Searching For Sunday – book review

I’m really late in getting this out. I should have had the review out by the launch date of 14th April, but life got in the way, as life does. I will stick to the task and then blog later on my priorities.

So I had the great privilege of being on the Searching For Sunday review launch team. This meant I got to read the book in pdf form and put comments up on a special closed facebook page, as well as commenting on my own facebook page. This did mean writing with facebook open which is not ideal for me.

I would say one of the best ways to see the bits that influenced me would be to go on my facebook page and look for #seachingforsunday  In fact there are loads of post across the world from the other reviewers.

For those of you who haven’t read Rachel Held Evans I would suggest reading her “A Year of Biblical Womanhood“, the first one of her books that I read which looks at the things that Church says women should and shouldn’t do. Rachel looks at it with open eyes and candour, not slating it but showing the roots of where these “rules” come from.

In “Searching For Sunday” she looks at her own journey from evangelical church life to exploring congregations, of finding places to question what is meant by what she believes. Like many of us, Rachel has reached a point where she wants to know why she believes what she believes and is off exploring. For many of us we haven’t lost faith in God but want to find a genuine way of working it out. Interestingly I read a piece by Richard Rohr, which I can refind to post, where he talks of how the apostle Paul had to go away and work out how it was this Christ revelation fitted into his understanding of the world. It is like having met Christ we are taking into an already formed world and there comes a time where, not so much we have to question God, but we have to question how we work in relationship to God. Here Rachel talks openly and honestly about her’s. She breaks it down into the seven parts which equate to seven sacraments; baptism, confession, holy orders, communion, confirmation, anointing the sick and marriage. Through these sacraments and Rachel’s journey the reader gets to visit with all sorts of people who are walking out their relationship with God in their own ways. As with “A year of Biblical Womanhood”, Rachel is not judgemental or condemning. This is a book full of exploring, discovering and most importantly hope. As she says at the end

But if I’ve learned anything in this journey, both in writing this book and clumsily living its content, it’s that Sunday morning sneaks up on us—like dawn, like resurrection, like the sun that rises a ribbon at a time. We expect a trumpet and a triumphant entry, but as always, God surprises us by showing up in ordinary things: in bread, in wine, in water, in words, in sickness, in healing, in death, in a manger of hay, in a mother’s womb, in an empty tomb. Church isn’t some community you join or some place you arrive. Church is what happens when someone taps you on the shoulder and whispers in your ear, Pay attention, this is holy ground; God is here. Even here, in the dark, God is busy making all things new. So show up. Open every door. At the risk of looking like a fool buried with his feet facing the East or like a mockingbird singing stubbornly at the night, anticipate resurrection. It’s either just around the bend or a million miles away. Or perhaps it’s somewhere in between. Let’s find out together”

Go buy it. Read it. Get the study guide. There is so so much to explore. If I could afford it I would buy you all a copy but I’m broke, again!

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Poetry Month – Day One

The month of April is National Poetry Month in the USA so I thought I would give it a go. Some of the poems will be brilliant, I hope, and some will be not so good and some will just be silly. I don’t see myself as a poet, though I do write a lot of thoughts as poetry.

My first attempt is a pantoum covering both the fact that today is April Fool’s Day and also the first day of Parliament being closed in the final run up to the elections on 7th May. Enjoy!    (I can’t get it to do the stanza breaks so have put in the frog so you can see the 3 stanzas and get the pantoum idea better!)

A Silly Pantoum to start Poetry Month and the dash to UK Elections

First fool!

Is it foolishness to be first?

Frolicking frogs appear forlorn,

furtively all forlorn.

Is it foolishness to be first

on this day when kings became fools?

Frolicking frogs appear all forlorn.

What happens when fools get to rule?

On this day when kings became fools

do they remember to change back?

What happens when fools get to rule?

Would anyone notice the change?

What is Rest?

What does rest look like? God talks of rest and in Isaiah 30:15 says  “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it,” which makes one wonder why church is so busy all the time.

I’ve just been away for 4 days with Interweave, UK Reconciliation group, and there the theme God wanted to pull out was rest and hoI w it was only in rest that we could be able to know what God had planned for us. Rest is counter-cultural. Life is about being busy and doing things and getting on in life. Work is seen as something that you work more hours than contracted for and then have busy recreational life. We’re now at a time when more books than ever are published and there are more TV programmes to watch than ever but we are expected to be doing all the time.

I have been brought to an enforced time of rest but it is hard to stay here, and hard to tell people what I do, or don’t do. I talk of looking for work, when in fact I think God has been saying very clearly not to look for work. Resting is scary because it gives time for me to think, think about the last few years and how I feel about what has gone on. The first month of my resting time has been filled with grief, of what should have been. Interestingly that was something that kept coming out as people told their stories over the last few days. God seemed to have decided that instead of us doing something reconciliation stuff in UK He wanted us just to build relationship and become vulnerable with each other. So we told our stories. So much came out that things had not “turned out as they should have” and a lot of talk of “what should have been.” It was all done in a positive stance of it not being fair and not how it should be. It was like everyone was affirming each other that at times its ok to stamp one’s feet and say “its not fair” and you know what – God can cope with that. So much of what we are led to believe in church and in our culture is that one should just pick oneself up and keep going. Though we also pay more than ever for counsellors, therapists, therapeutic treatments, as well as recreational drugs. Maybe if we slowed things down and rested then we could save some money? Maybe if we were allowed to say “its not fair” “it shouldn’t have turned out that way” and then really grieve then maybe we could save some money. So these past few days myself and others were able to say that things didn’t work out as they should have and that we were grieving that and that was ok. From that place of honesty we could rest.

But it is also from that place of rest and honesty that one can re-evaluate one’s life. Things haven’t worked out as they should have so what was planned will not now happen and that’s ok. Interestingly whilst I was away my son, who’d just joined the army, found out that a couple of old rugby injuries meant that he is going to be medically discharged. This was not his plan. I haven’t spoken to him but I am sure he is saying “its not as it should have been.” He’s made some big life changes before he went in in preparation. He will be grieving. He will also have to be rethinking what he does. He needs to rest and re-evaluate where he is going and what he is going to do. And that’s ok. And it’s also ok for him to be angry that it didn’t work out. Same as its ok for me to be angry that people I loved committed suicide, died too soon, things I’d hoped for didn’t happen, for my friends to be angry at deaths that shouldn’t have happened, partners that shouldn’t have left, jobs that should have happened. I think rest is to acknowledge that, to be honest about life and relax into it.

There were some in our group who know how to find that rest even when their diaries are full. They have learned to dip into that rest and listen to what they should be doing, know where to put the “its not fair” stuff. But that didn’t mean they told others of us to just get over it. They affirmed in us that we needed to say and feel the way we did.

So what is rest? For me at the moment it is time walking my dog, hearing a friend’s life story and writing that and other things on the couch with dog and cat wrapped around me, studying for my Masters and catching up with friends. I am also starting 4 hours tutoring a week and we are renting our spare room out on Airbnb. This will bring in enough money to keep us going so we don’t have to worry about that. For my husband it is working 4 days a week, attending church meetings and going walking and climbing at times, but also finding time to drink wine or coffee, depending on time of day, with me and friends. We’re learning that it’s ok not to do. But I think one of the key things REST means is being open and honest about how one is feeling, being connected to one’s feelings and also connected to God.

Why Should We Think God Will Answer Every Prayer?

So simple???

I come from a tradition of Christianity that believes that if one prays in the “right way” then prayers will be answered. From evidence seen that isn’t true. But this has got me thinking “why doesn’t God answer prayer?” which actually has led further to a “why should God answer any of our prayers?” And this is where I’m starting from now. Not that I will never pray again but I do wonder what give me the right to think that I should have my prayers answered? If I am a Child of God, which I do believe I am, then I trust that my Father will do what He thinks best, but most of the time I behave like a toddler, grizzling when I don’t get what I want, and thinking if I find the right formula next time then He’ll answer. As a parent I’ve had to make lots of decisions for my children from where we’d lived, even to whether I’d stayed with their father or not, to what form of schooling they had, even what religion they learn most of through my practise. That one is

Firstly a demand then a realisation that it’s only God’s mercy that answers our prayers

interesting because even if we say that we will teach our children about all faiths they learn most about the one we follow because of what we say as much as what we do. So as a parent I make decisions, and even if I consult my children, which I did often, whether we did as they suggested or not was up to me. Why should I see God as any different? Why should God answer my prayers?

Ok so this hurts when someone dies too young from anything; cancer, suicide, accident. But do I pray because I think I am worthy of being answered? Or do I pray because I want to be able to input into my “father’s” decisions? There is a story of Abraham and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, where God brings Abraham into His decision making process. God does similar with Moses during the exodus from Egypt. Loads of times God asks His people what they think. But we don’t see it as an honour but as a right.

C’mon But so often we don’t see it as an honour to be included but as a right. We pray and we expect God to answer the way we want every single time. When He does answer often we are grateful but more as in it being our right and it being a miracle that God should deign to answer us.

I think God answers our prayers so often, and so many of them are so trivial; for parking spaces, jobs, even at times what to cook for supper – or maybe that’s just me 🙂  But there are big prayers that don’t get answered, where people died, get into debt, wars break out, etc. I think though we notice more what doesn’t happen than what does. I’ve been praying for a young friend who’s mother died suddenly last year from a severe asthma attack. On the anniversary of her death he graduated as a Butlin’s redcoat and now has his own show as one of the big animal characters there. When I knew his mother was in hospital I prayed for her but she died but I have been praying for him ever since and he is doing great. Now I could focus on what didn’t happen, his mother’s healing, or I can focus on the life he is living. That doesn’t mean I’m not sad about his mum’s death but I can choose what to focus on. There are too many times when we focus on what didn’t get answered rather than think ourselves honoured that the Creator of the Universe should even want to listen to us.

God is good – all the time – but so often we forget what a privilege it is to be heard by Him at all.

And it’s all about Grace that I can boldly go into God’s throne room 🙂

I do think though that we focus on what didn’t happen because when we lose someone to death it is such a big thing, such a huge grief, and its like the compliments thing – we need 10 good things said to us to overcome one bad thing. But I for one am going to get to the place of being honoured that God should even take any notice of me at all, and still walk into His Throne room boldly!

Was Jesus Ever Married?

I was having a great chat with a friend about Jesus and she dropped in a bit about him being married to Mary Magdelene. And I answered a resounding “No he wasn’t married.” And then the answer came to me. God inspired or common sense? Who knows! And just as a disclaimer: I’ve never had issues as to whether Jesus was married or not, but this is what came to me.

Jesus couldn’t have been married or had children. I don’t believe this because it never mentions it in the Bible but because Jesus knew what he was on earth to do and there are times when he could have averted the crucifixion. When he met the woman he was to marry or even after they had children, he could have quietened down his lifestyle and gone off to live somewhere nice, still have preached about forgiveness and the Kingdom of God being close, but in a way that was not antagonistic to the authorities. If he hadn’t gone in and trashed the temple when he processed into Jerusalem on what we now know as Palm Sunday that would have kept him from crucifixion. There are many times during his trial that he could have averted the direction of it. Both Pilate and Herod ask him to do things to save himself and he either does nothing, or commits blasphemy and says he is The Son of God. Not clever things if you’ve got a family. Also we tend to forget how horrendous crucifixion was, though now we can watch ISIS videos of it if we want. Perhaps it would be good for both Christians and those who say Jesus was married to watch the horror of a crucifixion??? Maybe not! I have read descriptions and that has left me horrified that Jesus chose to go through with this, but it would leave me even more horrified to know that he knew what he was going through and let his wife and children watch.

I believe Jesus never married because if he did then he is not about love. I do not understand the whole thing of why God and Jesus couldn’t think of another way to deal with mankind’s transgressions but it’s what they decided. Jesus was not the first person to ever be crucified. He knew what was going to happen. Also I do think if Jesus had married the early disciples would have had to have mentioned his children. I don’t think they could’ve kept quiet about them. Or the Pharisees would have come to kill them too seeing them as a threat. I know in Dan Brown and other books of that ilk they talk of a pregnant Mary being taken away secretly and no one being allowed to know. Still not sure if Jesus could have had a sexual relationship because the whole act of sex is an acts of love and intimacy and of giving of one’s heart . I actually think if he had entered into a sexual relationship with someone he wouldn’t have been able to go through with what he did, as much for leaving them as well as for knowing they would see what he went through. Yes he did put his mother, siblings and disciples through the horrors of watching, which I still don’t get. But no as to letting his children watch, or even know how he died I think not. And this is the basis I state that Jesus never married.

By the way my friend felt this to be true and it has given her things to think about now. So God inspired, common sense or just what I think?

‘I have come to see that there is good in every situation’ – Kayla Mueller’s hope in captivity

Here is a great post from Jon Kuhrt’s Resistance and Renewal blog and really shows all about “doing life” in the face of death.

Resistance & Renewal

Kayla Mueller, 26, an American humanitarian worker from Prescott, Arizona is pictured in this undated handout photoThe family of Kayla Mueller, a US aid worker who was being held by ISIS, have confirmed that she has been killed.

Before she was captured, she told her hometown paper in Prescott, Arizona:

“It’s important to stop and realize what we have, why we have it and how privileged we are. And from that place, start caring and get a lot done.”

Kayla’s family have released a letter sent to them by her from captivity written in the spring of 2014:

Everyone, If you are receiving this letter it means I am still detained but my cell mates (starting from 11/2/2014) have been released.

I have asked them to contact you + send you this letter. It’s hard to know what to say. Please know that I am in a safe location, completely unharmed + healthy (put on weight in fact); I have been treated w/ the utmost respect + kindness.

I wanted to write you all…

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How do we “do life”?

I’m a practical person and I get fed up when I hear a sermon or talk and there is no practical application, but then I realised I’d sent out a piece that talked of “doing life” and having the right attitude but didn’t really say how to. And ok one can say that actually we all need to work out our own path to finding a right attitude, but all these self-help books wouldn’t sell so well if it was just about us working it out in our own heads. So here’s my attempt at “how to do life?”

Life in all its fullness – John 10

As a Christian I do go back to the Bible and to what Jesus says about things. I believe as well as being the Son of God – wholly God and wholly human – Jesus was also a great teacher so I think it’s good to hear what he has to say on things. Jesus said “with me you can have life and life to its fullness.” This was doing life and life in all its completeness. I don’t think Jesus was saying there wouldn’t be any hassles, any deaths, cancers, loses to grieve over, hard times to walk thougth but I do think he that what he is saying is that we can have life in its fullness even in those hard time. But how do we tap into this?

Well Brian McLaren  in “We make the path by walking” says we need to look at the story behind the miracles Jesus did. In the story of where Jesus turns water

Paolo Veronese’s interpretation of The Wedding at Cana – hung in the Louvre, Paris

into wine (John 2) we get so caught up in the details of this story that we can miss what could be the underlying message. Jesus uses the jars that were for ceremonial washing and messes things up. McLaren says that Jesus is showing that it doesn’t matter if this are clean or unclean but that it is all about super-abundance and super-celebration. Here was too much wine for one small Galilean village to drink in a week let alone in a day! And also they could no longer ceremonially wash their crockery or hands. The need to be religious had gone and it was time to enjoy life. This didn’t mean they stopped farming, doing business deals (and a wedding was a place where many business deals were carried out), caring for children, elderly parents, those who were sick. The things of life would go on but the religiosity was gone. Again McLaren talks of a healing Jesus did on the Sabbath. And the sermon is always based on the fact that Jesus did his healing on the Sabbath. My daughter has always struggled with this saying that Jesus was being deliberately obtuse and surely that’s wrong. But actually what Jesus again was doing was saying let go of your anxiety and fear of getting it right, stop being paranoid and look at me.

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones with the real Jane and Stephen Hawking

We watched “The Theory of Everything” and in that saw a man who could have so easily been pitied and achieved nothing, and I am sure people with lesser disabilities do give up but not just Stephen Hawking, but his wife Jane and many of their friends “did life”. In fact there are so many quotes for Hawking that I don’t know where to being. The film finishes with him saying “where there is life there is hope” and there is:

Look up at the stars and down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder what makes the universe exist. Be curious.

However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.

Hawking doesn’t have much choice where he looks because of not being able to control his muscles but he does have a choice of how he views life. Often we can choose where we look but choose to look at our feet. As Oscar Wilde said:

We’re all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars

To “do life” means we choose where we look and how we view the world. We can choose to look at the stars and be curious or we can choose to  look at our feet and our circumstances. We can choose whether we accept what we are told or be curious at what is going on. Hawking and especially his wife Jane, refused to accept what they were told and look at the difference he made to the world. My friend who started me on this quest regarding “doing life” refused to let cancer beat him. I have other friends who refuse to accept what the world says about how their story should be played out and are “doing life” in the craziest of ways.

I’m not sure how practical this has been but to be it is about having faith, being curious, getting rid of fear and paranoia and looking at the stars, at the what could be if only …  And then, I believe, not just going for it but helping, supporting, encouraging and loving each other to get there too.