You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘church’ tag.

The last 3 weeks have been so beautiful, and so full of blessing it’s hard to know how to begin to describe it.  We returned from a 10 day trip to Cornwall at the beginning of last week, and as a family I think we’re still awash with gratitude and general chilled-out vibes.  It’s not usual for us to feel the benefit of a break much beyond the time the break lasts, and I think there are several reasons for that being a little different this time.

Firstly, this holiday was in the company of my parents and also some very dear friends who we see far too little of because of geography.  Somehow, what could have been a bit of a disastrous mix (my parents and our friends didn’t know each other, we just hoped the size of the holiday home we’d rented would allieviate any ‘in your face-ness’) just really worked.  My parents are having a hard time because of my mum’s recent cancer diagnosis, and my dad in particular has become very tense and over anxious.  Our friends are in that early stage of parenthood when you are negotiating your way through life on very little sleep and facing a new parenting/management challenge every day.  Yet they all just got on so well, and actively enjoyed each other’s company – and so, of course, did we.  And there was that extra sense of delight in seeing two separate groups of people we love taking pleasure in each other.

Being in Cornwall itself was a massive blessing (we were in the same house, in a wee village called Helstone near Camelford, just last September with another wonderful family we are really close friends with – the fact we returned less than 9 months later and are currently seeing if we can organise another trip in October speaks volumes about the place).  I found real refreshment in being somewhere both unfamiliar – that ‘where are we now?’ feeling – and like an amplified, uber-version of the Britain that we know.  Plants and landscape somehow the same but not quite (greener, more abundant, both more friendly and more dramatic). 

The chance to be ‘at the seaside’ was an unalloyed delight.  This time round our daughter was thrilled beyond measure to be near any of the beaches we went too, and as someone who grew up on or near the coast in various parts of the UK  I loved seeing her share the same joy at playing on the beach, in the sea, in rock pools and so on.  I went wading into the sea with her (neither of us in swimming stuff) more times than I care to remember on this holiday, and yet neither of us really minded getting wet clothes, sand in unmentionable places and hair bouffed by the lively coastal breezes.  And there’s nothing like drying off in hot sun to compensate for wet underwear…

I also had massive fun rediscovering bodyboarding on this holiday over a couple of afternoons, something else my daughter and I have discovered together this last year.  I confess I cannot take pleasure into the getting into and out of a wetsuit, and nor can I truly take pleasure in the photos of me in a wetsuit either:

DSC04278

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… I think my husband and daughter look pretty good though.  One aspect of being in and part of the sea (the Atlantic Ocean no less!  sounds much fancier than my ‘native’ North Sea) is something I’ve read and heard people who surf talk about quite a lot, and there are some really good quotes too:

P9100082 

(Thanks to my husband’s blog for this photo taken at The Tubestation last year)

In other words, there is a well-documented spiritual connection we seem to find with the ocean.  I’m alternately afraid of and in love with the sea, and personally I think that’s a pretty healthy state of affairs as it can be a dangerous place (and like many of my generation it’s hard to leave the spectre of ‘Jaws’ behind – I long thought it was just me but have discovered it’s a reasonably common thing!).  Yet to launch yourself across a breaking wave as you head a little further out, a little further out, to lie bobbing peacefully on a bodyboard and let the water carry you up and down, to gaze in silent respect as rolling waves crash together from opposing shores of a bay and merge to make a foaming mass of water is to find yourself in a place of wonder and of peace.  The other aspect of playing with a bodyboard that I liked a lot was just that – it was play, and it was completely acceptable to play wholeheartedly.  I am coming to believe, from my position as amongst other things a playworker and playwork trainer, that play can also be a time of spiritual connection.  Sometimes the Godness of the world he’s made is just there to be seen and experienced and rejoiced in.  Playing in the sea was, for me, an experience of the Godness of his world.

Pretty much the highlight of the whole week, if we had to pick one, would be a week ago, when we spent Sunday in Polzeath, first going to church at The Tubestation, which you will learn more about from my husband’s blog so I won’t repeat it here but I do urge you to check it out, then hanging out for a bit there afterwards and being given a fantastic and completely unwarranted gift by our friends of a beautiful piece of art.  We spent much of the rest of the day just playing on the beach at Polzeath, then each of us got to surf or bodyboard as we chose, and all of this was sandwiched with the eating of lovely icecream and yummy chips.  It was a perfect day.  If there was one day that left us seriously trying to figure out how to make a move to Cornwall so we could become part of the community in Polzeath and get involved in The Tubestation, then that was it. 

And now, back home in Edinburgh, back at work, back amidst the worries and mess of normal everyday life, it seems like a dream that we’re still somehow carrying with us.  Life is good today.  Tomorrow my mum begins her treatment for the cancer they found a few weeks ago, and my prayer above all else is that life will somehow continue to be good, even through that, for all of us.

[kreativ+blogger+award.jpg]

How exciting!  Lucy has given me a blogging award (along with some of my other favourite bloggers too, I feel very privileged).  Here’s what I need to do in exchange:

  1. Post the award on your blog, and link to the person who gave you the award (done that, and please check out Lucy’s lovely blog)
  2. List seven things you love
  3. List seven blogs you love (just seven?)
  4. E-mail or comment on those blogs to let the people know you’ve given them the award

Seven things I love?

  1. My little family – husband and daughter, and the collection of special toys who play such an important part in our four year old’s life that they Had Better Never Get Lost
  2. Following Jesus (although, to be absolutely honest, there are also times when I grind my teeth with frustration at how this works out in my life)
  3. Our church and in particular our small group, not forgetting the friends, near and far, who are extended family and form our daughter’s God Squad (because we couldn’t choose between them when it came to thinking about godparents, they’re all so amazing and special to us)
  4. Painting, drawing, making. I do this in spurts of energy and then long periods elapse where it just gets sidelined…
  5. …but the compensation is I get to work somewhere I can enable children, adults, colleagues to be creative and that is often enough
  6. The sea.  It scares me but I love it.  Beautiful sandy beaches are great but I’ve almost always lived in proximity to the North Sea, and so it’s the wind-swept dunes and grey thundering waves that make my heart beat a little faster
  7. Books.  I love reading, and always have way too many on the go at once, so it takes me ages to get any one book finished unless I’m using it as a ‘comfort read’ when I’m feeling low or as a break from more challenging reads.  I confess I also love books as objects (our oversized living room bookcase is testament to that), and am trying hard not to be envious of one of my colleagues who is also a book-lover and collects first editions.  THAT would not be good for me.  Maybe one day I’ll go and visit her books. I mean her.

Seven blogs I love (Nb. Lucy’s already namechecked a couple of my favourites, so I’ll let them enjoy their awards from her and award seven completely different ones)

  1. I have to mention my husband’s blog (The State That I Am In). It’s a fantastic blog with a strong musical undercurrent. I would love it even if he wasn’t my husband, I promise!
  2. Fourth Space is the blog of one of our small group friends.  It’s so thought-provoking, lots of creative and analytical thinking and processing (for both blog author and blog reader).
  3. Have you checked out Coffee Shop Journal? It’s a really great read, reflections on life, faith and more, book reviews and thoughtful applications of lessons learned, and always written with grace and humility. 
  4. The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus is in many ways (for me) the perfect blog.  All pictures!!!  I don’t know how he comes up with these fresh, funny and often cutting images so frequently.  Man or machine?! No machine could be this creative and offer such a human and humane perspective on the world.
  5. Without Wax (I even love the name of this blog) is another thought-provoking look at the world through the eyes of Pete, a pastor at Cross Point Church in Tennessee.  He uses video clips and other resources really well, and has got a massive readership judging by the average number of comments each post seems to get.  It is also one of the blogs I read that reminds me that there is a cultural difference between our two countries, which I really enjoy being exposed to.
  6. New Life From Old is the blog of another small group friend.  He doesn’t post too often, but always has something worth checking out.  He’s a scientist and is rigorous in his examination of faith through this lens.  He’s really creative in how he works this out in his life and the world (although I don’t think he’d use that word about himself), and deserves massive respect for his engagement with difficult and controversial issues.
  7. Last but not least I’ve just got to mention Wish Jar,which is the blog of author, illustrator and guerilla artist Keri Smith.  I LOVE her work, and every time I read her blog I get exposed to something I’ve never come across before.

I hope you enjoy checking these guys out if you’ve not had a look before.  (By the way sorry about the weird mix of fonts and sizes, can’t seem to fix it today for some reason.  Hope it’s still readable)

On Sunday our pastor preached an awesome sermon.  But isn’t it funny the things that stick in your mind afterwards?…

“You can’t hurry a tomato”

Seldom has a truer word been spoken!  In the context of the sermon our pastor was basically exhorting us to live life richly, to ‘dwell’ where we are wholeheartedly.  And that one little phrase really stuck out, and came back to me again today as I was pottering about the house (got some horrible bug so have been off work for a couple of days, and am sad to note I seem to be getting worse rather than better at the time of writing.  Sigh.) and I spent a few moments admiring our daughter’s flourishing tomato seedlings that she planted just a few weeks ago at Sunday Club. 

I’m mentally planning which seeds need to be sown in our vegetable patch this year, and am already anticpating the long and (im)patient wait for the first bursts of life.  I’m a very very VERY novice gardener and had more failures than successes last year, but I enjoy the fact that so much of gardening seems to involve patience and trust.  Trust in the seeds to germinate and ultimately bear fruit, trust in the soil and the sun and the rain to each play their part.  And the long tormenting journey from seed planting to final harvest.  The torment and the joy is in the waiting of course.

There are profound and deeply resonant lessons to be learnt through planting a seed…

One of the things I am so supremely rubbish at is sharing my faith in any kind of cohesive and unembarrassed way.  I know that’s a ridiculous thing to admit to, it’s so contradictory to have a faith that you apparently lack sufficient faith in to declare.  I don’t think I lack faith in my faith (stick with me, I’ll get less convoluted soon), so much as lack faith in my ability to articulate it in a way which won’t make either me, or the person I’m speaking to, or God, cringe.  I have this deep-seated belief that everyone else in the whole world has more valid views than me, and is much more likely to ‘win’ any kind of debate I get embroiled in. About anything.

So (sweeping aside all of the can-of-worms implications hinted at above) I am utterly delighted and not a little baffled that our daughter (who is just 4) has the whole ‘talking about God’ thing cracked.  And I’m filled with thankfulness for the people in her life that have developed that faith and that confidence.  Not least the staff and volunteers at our church who are playing a fundamental role in this.

Last Sunday, at our church’s ‘Sunday Club’ (Sunday school if you prefer) she made a little badge which says ‘Jesus loves me’.  Now, safety pins, crushed cardboard and smudged felt tips aside, she thinks this badge is the coolest thing EVER, and has had it pinned to whatever top she’s wearing almost every moment since then.  She’s worn it to nursery 2 out of the 3 days she’s been there so far this week.  On the first day we worried her teachers might think it was a bit weird, or that her friends might tease her.  However, her teachers think it’s lovely, and today she came home from nursery having basically started a new fashion trend.  Her friends have been trying to copy the writing so they could make their own ‘Jesus loves me’ badge.  I love imagining that the staff (who have to be very non-partisan about these things) are sat helping children to write out ‘Jesus loves me’ because one little girl who is utterly unembarrassed about her beautiful baby-faith has proudly shown everyone her precious badge that, to her, marks that faith and is a statement that gives her great comfort.

Now, what lesson should I learn from this I wonder?

There definitely is an art to joy, since it is not always a natural state for us. (BTW I’m over myself and my doom and gloom last week,  apologies for the self-pitying – pretty certain it was illness related)

So it’s exciting and challenging to be part of The Art of Joy this spring.  A group of us, friends and fellow small-groupers from MBC, dreamed what felt like a big dream and we now find ourselves galloping towards lots of great activities which suddenly need organising and thinking through.  I am newly appreciative of the diversity of our small group, the skills and talents that there are which are all required to make such an undertaking happen.  There don’t seem to be quite enough minutes to deal with everything, but collectively it feels like we’re making progress. 

There’s going to be a lot happening, an art exhibition going up this weekend with an official opening before the end of March, a therapeutic art workshop, knitter natter for anyone who likes or wants to try out knitting or crochet, a fantastic closing event featuring two great bands and a stand up comedian… and that’s only what we’ve got planned so far!  We’re aiming to bring a bit of joy and light using the arts and the fantastic creative gifts of people in Edinburgh and beyond.  Most of all I’m looking forward to meeting new people, getting alongside people in a creative way and exploring how the arts have the power to make connections which are often unexpected, and almost always intriguing.

Check out The Art of Joy’s website to get an overview of what’s happening and find out how you can get involved. 

I’m wondering if we could do some guerilla joy-bringing too.  How would the people of Edinburgh receive it?  How do I receive it?  Do we welcome unexpected joy with open arms?  With suspicion? With pessimism?  Do we welcome joy with gratitude and expectation of further unanticipated wonder to come?  A masterclass in joy-giving and joy-receiving might be no bad thing in our world.

Our small group shrank down to just four the other night.  Sometimes TSTIAI and I get a bit discouraged when that happens, when not many people manage to make it along, but that night was so nice that, despite missing our temporarily absent members, we felt at peace that the night had panned out as it was intended to. 

We were joined by Mr and Mrs Fourth Space for the evening, and we all happily set about eating all the food in front of us whilst chatting and setting the world to rights.  A funny thing happened for me that evening though, which I’m sharing here because, although it relates to the events and conversation of the evening, it has taught me a really big lesson. 

As we chatted away and munched away we heard our daughter crying a bit from her bedroom, so I went through to check on her and get her settled again.  As I sat stroking her head, shushing  her back to sleep I prayed silently, and to be honest, almost absentmindedly.  As I did this I found myself half-remembering some verses, but couldn’t quite recall them properly.  I knew they were words Jesus had quoted from Isaiah, but I am hopeless at remembering bible verses. 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to… something about captives…preaching good news…?

I couldn’t get this half-memory out of my head so once my daughter had settled back to sleep I crept through to our bedroom to see if I could find the passage in my bible.  I scanned Isaiah but couldn’t see the passage I was thinking of so put it out of my mind for the time being, scolding myself inwardly for being such a bad Christian – shouldn’t I be able to quote whole chunks of the bible after being a ‘Jesus follower’ for over 20 years? (No need to answer that)

Back with our miniature small group we ended up talking through some ideas about our church’s forthcoming project Love Out Loud, and pondering what our wee group might get involved in doing.  There were some good initial thoughts, but it was one of the last things that was said by Fourth Space that stayed with me.  He said something along the lines that people are feeling so down with all the bad news around just now, that perhaps whatever we do should just aim to be a blessing, freely given.  In essence we should be bringing joy. Well, that was how I heard it, so I’m not quoting verbatim.

Goodbyes were said, and TSTIAI and I set about tidying up and getting ready for bed.   A short time later, tucked under the duvet with a hot water bottle toasting my legs and a comfy pillow propping me up I opened up my bible and the devotional notes I’ve been using on and off for a good while (God 360).

It asked me to read Luke 4:14 – 21…It was the exact passage I had been (randomly?) thinking of and half remembering earlier in the evening, where Jesus stands in the temple and reads a passage from Isaiah then declares that he is the fulfillment of that message.  I decided to go to Isaiah 61 where the original passage is found, and read it in The Message.  Check this out (this is where Fourth Space was essentially quoting from Isaiah too – I wonder if he knew?):

The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.

He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners.

God sent me to announce the year of his grace – a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies – and to comfort all who mourn, to care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.

(Isaiah 61: 1 – 3, italics my own)

It confirms for me that no matter what we do for Love Out Loud, if we fulfill that part of Jesus’ manifesto from Isaiah we’ll be doing exactly what will delight God’s heart. 

And the lesson I learnt, that God has been working overtime to teach me this week, is that he is full of stuff to tell me, stuff to talk to me about, stuff to guide me.  I just need to listen.

(And maybe I should set about memorising a few more bible verses.)

I’ve been doing some more thinking about living and loving in a small group.  Our church has long had house groups or bible study groups, but the last couple of years has upped the ante in this area and our large and growing church really encourages everyone to ‘do life’ with others in a small group setting.  I suppose I see it as a kind of micro-church, one that can fit around a table and let everyone share in the same conversation. 

We’ve had a small group in our home for the last couple of years, which we host and lead – but my husband does the real leading (I think I’m more of a backseat driver). We’ve been doing some reflecting on what it means, or what it might mean, to be a small group leader, and thinking about how well we do this and how we might do better.  Then I found this list and thought it was helpful as a yardstick.  Would be interested to hear what others think too though.  What should a small group leader do?

10 GREAT WAYS TO CARE FOR YOUR GROUP MEMBERS

10. Pray for your group members each morning.
9. Meet a group member for coffee.
8. Invite the group over for dinner.
7. Send a note of encouragement.
6. Ask questions.
5. Celebrate with them, literally…birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
4. Notice when they’re absent.
3. Make ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ the most important part of your interactions.
2. Call them out…challenge them in areas where they need to change.
1. Get them serving others.

It’s perhaps notable that it doesn’t say anything about bible study, theological understanding or being a gifted speaker.  It does, however, offer a strong model of leading by serving, amongst other things.  It’s not rocket science, to coin a phrase, but it is practical.

This winter it’ll be our 11th wedding anniversary.  I’ve found myself reflecting on our vows again, as the other week I was unwell (again) and this week our daughter has been poorly too. 

We ‘d only been married for a matter of a few months before I began to struggle with what was eventually identified as post viral fatigue.  This made me pretty ill and pretty hopeless for a good while, and was a massive cause of worry and stress for my husband.  I left my job and basically just spent some months trying to get back on my feet.  I went to work part time, then very quickly became ill again and because I was still in my probationary period ended up not getting my contract continued – I lost my job, in other words.  It was about 18 months from the initial onset of the illness that I became fit enough to go to work again and although in the years that have followed I’ve had bouts of post viral illness again, it has never been as bad or as long standing as it was that first time round. 

As you can imagine, ‘in sickness and in health’ was a wedding vow that we had never really thought of having to put to the test so early in our marriage.  We received enormous support from our church, and a pivotal moment on the road to recovery for me was our then-minister and some other wonderful people from our church community coming round to our tiny flat and anointing me with oil and praying for us both.  It was from that point on that things began to slowly get better.  God didn’t dramatically heal me, but I’m quietly confident that He began a much gentler process at that time.

Anyway, we were up through the wee small hours yesterday morning (and this morning too actually) as our daughter was running a temperature and has just been feeling really not well.  As I eventually lay down to try and get some sleep I found myself reflecting that those vows don’t just apply to me and my husband.  We’re a family of three, and since our daughter came along she’s become bound up in those vows too.  Our commitment to each other before God is also a commitment to her.  At least that’s how I see it.

This is not an original thought (I’ve just googled it to check!), but to what extent is blogging just a vanity press for the digital age? 

I’ve been considering my motives for deciding to begin this blog, mainly because what I’ve been doing here is not at all what I originally intended – I had absolutely no plans to share my thoughts with you, just to show you some pictures.  But since I couldn’t initially figure out how to do that I wrote something instead, and find it’s a hard habit to break.  Several (most?) of my small group of fellow believers from church also have blogs (see my blogroll for them) and, when you get down to fundamentals, I wanted my own platform too.

So why do I feel justified in inflicting this on the world at large, should they choose to access my blog?  Are my thoughts, views, stories that compelling?  (Don’t worry, I’m actually under no illusions with that one!)  And if not, then – again – why? 

I suppose I’ve found an unexpected creativity and expression in just documenting bits of my life.  I’ve got a kick out of seeing how many people drop by to check my blog out.  And whilst I might claim to not think there’s anything much worth reading here, obviously – OBVIOUSLY – there’s a bit of false humility there, otherwise why not just write in my notebook under my bed like I did when I was a teenager?  I like the idea that I can put bits of myself out there, and others can look them over, consider if there’s common ground, controversy, points of interest and perhaps smile to themselves about what they’ve just read. 

So I’m making a deal.  While I’m not going to give you every personal detail of my life, I will try to be honest, reflective and sometimes cringingly frank with what I do share.  Let’s squish the vanity out of this right now! 

Do other bloggers ever wonder this kind of stuff?  How does it make you feel to blog, to get feedback and comments? 

June 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  
Go to the Barnardo's Believe campaign website.