Happy Sibling Day!

I read today that this is national sibling day in the US! I don’t know if it’s official yet, but someone who like me, lost a sib in her early life, has come up with the idea, and I think it’s a good one. I like to think, that because I lost my sister when I was little, I really understood the value of having sibs growing up, although they may disagree! Especially my brother who I used to tickle mercilessly at times.

While my friends, husband and children all know me really well, it’s my brother and sister who know me “no holds barred”;  my foul moods, my tantrums, my bossiness, my doubts, my fears and my paranoia. They get to see me unfiltered, when mum and dad aren’t around, so we can swap stories about the crazy things we’ve been up to without frightening anyone. We’ve covered for each other, and had each other’s backs when things were difficult too.  I hope this will always be the case! As kids you are stuck together, and inevitable comparisons get made, but as adults we really enjoy catching up, and sharing what’s going on.

While siblings in real life are one thing, I think the main perk of being part of a church community is the additional ones you gain. Sometimes that’s a real pain, I mean you don’t get to choose who they are right!! However, I don’t think life would be as easy for me in the real world without my church family around, to encourage, support, and steer me in the right direction. Sometimes one person will receive a word from God, and someone else will interpret it, and it will be for me and my family. Other times I’ll have a picture I can share, for someone else. Often friends from church will help out with practical tasks, and invite us round as friends, when others can’t.

I don’t think it’s coincidence that Jesus appointed 12 disciples. Not 1 vice-chair, 4 directors and 7 general managers as we would have in the public sector, but 12 who shared the leadership of his ministry and all it’s demands equally. In those days, I suspect the average number of children people had wasn’t 2.4, but probably more like the TV show “Brothers and Sisters” with at least 5 anyway.

As you know, I’ve been considering ordination for ministry in the Church of England, and this journey is hopefully coming a conclusion, one way or the another in June this year. I think I’ve been seriously considering it for over 2 years and mulling it over for up to 10 years to be honest. So I think I’ve bored everyone to tears in the process who knows me well, and my brother and sister are no exception. So this blog is an apology for how long it’s taken me to get this,  to all those people who have listened, encouraged and supported. Many have said “I’ve never met a vicar before”, some have said “it’s not the most daft idea in the world”, others ” I can see you doing that”, and without naming any names “at least your not a paedo!”

I really hope I get to be ordained. If I don’t get through then I will deal with it then, and won’t be the same person anyway. It’s been a long, winding road , so no doubt there will be more twists and turns to come. I know if I am accepted I will be giving up plenty of quality time with my friends and family that i have grown up with, and that’s a real sadness for me. Weekends won’t be the same again, and Christmas and Easter, no longer nice lazy bank holiday breaks! I won’t be earning alot of money, and I’ll be on call much more than I am now. I won’t be able to hide behind a desk-job, I’ll be a visible leader.

The reason I’m going forward though is simple, that I love sharing my faith, and seeing others grow through christian fellowship. Also I think if someone turns to Christ its a more permanent and joyful ( and less bureaucratic!) way of helping them get the life they want, than supporting their health and social care needs as I’ve been doing over the last 17 years. I’m not sure the two are mutually exclusive though.I know I will be infinitely better off in many ways;

Mark 10 v29-31: “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

When the tears run out

This week I’ve been mostly thinking about Happy Valley the hit UK show set in Yorkshire. I couldn’t believe the last episode was here so soon as I’ve come to look forward to the show so much. The lead character is so human, so complex I’m smitten! It’s hard to comprehend how she’s survived all the drama and how she keeps caring and smiling. 

I think we tend though to put ourselves as women in the impossible situation of either being fragile, beautiful and caring or tough, independent and streetwise. Catherine’s character seems so fully formed and all encompassing its dazzling on a mainstream tv show.

The women I’ve met like Catherine who can embrace all sides of life have sadly had their own suffering to deal with. When the tears run out they carry on and learn to live again despite the heartache.  Mary Berry also reminded me of this in her Easter show, when she mentioned they always raise a glass to her son on Easter Day who died as a teenager. There is something amazing about how as an older woman she lights up Bake off with a grace and charm which is incomparable. 

In Luke 2 v34 When Mary and Joseph took Jesus as a baby to the temple for an initiation ceremony, they were met by an old man called Simeon who immediately recognised Jesus as his saviour- when he had finished praising God he said to Jesus parents what he saw for him;

“Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:34-35‬ ‭NLT‬‬M

This Easter let’s pray for all those parents like Mary and Joseph who’s souls have been pierced by a sword of sorrow in losing a child and thank God that there is light and life and joy  as well as suffering in this world.

Out with the old, in with the new

It seems to be the mark of a family home that you own more things than you ever thought possible. I seem to spend most of my time looking for lost teddys, whilst climbing over piles of dolls. Trying to find a birthday card for tomorrow, whilst sorting through ones that for some reason I’ve bought but are no longer quite right. I think it’s because as the children grow up, the stuff they need changes and it’s hard to let go of the past. I’d like to think that I’m still the age I was when I became a mum, and that somehow I’ll go back to that time in my life again, even though when they were babies it was phenomenally difficult.

This year I’m on a mission to de-clutter, I don’t know where to start, so I have begun by ditching about 20 spoons for calpol and some gooey sweets left over from Halloween. I’ve lost weight, so might even get rid of some clothes I’ve not worn for at least 5 years. We recently finished our huge pot of sudacrem, so that’s gone too after living with us for about 7 years! Next on my list is the 11 pots of bubbles scattered round the house, and the draw full of pens for colouring which would easily support a small junior school.

If anyone needs four plastic covers for a Blackberry Curve, please do get in touch.

When I’m thinking about my faith, I think it helps to move other things out of the way. It’s like a mental declutter. Reading, colouring, sudoko, crosswords, getting some exercise, or having a change from the normal routine, all seem to help with this.

This January, my new routine seems to be reading the bible more often. If you are a Christian considering ordination, it’s kind of important. I’m following a bible course through our house group and learning alot.  I’d recommend it if you’ve got a bit stale or or bored, cyncial or otherwise drifted away from the bible..  http://www.thebiblecourse.org/

The more I learn about it, the more I realise I don’t know much about the world’s best selling book. It wasn’t written for us, as it was written so long ago, in a different culture, and uses metaphors and analogies that were much more relevant in those times, but there are plenty of things in the bible which are really powerful and relevant today. When I was on a study session, I once had a picture once of a shadow theatre, which is trying to mimic real life, but isn’t a carbon copy or manual, it’s more creative and mysterious. I think the bible can be like that at times … if we saw God how he really is, it would probably blow our minds.

In a fit of biblical enthusiasm I’ve also signed up to do a study course on Youversion, where I can read the whole bible in one year…. https://www.youversion.com .. so far so good, as it makes a change from playing Candycrush!

 

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.

 

 

It’s Magic

I seem to watch alot of kids TV programmes at the moment, and most of the time it’s quite unrealistic, so Bob the builder always gets work done on time, Postman Pat hasn’t faced any disciplinary hearings despite his inability to get the post delivered to the right place on time, and despite the Wise Old Elf’s best efforts, Ben and Holly always seem to have fun with magic wands on their adventures. As kids, magic is brilliant, as it helps us move from one reality to the other without so much as a blink of an eye, and for kids that’s how they operate anyway. They can make up games without too much effort and can have fun without trying.

As grown ups we miss that sense of fun and adventure and sometimes seek it out elsewhere. There is a programme on at the moment about Mr Strange and Mr Norrell, which I am really enjoying. It’s about magicians and how they can transform a difficult situation to their advantage. Mr Norrell is interested in practical magic which can help the country, and Mr Strange has a great admiration for the Raven King, who has old fashioned pixies, fairies and such like helping him out. The most disturbing part of it, though is that where the wonderful magic transforms things for the better, there is somehow a chink in the boundary between this world and the next where the devil can slide through, and he pursues people who might be vulnerable. My experience of following a faith is that the devil doesn’t much like it when people of faith start acting seriously in the best interests of the country or the equivalent in their community, it annoys him. However rather than the devil having magic powers, he sort of tricks us into believing magic is possible, things can be really easy, without too much hard work.

The devil can say, “go on it won’t matter, have another drink”, and we all think he’s a really  good laugh, the angel on the other shoulder can say, “you know you’ve had enough” and we think it’s too boring for words. Someone magicking all our problems away sounds nice, but we don’t really learn from this. If someone is constantly bailing us out, we don’t learn how to stop the ship sinking. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for shortcuts and making life easier, and working really hard doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. Drinking too much can be brilliant fun, and some people don’t seem to get hangovers. It’s just that too often as Christians we ask God ” magic this away” and when he doesn’t it seems unfair.

Even Jesus had this temptation in Matthew 4, it describes him going away for 40 days and 40 nights, to fast and spend time alone. The devil comes to him and says,

3″If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.”

But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’”

When this doesn’t work…. the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus answered, “Go away, Satan! The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’” 11 Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him.

So be careful you are not reaching for a magic wand, when you say your prayers!

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.”