so many blessings such as my family and friends and I’ve had lots of amazing adventures over the years! I’ve decided it’s  not worth investing energy in relationships that don’t grow and change however much you’d like to;better to notice the good stuff

Easter for us Christians is gods way of saying that bad things happen to good people.

There wasn’t anything Jesus could do to avoid the cross – even though his disciples begged him – that has always been a mystery to me , despite the message that he died for me – it still seems unfair.

What I do know though is that there isn’t a situation going on for anyone that God doesn’t care about and Jesus’ death was like a deep wound that helped God understand how broken down and miserable we all feel at times as well as the joy and happy times. He gets it;

“O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Glad tidings!

One of the down sides of being a parent it seems to me is the constant list of things you are suddenly supposed to be good at- climbing trees, baking, making food, creating things with bits of paper, entertaining other kids, making stories sound exciting, and patiently listening to lots of stories about things you are not interested in without sounding bored. I think that’s why we compare ourselves to each other too much. You think, if I was more like that mum then I could organise a fundraiser, or if I was more like that mum, I’d be great at cooking and the list goes on. I don’t remember doing this particularly before I was a parent, but I’m sure I did a bit.

Basically envy is the only one of the seven deadly sins that isn’t all that much fun. It’s easy to let your schadenfreude about other people’s sorrows make you think more positively about your own life, or to be secretly thrilled when someone you didn’t get along with, turns out to have problems. It’s harder to be thrilled for someone who got a promotion instead of you..

I did a prayer tonight with one of my children and listed all the things we have to be thankful for, they responded with, well mummy you’ve missed lots of things out! I think that’s probably the case most of the time.

Christmas is all about the opposite of this, wishing others well. Celebrating the joy in the world, not just the bits that affect us. Giving generously and sharing our lives is also a good way to enjoy ourselves too. Feeling miserable about someone else’s achievements isn’t a great place to be. Spending time in contemplation alone, whether following mindfulness or meditation or prayer I find a really good antidote to this at any time of year, but I’m especially conscious of it at Christmas. Writing is one way that helps me.

So a very happy Christmas to anyone who’s ever read this blog, and thank you so much for all your glad tidings over the last few years, it’s meant alot to me that people keep reading this. I am praying the joy and happiness of the arrival of the baby Jesus will in some way remind us all of the good things in  our lives, and help share the blessings out in some way.

 

 

Bye, bye June

I love June, it’s such a lovely time of year, with the long evenings, and flowers blooming. It’s the month I got married, and some of my favourite people have birthdays this time of year. When I was at school it was when we’d normally finished exams and hadn’t got the results, and when we had end of term parties at uni.

I think June is sometimes the best bit of the summer. A bit like getting ready to go out can be more fun than the actual party, sometimes July and August can feel a bit flat after the frenetic race to the end of school term, and the pressure to have an amazing big holiday. Especially if you are working or staying home and normal activities are not around to enjoy.

I hope July is as balmy and beautiful this year as June has been, and looking forward to all sorts of adventures this summer with the family. Like everyone else the prospect of lots of time together is both brilliant and daunting, but I know we are storing up memories for the kids, and for ourselves, for the future, and making the most of the time we have with friends and family and as foursome. I’m trying to learn to curb my inner critic, and enjoy my life more, and to not put too much pressure on myself and my nearest and dearest. In my little bubble, it’s hard to accept my own limitations and those of the people around me, and to acknowledge the gifts we all have rather than thinking about what’s missing. It really helps knowing there are lots of people that love me and care about me when I’m feeling down, and I know that God’s hand is always on me, guiding me, through my life, even when I’m too wrapped up in myself to notice or care, or maybe say thankyou!

Easter

In our house Easter is a welcome break from school and work, and family time. This year we are going to see alot of family as there is a reunion happening for my Granny Buster’s 100th birthday on Easter Monday.Granny is in the pretty advanced stages of dementia, so it’s unlikely she will come, or if she does will recognise any of us. It seems fitting though that as we are celebrating her 100 year life, and probably the end of her life in the next few years,  the church is celebrating the resurrection of Jesus and the birth of a new religion, social movement and new understanding of how God works.

The idea of life after death I think is tricky to accept, but as a Christian I’ve had some glimpses of this, which make me believe it does exist. I pray that Granny will be at peace when she dies, and is released from her current ill-health.  I think when the disciples met with Jesus on the road to Emmaus on Easter Sunday, they would have really believed in life after death for the first time. The only difference is they didn’t realise it was him to start with, so he must have appeared either different looking or in a way that didn’t instantly mark him out to them. It was through his actions, his words and his manner with them that they knew who it was. If you have lost someone, it’s their touch, their presence and their words that you miss.

As a child I really couldn’t understand why Jesus had to die, why the world would hate something so positive. In his brief 3 years teaching, people were cured from ill-health, demons driven out, hope restored. It has to be a political issue I think, that the establishment were threatened by his message of peace and hope, and that it was almost too good to be true.

Another event taking place this Easter..  My cousin Hamish’s daughter Mia has Batten Disease, which is a terminal illness, and rather than just trying to get by, they are campaigning to raise awareness. This year on March 31 they are asking people to bounce for batten and repost their photos on twitter with #bounce4batten (for more information go to www.bounce4batten.com) I like the campaign, as it’s a celebration of life, rather than focusing on death, and I think this is part of the message of Easter. While it’s hard to understand why God allows bad things to happen, why children have to die, it’s also possible to focus on the hope of a life lived, and the essence of that person living on in heaven.

Ascension

We’ve been watching this programme that’s out at the moment, its about a social experiment, where a group of people are under the impression they are on a space ship going out into the universe, seeking a new planet and new place to live. The people selected to be part of this experiment left in the 60’s, so haven’t seen the social changes that have happened since then, and the social structure is strictly managed. It’s quite a good concept, and quite disturbing to think that the people who’s lives have been radically altered by this experience are essentially living a lie.

At work we’ve been thinking about systems, and how as humans its often easier to subscribe to a culture or system than to act as an individual. Like the people in the phony space shuttle, it doesn’t actually matter if the the culture is based on truth or not, as long as everyone pulls together and works as a team to maintain the working environment. Too much radical change and rebellion is unsettling for any society, and we’ve been considering what small changes we can effect that will improve our effectiveness as individuals and cumulatively move to a new way of working as a team that has more positive effects. To start with this feels really unsettling, but I am really interested to see if we can move from how it’s always been to how it should be.

This morning another Becky was preaching at St Paul’s and she described the idea of someone being called, named by God and requested to fulfill a specific challenge. She described how we are all called to serve God in many ways and how this is a blessing that makes us equal as Christians together, even though some status and hierarchy often exists within church communities. The thing that makes us stand out though I think, is that God not only has a plan for each of us, sometimes it’s a radically different one to the culture, status and practice of the society that you live in. We are not like in the film Ascension, pre-programmed to live specific lives to enable the whole culture to survive, it’s more random and more wonderful in God’s world. People that used to be tax collectors like Levi, that Becky was preaching about, can go on to serve to achieve God’s plans. People who used to be homeless can be statesmen, and mums who are breastfeeding or weaning their babies can also be inspirational leaders. Waterfalls and rainforests, moors, beaches and deserts are all beautiful in different ways. The real galaxies of stars are changing day by day and the infinite nature of the universe is totally awe inspiring.

While the way we live on this planet is not great, and we are probably doing huge damage as the human race, we  can also be fascinating and wonderful people.  The stories of a grandma, raising thousands for a homeless man in the UK has been inspirational recently, and the small acts of random kindness that so many people do every day is not predictable or expected. The difference that parents see in children with special needs can be awe inspiring, and the contribution of people with mental illness to creative writing, art and theatre is immense.

We shouldn’t therefore be scared as Christians to break the mould, or if we feel uncomfortable within the social order, this shouldn’t be a surprise, as God’s ways are wonderful and also quite unfathomable, and that’s what makes it so exciting to walk in faith.

Acts 17 v24-25 “The God who made the universe and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t live in shrines made by humans, 25 and he isn’t served by humans as if he needed anything. He gives everyone life, breath, and everything they have.”

It will come to pass

Sometimes it seems like progress is incredibly slow, and you are not moving forward. The other day I watched some children in their class learning how to tread water. My daughter asked what they were doing, and  I explained it’s quite hard to swim without moving and they are learning how to do that.  The effort and energy it takes to stand still always seems to me to be more than moving forward, whether it’s a good idea or not! In life this hasn’t always served me well as I am prone to make rash decisions, move jobs, or move house becuase of an intuition or gut feeling. The time the church has taken to decide to annoint the first woman bishop today Libby Lane, to me seemed a lifetime. For others I am sure it didn’t seem long enough. There is a montage on the bbc here of the ceremony which took place today in York.  It was really moving to see, and my parents were delighted to be there in the congregation, saying “yes” when the Archbishop asked “do you support this?” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-30974547

Sometimes though it’s good to stop and wait, to listen out for God’s word amongst the chatter, to actively listen without moving forward and to just stop for a while. At christmas this year, mainly because of ill-health we had to do that. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. Asking for help sometimes means saying, I can’t move forward without you, what do I do now? Then listening to the answer!

This January I have been doing the dryathon, I’ve felt more alert, slept better, but haven’t sadly shed a stone in weight as I’d hoped! The instant results we all crave, are often a bit of a myth. The boring truth is that to lose a stone I would have to change my eating habits as well as my drinking ones. With our prayer life with God it’s similar. The daily ritual of prayer, reading the bible and reflection hasn’t always come easy to me. I would really struggle with being a Buddhist or regular meditation, but just even a few minutes each day to close your eyes and rest the brain can’t be a bad thing. It’s through this quiet time I think we often hear God’s voice. Not always though! God’s timing is often not the same as our human hearts expect.  There is a joke, that a man meets God and asks for help. God explains that one human lifetime is like a second to him and a million pounds just a penny. The man then says “can I have one of your pennys?”. God replies… “just a second…”

Since the church began this has been the same.. But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day! (Habakkuk 2:3 TLB).

So today I am celebrating God’s timing, as I was in York when the big day happened, and happened to be with other people of faith, just having a coffee round the corner when history changed.

Keeping up with the Jones’s

I don’t know about you but I often think some friends of mine I admire have really got things sussed. They have gorgeous husbands, lovely children, work flexibly so they can be around for their children, cook fabulous meals whilst effortlessly rising through the ranks at work to smash the odd glass ceiling or two! If they are married, then their husbands are pursuing their dreams and they enjoy their weekends  together as a family.

Don’t get me wrong, I know my life is pretty amazing, I have a great job, home, loving husband, gorgeous children and food on the table, and a roof over my head. There are times when it seems pretty tough as well. I’ve been through redundancy, near death experiences, being rejected by work for opportunities I thought I could step up and do, I’ve been ignored by people I used to be close to, seen family go through the torture of mental illness, and most days wishing I spent more time with the kids.

However as a Christian, I think it’s really important that I am not trying to be a “super-apostle” as described by Paul in one of his letters to the early church. As I’ve mentioned before I feel called to move to leadership in the church, and find myself wondering why me? I am deeply flawed, and not really the most holy of people. I swear, drink, shout at the kids, I like watching rubbish TV and eating junk food. I love going to the pub, most of my friends aren’t Christians and don’t know my bible very well at all!

It turns out this is exactly why God is trying to “tap me up” for his team. If we are “holier than thou”  as leaders in the church then noone will want to know about Christ, as it’s through our dark times and weaknesses that we often come to know Jesus. God doesn’t want us to all read the same newspapers, parent our children the same way and eat the same food.  If your vicar is a “super-apostle” then it may seem too much like a marathon to run, to keep up. Anyone who says they have all the answers and can explain how easy it is to follow Christ, is probably not telling you the truth. Most people I know who have a deep understanding of their faith, have persevered through really difficult times without much concrete proof that the Lord is with them.

Paul in his letters to the Corinthians talks about this in 2 Corinthians 12 v7-10

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So whatever the issue is in your life, whether it’s not being able to share your faith with those around you, that you can’t have a baby, not having enough money, having a chronic illness, facing redundancy or losing a loved one, instead of saying “why me?” you could try saying through gritted teeth

“Thank you lord! Thank you for this opportunity to get to know you better, and to rely on your strength to keep me going. Show me the way and help me turn to you.”

God will always bless those who cry out to him like this. Not always in the way you had in mind though!