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

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 Step 1:  A missional expression is about living out your faith in a collective way, about loving your tribe – about knowing who your tribe is.  With this in mind, your missional expression will need a ‘vehicle’.  Most of the time this will be figurative.  However, sometimes it will turn out to be literal…

 

 

 

 

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 Step 2:  …(and even have retro cool-appeal) Once you have established what your vehicle is, you need to spend some time examining said vehicle from every angle…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Step 3:  Think it through – is it just your ‘big idea’ or can others get onboard with you?  Once you’ve thought this through it’s time to get going! 

 

 

 

 

 (So for a beach/surf based missional expression here’s how it might go next)

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 Step 4: Put Jesus at the centre.  There’s not much point otherwise.  Surf, play on the beach, be part of the tribe you belong to in this context.  And as you live authentically it may be that others who share your interest, your passion, will join you…

 

 

  

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Step 5:  Be open to others joining you who have a different way of living out the missional expression.  Not everyone will want to jump into a wetsuit and catch some waves.  But how great would it be if a differently gifted, differently impassioned person wanted to be on the beach getting the barbecue ready for when everyone gets out of the water, ready to eat?

 

 

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Step 6:  …So it’s not surprising that more people will join in time.  It’s going to be awesome!

 

 

 

 

 

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Step 7: Shared beach, shared surf, shared food, shared life, shared love.  Authentic lives lived openly with one another.  And the chance to hang out in a VW campervan? 

 

 

 

 

 

 Okay, this is a playful rendering of an idea we’ve had.  Children’s toys make everything look fun!  Who knows what will happen, but in the meantime we’re going to have some fun on the beach anyway, because it’s what we love to do and we spend far too little time doing it.

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Time has once again been on my mind. 

A while back our pastor told us that the speed of God is 3 miles an hour (I am paraphrasing…), because that’s walking speed.  It’s the speed we need to travel at to connect with His world and to notice the people around us, to become aware of and attuned to our environment.

A few sermons back we heard that you can’t hurry a tomato – and I love the message of waiting and expectation that is implied.

Then at the weekend, after a rotten few weeks of being poorly, and finally enjoying being on the mend, I was excited to receive the latest edition of Jamie Magazine, Jamie Oliver’s most recent adventure in publishing.  It was full of lush photography, gorgeous recipes, and some lovely evocative articles.  My favourite was about a winemaker in Beirut, whose passion and relish for wine and for his country infused everything he said.

I loved this:

“This is my Beirut,” says Serge, in his soft, exotically accented English. “And these are my babies, they improve with age.” He waves an immaculate cuff over the six or seven million bottles of vintage Musar, that are quietly, splendidly maturing in cool damp dark cellar cut deep into the flanks of Mount Lebanon.

“My wines need time”,  [Serge] states, “Time to grow, time to mature, time to taste.  Now, ” as he eases the corks from bottle after venerable bottle, “let us take our time.”

A few weeks back I read a little filler article in the Guardian about a journalist’s one-day attempt to ‘go slow’.  It was a bit of a half-hearted effort really, and seemed to mainly consist of her getting stressed about not getting stuff done.  It made me think once again about the obstacles which lie in our way as we pay lip-service to slowing down, to relishing life.  I don’t live a crazy manic life really, but it’s very full and busy enough to always have stuff undone.  Not so unusual really, but in terms of appreciating the world I’m in (in the micro as well as macro sense) and in terms of simply paying attention to those who come my way, most of the time life is too much of a blur to be that intentional about it.  And that just isn’t good enough really.

So I’m brought to wondering if that’s the underlying blessing of being ill so often, and in particular having a really horrible bug that has floored me for the last fortnight and intermittently for the 3 weeks prior to that.  ‘Go slow, take a little time’ became a command to be obeyed, not a suggestion to be shrugged off.

And so now, as I return to ‘normal’  I look back over the last five days in particular, as I felt less ill and more on the mend.  The afternoons spent curled on a garden chair in my pyjamas and dressing gown, cup of tea at my side, unread paper on my knee as I listened to the blackbirds singing, watched the apple blossom begin to flower, saw blue tits begin making their home in the bird box on the side of the garage.  The drowsing in the sunshine, the time taken to mull over interesting articles in the paper or magazines, the long chats with friends and family on the phone.  The sowing of seeds, the gentle easing of seedlings into pots and vegetable plots.  Time to reflect, infused with the hope and promise of spring.

I like going slow.  Taking my time is my favourite thing.  Looking another person in the eye and being entirely focussed on them – “love the one” as we’ve heard in church recently – is a powerful experience and a powerful gift to give to another person. 

So as I return to life with a little less leisure, (but hopefully a lot more health) I am holding on to those thoughts, those aspirations and aim to moment by moment put them into practice.  A little time well spent.

Ive read a couple of really interesting articles over the last few days, and have had that funny experience of two quite separate people in entirely separate contexts making points that resonated together for me.  The first article was in last Saturday’s Guardian, an interview by Viv Groskop with Boris Cyrulnik in The Guardian on Saturday, about Boris Cyrulnik.  He is a well-known figure in France, having done amazing work in helping children to overcome childhood trauma.  The article in itself was though-provoking, and I’d now quite like to read his book “Resilience” which is out in English now. 

The second article was in the Education section of today’s Guardian, and is an interview with Scotland’s exiting Children’s Commissioner, Kathleen Marshall (of whom I’m a big fan) by Jackie Kemp.  You can read the full interview here.  I’m sure you’ll find it interesting.

What the two articles have in common was a moment of ‘looking back, looking forward’, and the resulting concern for our children and young people which ensues.

To quote from the Cyrulnik article firstly:

In so-called “normal” family life, if such a thing really exists, he [Cyrulnik] has one area of concern. Whereas he is appalled that, within living memory, people still thought it was acceptable to inflict physical punishment on children, he is equally worried about doing damage by allowing the child to be the centre of the universe. “We have done a lot of work on children who are ‘over-invested’,” he says. Some parents who have been hurt in childhood let their children do what they want. These children develop badly. “Over-investment is a form of impoverishment in itself, because it ends up that the child is only supposed to love one person – this self-sacrificing, all-permitting parent. This is a prison for the child.”

The idea of love, of care becoming so overwhelming it is an imprisonment for the child is disturbing, and seems like an extreme and unusual expression of that care, but modern society compartmentalises us away from community.  Perhaps it is not such a big leap?  The interview with Kathleen Marshall makes this connection more clear still, and it is her expression of this which I have encountered most in my professional (and personal) life:

The first of the UK’s children’s commissioners to leave office, Marshall has spoken out in several areas, sometimes not in quite the way one might expect. She has attacked the “risk-averse” culture around children’s safety and the bureaucracy around volunteering with children. Research she commissioned showed almost half of those questioned said they wouldn’t volunteer for fear of being accused of harming a child.

Barbed wire

“We say we wrap kids in cotton wool, but I say, because we have become so fearful of them and for them, we wrap them up in barbed wire and put up a sign that says, keep out, don’t touch,” she says. “And that is not good for children because they can’t develop the relationships they need with adults who are going to nurture them.”

Isn’t it funny how we can ‘care’ so much it is damaging?  The idea of cotton-wool kids is no longer a new one, sadly, and it is entirely true that this level of over-protection actually imprisons children.  But what is stranger still is that somewhere down the line there is a disconnect.  Those ‘caring’ boundaries place the adults responsible out of reach of the children too.  How do you express care and concern for a child if your relationship with them is not just boundaried but ‘out of bounds’? 

Kathleen goes on to talk about a leaflet she produced with some particular wording included that consulted children had asked for:

At the behest of children she was consulting with, Marshall included the word “love” in a leaflet for children in care about what they should expect. She recounts getting an official letter saying: “Love is not a word we use here in Glasgow and it is not something we expect of our care workers or our residential workers.”

“Perhaps we shouldn’t use the word because it has some other connotations,” Marshall says, “but it is what the young people come back to again and again. I worry that we are so busy running round filling in forms and checking up on everyone and worrying about stuff that we are not giving young people the time they need to build relationships when what they really long for is people who really care about them.”

(emphasis my own)

Of course ‘love’ is a word full of connotations.  But how worrying that we now live in a society where those connotations cannot be wholly good and wholly desirable.  When exactly did we manage to turn love into a dirty word?

There’s probably a lot more I could talk about here, but I’ve been sick for AGES now, and my brain is only functioning creakily.  Hope what I’ve written is intelligible.

 

 

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?

Apparently marriage is on the way out.  I heard this on Monday, on a BBC Radio 4 programme called, “What is a wife?”.

It was a thought-provoking programme, but I also found it mildly infuriating.  The idea of ‘wifeliness’ was looked at, and I have to say it’s not an attractive term and it has little relevance – and few examples- in today’s world for women in the UK.  It has such connotations of domestic subservience, and I can’t find a positive way in which to view it.  However, the actual reality of women in the UK getting married in the first place is itself in decline.  They reckon that by 2011 less than half of the adult population will be married. 

It was interesting to hear women who had, with the rise of feminism in the late 60s and 70s, taken the view that to become married was to tie themself unequally to a man, to take a position of second place that suggested a trade-off.  “You give me money and security and I’ll give you a nice home and food on the table (whilst giving up my right to independent thought and living)”.  To them feminism meant that marriage was out of the question as an aspiration, and irrelevant to the new ideals of modern womanhood. 

I struggled to recognise how they painted marriage though.  I have always assumed that marriage is a statement of faith in and commitment to each other, as opposed to a simple definition of roles.  “Husband” does not, for me, mean provider and dominant decision-maker.  It just means the man I love and have committed to share a life with.  “Wife” similarly does not mean home-maker or dominant child-rearer.  It means I am sharing a life with the man I love.

But for many people today marriage is viewed as simply unnecessary.  There is now no shame in a couple living together in our society.  There is no longer a stigma attached to children ‘born out of wed-lock” (how long since anyone spoke about that?!).  But I have to say I still believe in marriage.  I love being so committed to this one man, and I value the security that I get from knowing we have made vows of equal and equally significant commitment to each other.

These days those few people who do choose to get married (I have friends who are wedding photographers, and don’t get the impression that they have a shortage of business, so maybe ‘few’ is not quite right) face the added likelihood that their marriage may not last.  Marriage rates are falling and divorce rates are rising. 

But this weekend my parents are celebrating their 4oth wedding anniversary.  My dad was actually married once before, but this marriage, the one I was born into is the one he has spent most of his adult life in.  That’s some achievement.  So I’d like to celebrate marriage, celebrate commitment and celebrate the wonderful thing it can be to share a life with someone.

As is usual for his very thought-provoking blog, Fourth Space got me mulling over exactly how and why God loves me (of all people!).  And as is often the case when you start thinking about something (my previous post about autism being a case in point) it seems then to be EVERYWHERE you look.

So last night, feeling poorly, I was lying in bed clutching a hot water bottle to my aching tummy and trying not to move too much in case I was sick (this is called setting the scene…).  I was tired but not sleepy and had started to reread a book that I had found on my bookshelf from earlier last year.  It is called “Operating Instructions” by Anne Lamott, and is basically a journal that she kept during her son’s first year.  It’s a compelling read, but I’d struggled with it the first time round because she was so painfully and brutally honest, some of which was too close to the bone for me to deal with during what had been a bit of a difficult patch.  This time round I’m loving it, and really relishing the honesty.  It feels raw, but healing too.

This was the bit that jumped out at me as I lay feeling lousy and fragile:

I’m trying to be extremely gentle and forgiving with myself today, having decided while I nursed Sam at dawn this morning that I’m probably just as good a mother as the next repressed, obsessive-compulsive paranoiac.

I think we’re all pretty crazy on this bus.  I’m not sure I know anyone who’s got all the dots on his or her dice.

But once an old woman at my church said the secret is that God loves us exactly the way we are and that he loves us too much to let us stay like this, and I’m just trying to trust that.

(“Operating Instructions” by Anne Lamott, Anchor Books 1993)

I’ve heard that view of God’s love before, and it does kind of encapsulate the complicated love that he has for us. 

It has proved helpful to me today.

Well today (like many days in my life, it seems) I’m sick.  I think I’ve caught the bug my daughter was so poorly with last week.  After feeling a bit odd at various points yesterday and managing to dismiss them as the outworkings of a busy weekend and not enough sleep, I spent last night feeling increasingly yuck and then trying and failing to get myself functioning this morning. 

As is the way with these things, I find it’s often when I need the most sleep that I get the least.  So during my sleepless hours last night when I awoke feeling unwell I found myself ruminating on the kind of random tangents that the 2ams are so well known for.

One of the random tangents came from a conversation we’d had with a minister friend of ours who was round with his fantastic family on Saturday afternoon.  We’d been joking about my increasing interest in the idea of communal living and how this works itself out in communities we’ve come across.  After considering the areas we’d find most challenging about communal living (pretty much all of it) our friend said that they had approached it from the other direction and basically let people know they had an open house for anyone, whenever.  I wondered if this was an expectation of their role in the church he leads, but apparently not – so many of his congregation had never been inside the church manse until he took up post.  Marla has also spoken in various places on her (fantastic) blog about having doors open to whoever needs them.

As I lay tossing and turning in bed, head and body aching, mind whirring, I began to wonder how I would find communal living, or living with ‘open doors’ when, like today, I was unwell.

Would it be great to know that if I needed something there would likely be someone around to help me out?  Or would I struggle with feeling my space was restricted, that Iwould need to make conversation when I just wanted to lie or sit quietly?  And in terms of reciprocity would I be willing to go into someone else’s house when they were sick and be there for them? I would, but being the over-empathiser that I am, I tend to imagine others share the same feelings as me and wouldn’t welcome my presence.

I am full of admiration for those who open their homes to the world, and can see that actually the physical act of letting someone in the door is not always the big deal.  It’s the opening and sharing of lives which follows which is the real challenge, the real joy and the real act of servanthood and love.

I haven’t made any resolutions this year.  But this area is something I am challenged by and challenged into doing and not merely thinking about.  I intend to work on it this year.  I suspect it will be a lifelong project

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