Lurking

So I’ve given up Facebook for Lent, but have actually given up posting on Facebook rather than checking it out. This is technically known as lurking. I’ve failed on a few occasions to resist the urge to press “share”, but overall I’ve found it a good discipline to self-edit my online presence a bit more than normal. I’ve never tried this before, normally I give up chocolate or biscuits and fail completely!

I’ve also just been on a silent retreat with college, where I was unable to “share” with the group my insights and thoughts and had to restrict myself to my own company. I got through it with lots of walks, reading, painting and sleep, but again it was helpful to notice how compulsive I am as an Extrovert in just sharing whatever is currently in my head on any given day!

Lurking it seems to me has some benefits. Rather than responding and sharing immediately I can think it over and reflect on what is happening. Is this me and my friends freaking out, or are we actually in the middle of something bigger that is going on. Does everyone want or need to know my political views? Maybe I should save that for Twitter?

It’s human to want to share and be part of the conversation, and in my work in the church I’ve set up a weekly drop-in so anyone who needs some company can come and have a coffee. We’ve also arranged for someone to come in and do some crafts with us after Easter, so I’m really looking forward to doing some of the stuff normally reserved for the kids!

I’ve also noticed recently how lucky I am to have the company of my family. Not always in conversation with them, (often this is really exhausting!) but like now as I write this, they are all off somewhere doing their own thing, so we are together but not really having to chat.  I think when you live alone this is the hardest part is not being quiet with anyone else. On my retreat I found the presence of my colleagues on the course really reassuring, even though we couldn’t speak to each other.

This morning at church I gave a card to lady I’m supporting who literally has noone. Her husband died at the end of last year and she has no parents, children, brothers, sisters or anyone living near her at all. It’s quite rare to meet someone in that situation, but it does happen. I have never felt so happy to give someone a mother’s day card! I can’t be with her as much as she’d like as she really would like someone as a companion 24/7 as she’s not used to being alone, but I am trying to find other people to support her, so that’s not always the case.

As a vicar, there will be a large amount of being around, rather than saying or doing much, and purposefully lurking in places where people may want a chat. In my faith journey, there’s always been times when  I’ve had to take a step back to hear from God, and part of my challenge now is to create quiet times in and amongst the madness of work, study and family life. I’m following another blogger who has just recently posted on this here.. http://lifebynaomi.com/faith/how-to-find-time-for-a-quiet-time

Right when he knew he was about to be betrayed, we hear in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus took himself to a garden and prayed through the night, so late that the disciples all fell asleep. That fervent desire to be in conversation with God, is often easier when we have an urgent request, but God really desires us to speak to him alone all the time, not just when we are after something. Jesus regularly speaks from God because he is in constant dialogue with the father.

So it’s worth doing a bit of lurking around with God, he won’t pass up the opportunity to hang out with you, and any prayer you speak will not be wasted, regardless of how daft you feel doing it. The presence of God, like that of my family and friends is often something I sense but can’t quite describe why it’s important or helpful. When I get chance to really acknowledge it, and praise him for his love, it becomes more of a conversation to treasure and remember.

This Easter I’m going to be away again at college and will miss putting up all the decorations in Holy Week and being part of my church family at that time, but I am looking forward to being free to worship God with other Christians that week, when normally I’d be with the family or at work. The more time I spend lurking with other people the more opportunity there is to give and receive God’s love, which ultimately what it’s all about.

1 John 4 v 7-8

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Feedback

I’m in the process of discernment to find out if I will be accepted as a candidate for ordained ministry in the Church of England. This involves a considerable amount of feedback from people about my personality, style, and sense of God, mission, leadership. It’s intense, and challenging and I think I’ll come out of the process a different person even if they do eventually turn me down!

My writing has been for me a key way to express and develop my own spirituality, and share the bible with others. I would therefore really appreciate it if you have at any point read this blog,  and gained any encouragement in your faith or otherwise just enjoyed reading it, if you could share your thoughts with me.

I will share this with the people who are assessing me and it will also help me describe why I write to other people… I’m better at writing than I am at talking in interviews it has to be said!

It’s a long process, discerning God’s call in your life, at least it has been for me. I think it will be a lifetime one as well. I struggle at times to keep focused, with so many distractions around to occupy me, and so many blessings to enjoy in my life. This Lent as well as giving up Candy Crush, I’m trying to fit in Daily prayer, through the book of Common Prayer. I think the simple act of praying (even thought it’s still slightly ad-hoc for me!) already has a really beneficial effect on freeing up further conversation with God. It’s like starting a conversation without saying hello, how do you do, and how’s the weather.. we need the simple pleasantries to set the context. Certainly this Sunday when preparing to pray in church, I found my own prayers at home really helped me stay focused on the task in hand. If anyone has found a daily prayer routine they find useful I’d really like to hear about it too.

This is part of the daily morning prayer for Lent I’ve discovered…

The night has passed, and the day lies open before us; let us pray with one heart and mind
As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God,
set our hearts on fire with love for you;
now and for ever.
Amen.

 

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Unity in Lent

This lent I’ve signed up to 40 acts through  http://www.40acts.org.uk

Today its about diversity and how the churches could work more towards unity across faiths, different colours, creeds. Today’s challenge is about diversity. Last Saturday I attended a teaching session on the Psalms, written thousands of years ago, before Christ arrived,  and the following one seems pretty relevant

Psalm 133 When Brothers Dwell in Unity

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

133 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity![a]
It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
    life forevermore.

The teacher explained that the dew of Hermon was the only water for miles around, for the Jews who were living in the desert, and the oil running down Aaron, was an annointing oil that was used to express God’s pure love for those it touched. When people of faith unite to do God’s work, we are most pleasing to him. It’s not just about our faith, our doctrine, our way of worship, our cool hymns, or giving up alcohol for lent, it’s about what God’s work inspires us to do, and when we do this in tandem, like an orchestra playing a symphony, it sounds amazing to God, far better than our individual songs that he knows and loves dearly. It feels really special to know that I am making a conscious effort to live better in Lent, along with my fellow Christians in the UK. If you haven’t already signed up I’d really recommend it… so far 74,000 have given it a go!

Today gave me a good example, as we went to bed last night we noticed water pouring through the ceiling. Today I knew what it was like to not have heating, water and light in the house. I might pray about people living in poverty but if I experience it, I understand it better.

Peace be with you

Do you struggle to give things up for Lent? Me too! I find it easier to commit to new practices such as reading my bible than trying to go without chocolate wine or chips!

I’ve got a book called bible study for busy women and normally I’ve read it before bed or to start the day and rush off into the next thing feeling smug that I’ve thought about God at all.

This Lent I’ve tried to repeat the bible verse for the day and try to memorise it and then think about it over the course of a few days. I read about meditation and this is sort of the same idea, I am completely incapable of clearing my mind and sitting still for 15 minutes which is the goal, but I think 5 minutes thinking about one bible verse should be achievable!

So far I’ve not managed it every day, but find myself more in tune with God, as I am listening more I think. On Monday I got a text through from a Salvation Army subscription. It said “it isn’t enough to talk about peace- we must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it- We must work at it”

I didn’t really understand the relevance to my life. I am not living in a war zone, I am not a person that goes around creating havoc, or disruption, so how was this relevant to my quest for spiritual enlightenment…?

On Tuesday I went to a bible group in the office for the first time, and shared this text with some other Christians and as we prayed, we had a real sense of God’s peace descending on us as we sat in the meeting room in our council’s HQ. It felt amazing to know God was there with us in the middle of meetings, emails, budget cuts, and all of us trying to do our best for the public, with less and less resources and colleagues losing their jobs. As we work in the public sector to deliver services it is increasingly feeling like a war. We need more money/staff and time to develop first-class provision, but every year there is less and less to meet growing demands. This is really difficult as a Christian when you can see vulnerable people who need help but you have to pull-back. We prayed for our individual circumstances, but I had never really given my work that much focus to God before and it felt really good.

It was great to meditate on God’s peace and try and strive to replicate this in the face of all the difficulties, and has given me a real sense of calm about what I am called to do on a day-to-day basis. So I just wanted to share this with you this verse:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15 v 13)