The Wall #MuslimBan

At church yesterday our vicar asked “What side of the wall would Jesus have been on?” You 31447faccd0d731d92860fe22a947c6dknow what I think? I think he would have been on both sides. Yes both sides. Both sides are hurting and in pain – ok the refugees and those with green cards, etc stuck in airports have a noticeable need but the side behind the wall also have a need.

Those who want the wall built, want Muslims ban, are scared. Not just slightly scared but terrified. They have believed the media hype that all Muslims are terrorists and that we need to beware of them. I’m not sure what they America equivalent of the Daily Mail is but these people are Daily Mail readers. Mind you I often think the Guardian readers only see one side too.

I found it interesting too that there has been this big fuss here in the UK about the wall to stop Mexicans coming into the US and Trumps Muslim ban, but not so much has stayed in18666794_303 the news about the fences and walls being built across Europe to stop the refugees entering the UK. Yes this includes those fences that have now been torn down in Calais.

There was a post on Facebook that said “If you’re a Christian and you support #MuslimBan, you might be a lot of things but you’re not a frigging Christian”. I can see the sentiment behind this but I don’t think it’s true. I think there are Christians who are scared of Muslims, scared of dying, and not fully putting their faith in God. For some it comes out noticeably in saying they support #MuslimBan but for others it comes out in different ways; not believing this they do can be forgiven, not forgiving others, not giving to the poor, gossiping, keeping boundaries in their hearts that keep others out, not doing things that God asks of them. I go on. Yes supporting it shows an uncaring side, a side that is misguided but also a heart that is scared of things, lives in fear. You know I think Jesus would be with these people wanting to change their hearts and wanting them to let go of their fear and to trust him and to love others.

Recently I attended a course about the connection between Judaism and Christianity led by some lovely Christian people. It did reach a point where I could not go any more because they were talking of how the Jews reclaimed Palestine/Israel and I said that I felt we also ought to look at the awful things the Jews had done against the Palestinians. Well I was told that it was prophesied in the Bible so this made it ok, that actually these people (the wave of refugees that I had said were like the Jews prior to WWII) only wanted to come over here to kill us all, and that the Jews ways of dealing with the Arabs were ok because “the end justified the means”!!!. These were not bad unloving Christians but they had got caught up in a side of things that said that if one does not honour the Jews one will not be blessed. And they wanted to be blessed. So I am sure they would be very pro the #MuslimBan but also very caring and loving towards homeless people, people with needs, Jewish people. But they live in a mix of fear of Arabs/Muslims and a desire to claim major mountain-298999_1280-crop-fear-quote-1024x398blessings from God.

I didn’t want to do the comparison between now and Nazi Germany but I’m going to. Back in the 1930’s there were some good Christians who went along with what Hitler was saying about the reasons why Germany was failing. They supported him to begin with. And even, to save their own skins, they turned a blind eye to what was going on. Not every person who let things happen in Nazi Germany was a bad person. Many were scared and wanting to look after themselves.

So what side would Jesus be on? Again I believe he would be on both sides, wanting to give the refugees the peace and freedom they deserve, but also wanting those who think they should be banned/walls built peace and freedom in their hearts so they can also have the freedom they deserve. When one is fearful or angry or prejudice there is no freedom to truly live. One is always wanting to look after oneself, keep an eye out for those who might take away the blessing/the job/the destiny. freedom

In the next few days I’m doing to look and blog on words from one of Josh Luke Smith’s songs – “Come as you are not as you should be” – because I think it says an awful lot about how we need to think and pray for the who are being oppressed, for the bigots who are doing the oppression and for ourselves and how we should be reacting; how we should be living in peace and in true freedom

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Worth The Drive

So last night was our wedding anniversary and we drove for one hour fifty minutes one way and one hour thirty minutes the other to go to a small coffee shop in Manchester -going via Chester to pick up a friend to share this time with. Why did we do it? To see the img_20170127_205453428most amazing group of young musicians that we know – Orphan No More.

What makes them special and worth a trip like this on our anniversary? We met Josh and Kara, the founders of this gathering of musicians not so  many years ago when this was just starting and we believed in what they were doing so have been supporting them since. So we know them that’s one reason – Relationship. The key to so much.

Why  go via Chester adding half an hour at least each way to our trip? To pick up a friend that I went to university with who moved back to her home in Chester only weeks before we moved up here to North Wales. She came with us when we saw these musicians perform a couple of years ago when we all lived near Bath and I knew she’d enjoyed them as much as we had. Again – Relationship.

Talking of driving a long way for Relationship, my facebook memories tells me that this time two years ago we did a similar long journey to see my daughter in a play when she was at university. Relationship! And that was the reason we went all the way to Iceland for a wedding in September, and actually went to Oregon, USA nearly 10 years ago for another wedding. Relationship! I think there could be a whole blog just listing the miles we have driven or flown for Relationship!

Last night was not just about Relationship bur also about talent. The set was only about an hour and a half long but was so gifted. We saw Sophia do the hardest bit of being the opening act. She has the most amazing voice and sings about her life from her heart. She did really well to pull the crowd in and get people listening. Definitely a lady to watch. She was then followed by Tom Bishop, a spoken word poet and his alter ego Bish, a rap musician, who made us sit up and think as he rapped and spoke about Palestine, refugees and also our love for our homes. Amazing man and made us all think. (Unfortunately can’t find links for him so you can check him out. Will edit when I do) And of course headlining was the main man – Josh Luke Smith and his band. I must say I am always so amazed when I see talented singers like Kara Ann Marie and Rachel Jane will to be backing singers when they are amazing in their own right. As always his song “Carry Me” left me in bits. A song about a young person hurting their mother which hits me on many levels being both a mother and a daughter.

It was an evening that touched my heart in many ways. It was church in a different form. There was preaching as Tom told us to think about migrants, as Sophia got us thinking about relationships, as Josh reminded us who we were are and how we should be. For me I could feel God speaking and moving through it all. Yes we heard the words of God in a way that was fresh, real and deep. We didn’t get told how to behave but got challenged on how to think. There is so much more I want to write and probably will as I start to unpack what I heard and saw last night.

But for me this morning the thing I woke with was the importance of relationships and why I am who I am, why Ian and I are who we are, which actually has been echoed in the likes, comments and reactions to yesterday’s post. Relationships are hard but often worth driving to encourage.

Encourage Each Other To Be Rebellious

This is another thought that arose in my head from the Lapidus conference on Saturday 10th December. It came about when we were asked to give words about what Lapidus was all about but again I felt, like Ubuntu, that is related as much to Christianity as it did to therapeutic writing for well-being.

not_of_this_world__by_kevron2001-d77ytspJesus said we were meant to be “in the world but not of the world” which sort of, to me, means that we are to be rebellious to the things that the world can take for granted – like putting self first, wanting for us, fear, anxiety, etc. I am not going to put down Christians who worry or are anxious because I know way too many who really are amazing followers of Jesus but who do worry, suffer from anxiety and from depression, have to deal with fear on a regular basis. But I also see these many of these people fighting it all the way. They don’t lie down to the fact that they suffer with these things but they work toward it not happening. I also see this in people who are not followers of God too, who will not let these things overwhelm them even if they are bed-bound, taking tablets, struggling. They are rebelling all the way against these things.

We all need to be rebelling against injustices, fears, greed, the negative things that stop 5c021dcf4ca432874eab2b4b8db7efd5others and ourselves from reaching our potential. I suppose it is why I want to encourage others with using words for well-being. I want to show how this can be a tool to help rebel against the world.

I feel like there is a bit of a rebelling against the system going on with the way people are voting at the moment; with this lean to the far right. How should we respond to this rebellion? Not by ignoring it. Not by being fearful of it. Not by being rude to those who vote this way or think this way. To rebel against this we need to be moving in the opposite spirit. We need to be modelling love, acceptance, justice, peace.

So I go back to my first point – as Christians we should be encouraging each other to be rebellious. Too often we don’t. Too often we hide in our churches – whether big or small, loud or quiet – and keep going with the same old same old. I know I am guilty of this. I 6218447need to encourage my fellow Christians, with the tools I have – which is my writing – to think about how they look at others, to be welcoming, to not fear, to be supportive, to be counter-cultural. Sometimes I think there are more people who do not attend church and are not followers of God who are more counter-cultural than Christians. Many are out there feeding people not just over Christmas by all year, are working on ways to support others, to share news openly of the good as well as the bad that goes on, who have time to stop and chat to the old, the lonely, the smelly and the sick.

So I will do my bit over this season. I am hoping that the words we are using in the play I have instigated to be performed at our local church will make people think about how they really view Christmas. It is the bit I can do. And I do hope that I can encourage people to rebel a bit and change the world one little piece at a time with the talents they have. We can’t all invite homeless people to our houses, not just cos not everyone has the space, but some of us just aren’t able to do it because we aren’t made that way. But another way of rebelling, I think, is to not feel condemned that I’m not doing that but to make sure I use the talents I have, the time I have, the situation I am in, to rebel just a bit from the culture I am in.

Ubuntu- I am because we are

hsunbuntulogo2A Lapidus friend of mine is doing workshops based around the Ubuntu philosophy and I must say I heard it and then let it go until last Saturday when she said it again at the Lapidus conference. Her definition of Ubuntu is “I am because we are” but in a longer definition …

Michael Onyebuchi Eze, the core of ubuntu can best be summarised as follows:

‘A person is a person through other people’ strikes an affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference. It is a demand for a creative intersubjective formation in which the ‘other’ becomes a mirror (but only a mirror) for my subjectivity. This idealism suggests to us that humanity is not embedded in my person solely as an individual; my humanity is co-substantively bestowed upon the other and me. Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance”

To me this sums up what Christianity should be all about and what Richard Rohr has been talking about over various weeks; of coming to a place of maturity where we know we are connected with everyone else. This is where we get to the place where we can weep withabout-us those who weep, laugh with those who laugh, etc. It is not about being super empathetic, or about being able to put are own moods and feelings behind us, but it about knowing – yes knowing not just thinking or hoping or wanting to be – that I am only because everyone else is, that I am a person through other people.

In reality even though I have somethings that are unique to me I am a combination of parental genes, of experiences that have happened to me which always include people. I am a mix of nature and nurture but all come from a collective of other people.

I feel that in some forms of Christianity we shun this. Too often it is us and them: those who are in/said the prayer/made a commitment and those who are out and who don’t believe in Jesus/God etc. Too often I have seen in Christianity that Christians are told to reach out to them and not to imagine that the unbeliever doesn’t have anything to offer. I have learned so much about life, me, God from people who don’t have a believe in God.

hqdefaultIn the Anglican service at communion we say “Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread” and in fact are accepting the concept of “I am because we are” without acknowledging it. In fact there are many different denominations who would not want to think they are part of the Anglican community. I have lived in towns that have a Churches Together group where certain denominations won’t be part of it because certain others are. Together but on their own terms.

I think that we need to embrace this concept of Ubuntu and realise that we are because of others. Not like the Borg from Star Trek where we are all assimilated into the same thing – and like I have heard is being though of to get rid of racial hatred. Yes it has been said that if we distil our cultures and all live in mixed areas that would get rid of racial hatred. I live in North Wales and as I have talked with people about their culture I have noticed that the more they are able to express who they are and their culture so they are more content to accept other people.

In fact I think this is the true concept of Ubuntu for me. I can be truly me if I let you belove_thy_neighbor-billboard truly you. And as I have reached this point in this post I have realised I have come back to a concept I was exploring a while a go – “Love your neighbour as yourself” – and the whole idea that I cannot love my neighbour unless I love myself, and I cannot let others be truly who they are unless I am truly who I am. But also I have to realise that I am connected to them whether I know them or not and that they have an influence on me as I have a influence on them. 63d44a275fedf76396168096d88b930a

Treasure In Heaven

So I was going to write something Christmassy or even expand on some great things that treasure-in-heaven-300x225were said at the Lapidus Conference last Saturday, but I’m doing this instead.

giving-receiving-sunsetToday I went to see my spiritual director. I’ve been seeing him since about April this year, since we moved up here. It has been a great journey and he is awesome and I’m not 100% sure why everyone doesn’t have one. I think I might be spiritually directing the young swoman I see regularly but just calling it by a different name and without the training 🙂

So we chat about all sorts and I have an unloads about life, the universe and everything. It isn’t just how my “spiritual” life is going. My spiritual life is the whole of who I am and what I do. So anyway there we are chatting away about the Anglican prayer for forgiveness that I must say I quite like because it is short and sharp with not much time to try to list what I’ve done and then there is a prayer to say that God has forgiven me.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against thee
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved thee with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in thy will,
and walk in thy ways,
to the glory of thy Name. Amen.

For me it draws a line under the week and I can start the new week forgiven. We talked line-in-sandsome more about how everything we do is ministry and the good things are gathering treasure for us in heaven.

Now here is the cool part – the good things we do whether we do them “unto the Lord” or just by having a chat to the people dog walking, smiling at the supermarket checkout, being normal and going about life in a kind and supportive manner – this adds up treasure for us in heaven. AND God remembers that. But when we do bad things God doesn’t take things out of our pile. The pile of treasure stays. But with the bad things we do, think say, or even the good things we forget to do because we are busy just getting on with life, God not just forgives but forgets. So when I say “Sorry I’ve done/not done that again” God says He doesn’t remember.

grace_wordleI feel like I’ve suddenly got this revelation about what Paul says about Grace. Grace isn’t getting what you don’t deserve, which I had been taught and always found hard because I think the stuff we had to go through in 2012/3 was not stuff we deserved but it definitely wasn’t Grace. It was God’s grace and mercy that got us through but we definitely didn’t deserve it. But what I really do not deserve is for my good things to be remembered and stored up as treasure and my bad things to be forgiven and forgotten. God doesn’t take a good thing out of the pot every time I do a bad thing. That is so cool. But also that does not make me want to do more wrong things so I get forgiven more, but actually gives me the confidence to keep piling up the treasures.

So even though I know I’ll get forgiven I don’t want to do more things that I’d be forgivenrandy-alcorn-quote-treasures-in-heaven for but actually want to do more things that will build up treasure in heaven. That is my Christmas message for me 🙂

 

Discipleship is a Two-Way Thing

discipling-dever-headerJust recently I have been asked by a lovely young woman if I will be her “older Christian friend”. I was very touched and said “yes” and then didn’t think much more about it. God gave me a nudge and convicted me that I need to be seeing her regularly to do some proper discipleship stuff. So I prayed and I pondered and set a regular day and time that works for both of us. I felt God saying that instead of it just being random stuff we should do some Bible study and let the life stuff come from there. So last week we chatted about stuff. I suggested reading a certain book of the Bible but she suggested Romans. Oh my, thought I, I don’t like Romans, but I let it go and thought I’d go with it.

Well!!! I have now read the first 3 chapters, which was what we said we’d read this week, image21and it has been amazing. I have found something in those first 3 chapters I never saw before but it has totally deepened how I see God. it has been amazing. Now if I’d been bossy and decided I was the “older” one and so knew so much more where to start and how to do this I would have missed out on so much. Because I acquiesced I have grown in my relationship with God – just in less than a week! Blessed for acquiescing? Maybe 🙂

Too often in my own Christian walk when I have had people want to walk with me there has been a rub because they have wanted to “teach” me things and I have felt they haven’t heard from me. This has not always been the case but for me, the relationships I’ve learned the most from are the ones that I don’t realise the people were discipling or teaching me things. Perhaps I’m just a bit perverse, or some might say proud, but I do need to feel that I am on an equal place with people which is probably why I act the way I do with the younger people who get placed on my path.

discipling-620x272When I use to facilitate youth groups, if they were small enough, I would let them have as much autonomy as possible. At one group we ran it like the adult group where the teenagers would bring along food to share. To begin with parents would make the food or buy or be surprised that I didn’t make it all but the teenagers felt like it was their group because they shared the food they had made. It is where I have struggle with larger groups where the leaders have felt they should give to the teens and actually the teens have felt they should be given to.

For me this whole discipling/teaching thing goes both ways in all I do. In my writing workshops I learn as much as I teach. I have gathered some liked minded creative people around me to put on a Christmas play. Now I am more than capable to write it all but walking together.jpgactually I have got each actor writing their own piece from their character’s point of view. And again I am learning so much.

There is so much blessing in allowing others to teach you as you teach them 🙂

Pagan Christmas!!!

170px-rockefeller_center_christmas_tree_croppedOh you know I get really fed up of people whether Christian or not going on about how Christmas is a pagan festival. Ok so we know that Jesus probably wasn’t born on Christmas day but what the Celtic church did was show people who were celebrating the return of the sun Jesus within their festival. Also forgive me if I have posted on this before. I feel though it is a bit like the Cliff Richard song “Why does the Devil have all the good music?” My thoughts are “why should the Devil have all the good symbols/festivals?”

On Sunday at church the service was called “hanging thhanging-of-the-greens-picturee greens” which meant that the church was going to be decorated ready for Christmas. Each part of what happened was explained. So Why do Christians put up evergreen Christmas trees and
put evergreens in the church? Not to bring paganism into the church but because …

green represents renewal, new life, freshness and rebirth. Plants like pine, fir, holly, ivy and mistletoe are called evergreens because they do not appear to die. They remain evergreen throughout the year. … Advent is a time of preparation for the ever coming of Christ, God’s gift to us of renewal and transformation.

Because the needles of the pine and fir trees appear not to die the ancients saw them as signs of things that last forever. Isaiah tells us there will be no end to the reign of the Messiah. Therefore we clothe the church with evergreens shaped in a circle, which in itself has no end, to signify that the kingdom of God, to which Christ is eloquently testified, is also without end …

(quoted from Hanging of the Greens service sheet)

I was going to harp on more about this and then this morning Ian was reading to me from a book he’s got from the library of Advent readings and it said that when Jesus came not only was the known earth an easy place for the good news of Jesus to spread out across romempmapbecause of the Pax Romana, but also the pagans had become disillusioned with their religion. They were finding that their sacrifices weren’t working and they were having to do more and more human sacrifices to “make things happen.” They were ripe and ready for something to come along to tell them that the ultimate sacrifice had been made. Now that is God being clever again 🙂

Can you truly imagine what it must have been like to hear that Jesus had made the ultimate sacrifice and your virgin daughter was now safe from being sacrificed? It’s a bit of a no brainer really. You would have leapt at wanting to know more about this new religion, this person who had taken on board all the sacrifice. You would have been able to see that your celebrations in midwinter to call back the sun, or to make the crops or whatever they were doing all these human sacrifices for were only a poor shadow of what God had done. See I just think that if one was in that position one would not have wanted to get a new festival date but would want to accentuate the one that was already happening, and to use it to show how mu200000-copy2ch deeper
this new Christianity was.

Also I do think we need to remember that the paganism we see celebrated now has many of its roots of rebirth in the Victorian era. I wonder if this was a reaction to the strictness of Christianity and the lack of life within it?

So I’m going to put up my Christmas tree (ok not till a couple of days before Christmas cos I find it just gets in the way a bit!!) and I’m going to get a holly wreath to put on the door – oh especially the holly wreath because ….

In ancient times, holly and ivy were considered signs of Christ’s passion. Their prickly leaves suggested the crown of thorns, the red berries the blood of the Saviour, and the bitter bark the drink offered to Jesus on the cross.

(quoted from Hanging of the Greens service sheet)

How cool is that!! There is too much within the Christmas festival that is at the heart of the Christian faith that I want to reclaim it not deny it.

5465489_origInteresting thing – I once heard a Jewish person say that they didn’t like the idea of becoming Christian because Christians don’t seem to want to celebrate. Jews find an excuse to celebrate a lot of the time but so often Christians can be quite dour about things. Ok so I’m not a party person but in my own quiet little way I am going to make this a festival to celebrate and enjoy. 🙂