ringing the changes

A number of months ago I was asked what I was doing in my next session leading Children’s Church. I explained, starting with the key theme and scripture and how we were going to extrapolate that using some drama and then expressing what they had learned either through craft or writing or painting. It was up to them.

The person, a lady person, in her mid 40’s, asked if she could come. We laughed. A seed of an idea though was planted. A lot of the people I encounter on a daily basis have not been brought up in church and if they did go, were dragged.

The concept of “Messy Church” covers this, telling basic bible stories and parables so adults and children together learn something of the bible. There are alpha courses and Emmaus for further teaching and yet for all this: I meet people who have been coming to church longer than me who don’t get forgiveness and don’t get grace and mercy and love.

Is Children’s Church about retelling bible stories over and over again in a three year cycle, or is it about giving them some foundation so they can explore their faith, grow in their faith and take over as leaders of worship, leaders of Children’s Church and youth initiatives?

When I was small going to church was treat, going to a political conference was a chore. Sitting on a stool in a Methodist Class of women, talking about “real stuff” in their lives and encouraging and admonishing each other was a treat, listening to a political argument on trivial matters of no consequence was a chore. However, I was brought up differently, for that time. My Christian friends were not allowed to play with me and committed a sin by doing so (that of not honouring parents.)

Today, I am not that differently brought up compared to the general population which is no longer church going by default of which piece of land they were raised. Church is becoming an optional extra. A friend of mine in the States tweeted the question, “will I go to the gym or church?” The Gym won.

We have to make church a treat, not so it is vapidly full of emotive music, repeating choruses to encourage fervour, or to make it what people want to hear – “You are doing okay, much better than that guy.” It is to balance the attractional elements with sound basic teaching, extoling without gushing and using language that people today will understand.

So let’s stop making the assumption that people know what grace, mercy, love and forgiveness mean just because we sing and recite ritually. Let’s not try to be clever when someone says they believe in Jesus and say something like, “what do you mean by believe, Satan knew who Jesus was?”

I had another conversation a couple of weeks ago where a person was blaming the government because people didn’t know how to cook and live on a budget. It is easy to blame government for this and it is easy to blame “Church” for the lack of understanding within the church.

Let’s turn the world upside down and meet people one-to-one, let’s listen to what they know as well as the deficit in understanding, let’s fill that gap. Each one of us, individually live out the authentic life of a Christian, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. It’s not just what Jesus would do, it was what he did. He invited us to his upside down Kingdom, let’s share that…

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9

after the storm

I went out after the storm a few weeks ago to assess the damage and instead found some wonderful examples of resilience. I was reminded of them last night when doing some admin work.

DSC_0003

 

crocuses amongst the graves

DSC_0002

 

crocuses under the willow

 

 

DSC_0001

 

a cabbage white (?) on the drive (?)

 

DSC_0006

 

The willow determined to grow again after losing a good half of itself

 

DSC_0005

 

 

one yew survived…

DSC_0004

 

one needs some tlc

DSC_0007

 

the willow battered and bruised but determined

DSC_0008

 

never know why my roses stay all winter

DSC_0009

 

counting on the buddleia to mask many gardening gaffs (as usual)

Psalm 96

Sing a new song to the Eternal;
sing in one voice to the Eternal, all the earth.
Sing to the Eternal of all the good things He’s done.
Bless His name;
broadcast the good news of His salvation each and every day.
Enlighten the nations to His splendour;
describe His wondrous acts to all people.
For the Eternal is great indeed and praiseworthy;
feared and reverenced above all gods, the True God shall be.
For all human-made, lifeless gods are worthless idols,
but the Eternal plotted the vast heavens, shaped every last detail.
Honour and majesty precede Him;
strength and beauty infuse His holy sanctuary.

One of the great themes of Scripture and Psalms is the kingship of God. While lesser kings come and go, God is the One who ultimately rules and reigns over His people, and by extension over the rest of creation. Psalm 96 and others in the collection are often referred to as “enthronement” psalms because they declare boldly and unequivocally that the Eternal is King. There is evidence to suggest that an annual festival at the beginning of the year provided an opportunity to reaffirm the people’s loyalty to the one True God. Psalm 96 calls for new songs to be composed and sung to God and about God as a witness. The enthronement psalms call the world and all its inhabitants to come and recognize His beauty and majesty.

Give all credit to the Eternal, families of the world!
Credit Him with glory, honour, and strength!
Credit Him with the glory worthy of His magnificent name;
gather your sacrifice, and present it at His temple.
Bow down to the Eternal, adorned in holiness;
lay awestruck before Him, trembling, all people of the earth.

10 Shout out to the nations, “The Eternal reigns!
Yes, indeed, the world is anchored and will not shake loose.
He governs all people with a fair hand.”
11 And so, let the heavens resound in gladness!
Let joy be the earth’s rhythm as the sea and all its creatures roar.
12 Let the fields grow in triumph, a grand jubilee for all that live there.
Let all the trees of the forest dig in and reach high with songs of joy before the Eternal,
13 For the Eternal is on His way:
yes, He is coming to judge the earth.
He will set the world right by His standards,
and by His faithfulness, He will examine the people.

(The Voice)

divinely loved

As a child, did you ever try to be good, I mean really good, the best at being good? I heard a story last week of a young child, who tried his very best to be good. He was the grandson of a pastor and the son of a pastor and he was to sit on a stool through a service. The service was very long and took a break after an hour but in the last minute before the break the boy got distracted and began playing with his tie. He had been the best at being well behaved for 59 minutes and in the last minute lost the well behaviour badge and was duly punished with a fish slice in the break of service.

I know this can conjure up all kinds of issues for us about children and long services, corporal punishment etc., but the reason I share this tale this morning is because I am focusing on goodness and punishment.

Endure your discipline. God corrects you as a father corrects his children. All children are disciplined by their fathers.

Hebrews 12:7

God is good, God cannot be anything other than good. I heard a worship leader once say God could’ve been bad but he couldn’t. It isn’t possible. Goodness is a character trait of God, it is His personality. He is also the only thing that is good in its purest sense. We use good to describe many things, a meal, a soccer match, the behaviour of our children and the weather to name but a few. Are we wrong to do so?

We are aiming to be Christ-like, so we are aiming to be good. But like the little boy on the stool we can only maintain goodness for so long before we get distracted. We need our path correcting, how is this achieved? Are we struck down, smited? Perhaps we are, in a way. We are disciplined, corrected or punished appropriately.

Have you ever known someone who seems so tightly coiled; at any moment they could explode or implode? Or someone so hunched over they can barely stand; falling in on themselves? Or someone seemingly average but with a “je ne sais quoi” furtiveness? These people are hiding something, their guilt and shame.

Dealing with guilt and shame from the past is simple… We confess our sin, we are forgiven, we accept that forgiveness, the slate is wiped clean we move on – but in reality it is so hard because we don’t forgive ourselves, we hold onto the guilt and shame associated with the sin because it is what we know. It pulls us away from God but we are not punished for it, we are guided and encouraged to let it go. It might be a prayer, or a song or a sentence but as soon as begin to explore the forgiveness of self, the bundle of shame and guilt begins to unravel.

Current sin is a different matter, hidden sin that no one knows about, the cheating wife, the porn obsessed husband, the truanting child. We are to be a pleasing aroma to the Lord, how can we when we have sin in our lives, but we can’t tell anyone because they would judge, but by not telling anyone we are eaten away with guilt. We rationalise the sin, we become more in the world and less of God, ultimately we walk away – unless we are brought to account.

The Spirit convicts us,

 Oswald Chambers: “Conviction of sin is one of the rarest things that ever strikes a man [or woman]. It is the threshold of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict of sin, and when the Holy Spirit rouses the conscience and brings him[or her] into the presence of God, it is not his relationship with men [and women] that bothers him, but his [or her] relationship with God.”

We deceive ourselves of our sin, but we can’t deceive God:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10

We must aim for the cleanliness and goodliness of Christ, and it isn’t about the fifty nine minutes it is crucial we take care of those stray minutes when we get distracted, we must feel the conviction of the Spirit within our hearts in order to grow in our love, in our faith of the Lord.

Divine discipline is evidence of divine love

Here are what some commentaries say about this discipline, used in verse Hebrews 12:7

12:5- 8.

The readers also seemed to have forgotten the encouragement found in Proverbs 3:11- 12, which presents divine discipline as an evidence of divine love. Thus they should not lose heart (cf. Heb. 12:3) but should endure hardship hhypomenete, lit., “persevere”; cf. vv. 1- 3) as discipline and regard it as an evidence of sonship, that is, that they are being trained for the glory of the many sons (cf. 2:10 and comments there). All God’s children are subject to His discipline, and in the phrase everyone undergoes discipline the writer for the last time used the Greek metochoi (“companions, sharers”), also used in 1:9; 3:1, 14; 6:4. (Lit., the Gr. reads, “… discipline, of which all have become sharers.”) In speaking of those who are not disciplined and are thus illegitimate children, he was probably thinking of Christians whose disloyalty to the faith resulted in their loss of inheritance (i. e., reward) which is acquired by the many sons and daughters. (In the Roman world, an “illegitimate child” had no inheritance rights.) What such Christians undergo, the author had shown, is severe judgment. On the other hand believers who undergo God’s “discipline” are being prepared by this educational process hpaideia, “discipline,” lit., “child- training”; cf. Eph. 6:4) for millennial reward.

(BKC) Heb 12:5

12:5- 7. This quotation is from Proverbs 3:11- 12 but has many biblical (e. g., Deut 8:5; Ps 94:12) and postbiblical (e. g., *Psalms of Solomon 3:4; 7:3; 8:26; 10:1- 3; 13:9- 10; 14:1- 2; 18:4 Jewish parallels; Philo and some rabbis used Proverbs 3 similarly. In the context of Jewish wisdom literature, discipline was a sign of a father’s love for his children, his concern that they would go in the right way; Jewish teachers felt that God purged the sins of his children by sufferings designed to atone and to produce repentance. Although this writer would deny that any person’s sufferings could have atoning value, except for those of God in the flesh (7:25- 28; cf. Ps 49:7- 9), he undoubtedly agrees that they can help lead one to repentance or to a deeper relationship with God (Ps 119:67, 71, 75).

In the Greek world, the term translated “discipline” (NIV, NASB) was the most basic term for “education” (although this usually included corporal discipline), so the term naturally conveyed the concept of moral instruction. Some philosophers like Seneca also used the image of God disciplining his children for their good, just as Jewish writers did.

(IVP BBC NT) Heb 12:5

We might paraphrase this section:”Do not treat lightly the training of the L ord.” The Greek word for “despise” means “to treat lightly, to disregard” or “to think unimportant.” All too many Christians both then and now, have a blasé attitude about discipline of the spiritual life. We consider it a holdover from a pietism that we have rejected as narrow and stifling. We are too often like a football team that considers blocking and tackling already learned and unimportant, only to find themselves coming apart in a tough ball game and the score mounting against them with shocking rapidity.

The word translated “chastening,” paidiea, has wider meaning than “chastening” or “punishment.” It also means the training up of a child, a teaching, preparation for life, an art or science, or an instruction. The main emphasis is upon preparation for life. Chastening or punishment is only a small part of preparation.

In scholarly circles we ask the question “What is your discipline?” We are not asking, “What is your punishment?” Rather, we want to know, “What field of study or what art are you studying?” The emphasis is upon the learning of a skill, the preparation for a given profession. The same word is used in athletics. Discipline is that process by which we are taught and by which we learn. In flying we speak of an “air discipline” which stands for an attitude of care and professionalism that refuses to accept sloppy or careless procedures. Instructors inculcate this discipline into their students, knowing that their safety and the safety of their passengers is going to depend on it. In similar fashion the writer of this epistle is convinced that his readers’ future solidarity in faith is going to depend upon this teaching of the L ord. Therefore, he is urging them, “Do not treat lightly this training of the L ord. To disregard or look upon it as unimportant is foolish and dangerous. Do you not understand how critical His discipline is?”

God’s motivation for this discipline is His love—love for His people and love for His kingdom. Every believer is a child of God. With that child God has made a covenant of intimacy. He longs for a full relationship with that child as any good earthly father longs for a full and loving relationship with his child. For a child to fall or fail is agony for the Father. Out of His love He wishes to ward off such tragedy.

The same is true for His kingdom. He loves His kingdom, and, knowing it is the salvation of all peoples, He wishes it to move ahead toward its goal without dissipation or frustration. Every member of the kingdom who is not performing up to par is a loss for the kingdom.

Not to be disciplined by a father is an indication of lack of love. It takes energy to discipline. The task is fatiguing. Many a father does not discipline because of the cost. Not to pay that cost is to say to the child, “You are not that important to me. You are not worth it.” He may use busyness as an excuse; he may plead even the demands of the kingdom of God. The result is the same—loveless neglect.

(PrComm)

7 NIV takes the verb “endure” as imperative. This may well be correct, though it could be an indicative. The important thing here is the emphatic position of the words “as discipline” in the Greek sentence. It is not as misery, accident, or the like that Christians should understand suffering but as discipline. God uses it to teach important lessons. It shows that “God is treating you as sons.” The rhetorical question appeals to the universality of fatherly discipline. It was unthinkable to the writer and his readers that a father would not discipline his sons. Perhaps we should notice in passing that while the author clearly sees believers as children of God, he does not specifically call God father (except in a quotation in 1:5; cf. also “the Father of spirits,” v. 9).

(ExBibComm) Heb 12:7

The quotation from Proverbs 3:11- 12 is Solomon’s words to his own son, helping him to handle the troubles and hardships which will come to him. The Septuagint version quoted here speaks of both rebuke and punishment coming from the Lord. Rebuke is verbal correction; punishment (scourging) is designed to make the rebuke unforgettable. Scourging is severe punishment, symbolized by the Roman scourge, a leather whip with metal pieces embedded on the end.

An incident from the Old Testament illustrates this. David was rebuked by the Lord for numbering Israel and was given the choice of three punishments. He wisely let the Lord decide, and undoubtedly experienced the least hurtful of the three, but in the plague God sent, 70,000 Israelites died! (2 Sam 24). That was a lesson David never forgot! But it is important to note that our author insists that such discipline comes from God’s love for those sons he is bringing to glory. Severe discipline only comes to those who have violated great responsibility or who are being trained for tough assignments. Many Christians today have testified that God got their attention only after some severe trial or circumstance came upon them!

(IVPNT) Heb 12:4

towel throwing

Travelling on from Mahon Falls I started a new voice recording that fills in a little of the background of the why and how of my journey to Mahon Falls and what happened there. I din’t have my map when talking so the abbey is Bridgetown Abbey just outside Castletownroche, not near Tallow.

“So I was travelling towards Waterford but in a very meandering kind of a way. I went to an abbey, I went into Dungarven, and I’d just left Dungarven and I was meandering along, obviously going too slow for the rest of the traffic. I was going 80 they wanted to go 100. They were not pleased and I saw this sign that said “Mahon Falls” and I thought…

“D’you know let’s go look at a waterfall”

So I did. Now it was 11 kilometres and a few wrong turns of course cos it wouldn’t  be me driving if there wasn’t wrong turns and my SatNav was going crazy and well eventually, well I stopped a few times to take photos cos it was just so awesome and beautiful and the red or russet tones on the hillsides, on the mountains. It was just awesome and there were some sheep who wanted their photo taken. And they were like saying “pick me” and there were some really weird sheep, they were painted red, but all over so they looked like little red sheep. So took some photos of them but from a distance.

I arrived at the car park of Mahon Falls, now I don’t know what I was thinking but I got out of the van expecting I suppose that the waterfall was going to be there, so I was thinking a bit like, Torc, you can park and then a few hundred yards and the waterfall is there. And it wasn’t. And I was a bit cross.

But I thought well I’ll walk to the first rise and I’ll take some photos and that’ll be fine. And as I was walking to the first rise and thinking about all the beautiful things that had happened to me that day. I mean there was a time, I was at the abbey, it is an abbey near Tallow, Bridgewater perhaps?

I was at this abbey, and I was just so, it was just so quiet and I just thought, I just wish and I know I am travelling down to Waterford cos I’m working tomorrow, but wouldn’t it be great if I could have two days. Wouldn’t it be great to have two days. And then I got to Fermoy. Went to supervalu and got my provisions. So frugality out the window, strawberries, raspberries and celery for the two lunches and bananas, apples, tomatoes and satsumas for dinner.

I was talking to the woman at the checkout and I was saying how that I was travelling down to Waterford because I was working the next day and I was having such a blast getting down there. Because I was taking photos, I was enjoying myself, just soaking in the views, and praying to God and just being still, and not doing … really … The driving, I never count that as doing, it is just a way of travelling whether I am walking or running, or driving it is just a method of moving.

So I got out to the car park at supervalu, and before I’d gone into supervalu, I thought I’d lost my phone, I thought I’d left my phone at home, and I was thinking oh right okay, I’ve left my phone at home, when I get to the hotel, I’ll click onto the wifi and send Sean a quick text message, pick up my phone and look after it for the next days, if anyone wants me, tell them I’m not there.

And so I really thought I’d lost my phone, or left it at home. I looked one more time for my phone. And found it, And I put it back down again, ….    and it rang. And it was a number that didn’t tell me who it was, and so I thought well I’ll answer this it might be a delivery guy. And it was Ruth. All apologies, because the clinic is cancelled. I told her I was happy it was cancelled. I am still going to Waterford and I am still going to enjoy myself.

So I find myself at Mahon Falls, And I am walking and thanking God, because, my one dayday, my mini vacation day, had now become a mini retreat. It is just me and God.

And nobody else.

And I need that time because. I am having the collywobbles. And I am not acceptable is coming again. I’m not clean enough is coming again. Why would anybody want me to lead a congregation is coming again.

And so I was thanking God and I was walking, to the first rise, I’m going to take photos, cos I was ill prepared. I was not dressed to go walking. I get to the first top of the rise. And I look down and the waterfall seems ever so far away, but I’ve a zoom camera so I took a zoomed picture.

But I felt called to go to the next rise. And everytime I did this and did it a number of times, I would stop at the top of the rise and I thought I would take a picture here cos, always looking for sermon illustrations and small group illustrations. I’ll take a picture and that’ll do fine. Water cascading down waterfall. But as I got closer, the last rise before I came to the rivery bit. I noticed that some of the water was in the main part of the waterfall was falling differently to the rest. And this started to spur me on. Now bear in mind heeled boots, skirt, not dressed to go across a river. No matter how many stepping stones there are. And when you include my balance issue, – not prepared at all. And expensive camera, very not prepared.

So I got to the first bit of the river. It was stream, it wasn’t a river. But it was water and it was moving and there were stones in it. And I am looking at it and I realised that I never actually go across these things unless someone’s with me in case I can’t back and they have to help me back. I never do them on my own. Even if I was wearing trainers, I would always have someone with me. I can’t do it on my own. I have this fear of getting stuck. Fear of not being able to get back to where I was, and I will climb any stone, any rock, any hill, as long as someone’s with me, who can help me down cos I’m, not very good at getting back down again. My balance goes all over the place, more so when I am coming back down. But these were wee little stepping stones, and I’m thinking will I won’t I?

What will I do? And I looked up at the waterfall and I just couldn’t get the right picture, not matter how much zoom I put on it I couldn’t work out why some of it was slower or different than the rest. So very wobbly, got across the first stream, got a bit further and went across the second stream and the third was a bit of tight squeeze but we managed to do with only a little bit of mud going on the boots and a damp bottom. And got across.

And then the path changed from being a gravelly path to being mud or ground. It would have been dry ground hait been the middle of summer but because it was Spring and we’ve had the wet spell, it was muddy-ish. So I hato tip toe because you can’t walk with high heels in mud, you sink so tip toed and got as close to the waterfall as I possibly could. And then I sat on a stone and I just lookeat it. I didn’t take a photo of it. I just looked at it.

Mahon Falls is like a multi layer cascade. At the very top there is a thin channel, where all the water is going at the same speed. And then it goes to the side through another bit and that was out of view at this angle. And then there was the bit, the bit that had been bugging me all along, the bit that I just had to go and look at. And in the middle of the waterfall there was water just pouring down the rock quite slowly and then either side of that there were two channels. One was going very fast and one was going fast. But because I was now so close to the waterfall I could see there were another two smaller waterfalls, or two smaller channels and this water was just doing its own thing.

And then all this water pooled into the bottom, I assume I couldn’t see that, but it all came to the next little fall altogether again.

And I just thought that – that is like us, we are all made new creations, and that’s the beginning of our journey, we are madenew creations, the past is gone. But how we then walk, or how we then travel is different for each of us. Some of us travel fast and some of us travel slow. And some of us go at the side and a different route. But we all come down into a pool that cascades down the same again.

And I think God was telling me that yes, I am different, I don’t have a massive heritage of Methodism within me, I am different. But he still loves me. And he loves me just as much as anybody that is seeped in Methodist history, anybody that knew John Wesley personally, anybody that knew Jesus personally. He loves me the same. And He has a purpose for me.

And so there I was at my waterfall, looking at my waterfall, and because on Friday I was due to have a meeting where I was about to throw the towel in again and say, this is it. I am too different. I am not the same, I can’t, why would I bother fighting, this whatever it is. I am too different, I am unacceptable to the church. I am throwing the towel in before I have even started really this race.

And then I turned around. ..

I sat there for some time. But eventually I realised I would have to go back up, because every time I had gone down, I was thinking I’ve got to go back up that. And my back, my sciatica was sort of like saying Yes you do! Ow! And I was thinking about the streams, and I was thinking about all the things and how difficult, how more difficult it was going to be to get back.

So I turned around, to head back and there was a rainbow. And today is not a day for rainbows, I have a friend in the States called Charlene and she tells me there can’t be a rainbow there because there is no rain. And I told her to make her own with glass beads in a window. And there was a rainbow for me, there was no rain. There was not a cloud in the sky, today is 9 degrees, and blue sky and absolutely gorgeous. And there was a rainbow. It was a spectrum, there was no bow. At Mahon Falls there is a curve of mountains, around the falls. The sun was beginning to go behind one of the mountains. It was about quarter to three in the afternoon. And you see, that is the other thing that had happened all day, was I kept catching a glimpse of a spectrum in the sky, but not fully seeing it, just sort of like “I’m there” Just out of the corner of my eye I kept seeing them. And it was very weird. But for the first time I had my camera handy and about to walk I took photos of this spectrum. I don’t feel the need to prove that I have seen a moonbow, or that I have seen a rainbow on a cloud, but sometimes other people need to know. Sometimes other people need the proof, so I thought right I’ll take this photo. Well I have never had so much trouble taking a photo in all my days. No matter what way I put the camera, Trying to angle it up I couldn’t. It just would not take the photograph of the spectrum. So I have ten photos of mist, and the spectrum that was in the middle of it I don’t think I got it. And I was crying, I was, water was coming down my face, it wasn’t crying, it was tears of joy. Because every time I get to the point where I throw in the towel, I never actually get to throw in the towel. I get to say I’m going to throw in the towel, I get to verbalise it, I get all the way through to that point but then when the time actually comes for me to actually physically get hold of the towel and throw it on the ground, I get a spectrum. Or I get a rainbow, or in the middle of the night, a moonbow, I get God telling me, that He is with me, this is His will, whatever way it works out, it is His decision,

And I may not be acceptable to the church, I may not, but it is not for me, to throw in the towel.

I must continue on.

Persevere

Keep going

And step out in faith

Just like going across those streams

One step at a time

Cos that’s what He wants me to do.

And I am not going to diss’ Him

So there’ll be no throwing in the towel, on Friday.”

small5

small4

small2

small3

small

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

being prepared for waterfalls

Preach the word; 

be prepared in season and out of season;

correct, rebuke and encourage—

with great patience and careful instruction.   2 Timothy 4:2

This is a transcription of the beginning of my thought process at Mahon Falls on 12th March 2014 at about 2.15pm. The out loud conversation stopped because there were other people passing and then I began to pray to God rather than speak out loud to myself. The full story is on another tape and I will transcribe that next. For fullness and to be honest I have put the audio file here too. The heavy breathing is my very unfit form trying to negotiate the path.

“Totally and utterly ill prepared to travel to Mahon Falls. I’ve got high heeled boots on a wee skirt, no coat. Totally ill prepared for the journey which is on little stones, loose stones on a path. I suspect it is a better path now than it used to be. If a hundred years ago I was making this journey my feet would be sinking into mossy, muddy ground.

But it makes me wonder…

Am I ready for this next journey, am I prepared, have I got everything I need for it.

In Timothy it says “Be prepared”

If I was going to school I’d have my pencil case, my pens and my pencils, I’d have my ruler, I’d have my books and I’d have my exercise books or copies. I’m not really sure what I need.

And it’s not because I’m not sure where or what or how God wants me to move. It’s because there’s people.

And I’m not sure. Two things.

Firstly I’m not sure I’m acceptable enough for them. I’m not sure that my lack of Methodist tradition is going to be a hinderance to them. I’m not sure that Irish speakers are going to speak Irish to me and the non-Irish speakers are not going to want me to speak Irish. I’m not sure how to traverse those two traditions. I’m not sure how I fit in with their tradition. I think I might be too different for them. I think I might be just too unacceptable for them.

In recent days I have been talking and writing to people who have been found lacking and I can’t see anything wrong with them. And so if they were not acceptable how could I possibly be acceptable.

Then…

The second point. Is all the changes people are making for me. Telling me that I should act a certain way, telling me that I should play the game, telling me that I should listen to the politics, telling me that I should change the way I dress, change the way I talk, change everything about me. Different people want to change a different aspect of me, and if everybody changed every part of me, there’d be nothing left of me. There’d be nothing left of the creation God made. And I’d just be a cardboard cutout of what other people want me to be. I hear how people in the church no matter what their status (if you want to call it that or position) have messed up. People like to tell me how their particular minister or their lay pastor, or their pastor or their local preacher have upset them and they want me to adapt so they won’t be upset by me.

I am what I am. The honesty that is me is all I have to offer. The fact that I have nothing else that I can say is belonging to me, I can’t pretend a huge tradition, cos I don’t have it. I can’t pretend to dress how Methodists have always dressed because I haven’t been a Methodist and I can’t afford Jaegar.

What I have is the ability to immediately walk along side someone, to encourage them, to admonish them, to shepherd then and I didn’t realise but I have been shepherding for over a year now. But just not in a congregation. Or that congregation is world wide and sporadic and small. And I am not trying to get people to think exactly the same way that I think we are all individual we are all unique, we are uniquely made and therefore we think uniquely. That uniqueness though once it is stamped with the tattoo of God we can come together, all differences together.

We preach that all the time, we hear that all the time. So how come it’s not acceptable when you’re going forward. Or is it just people’s perceptions cos no minister’s said this to me. It’s just people.

You have to whiter than white, you have to be above reproach, I get that. And I am living above reproach, I have been doing for some time now. “

proudly humble (?)

I saw cherry blossom yesterday, not once or twice but six times. It was the same bush, I was lost. I wanted to stop and take a photo but was focused on being unlost. It was a lovely reminder as always that Spring is almost here.

One of my favourite arrivals into the garden is the fragile fritillaria meleagris. First of all it is drop dead gorgeousness of it. The delicate chequered purple and traces of white are divinely made (obviously)

BUT

Unlike it’s show off cousin the tulip. The  fritillaria:

Holds its head humbly, allowing the wind to move it

Remains the right size for its stem

Its beauty is to be found, it will never show it off

Although the fritillaria is beautiful you must seek it out. A tulip stands proud on a long stem, saying “look at me, aren’t I the pretty one, the most important one, ally yourself with me.” A fritillaria stands in prayer, head bowed, and says “I was made by the Creator for the Creator first and foremost but if you find me you will be loved, because first He loved me”

That proud tulip gets its head blown off in the wind, the fritillaria wafts gently in the breeze.

dead

BUT

The fritillaria knows its place, it knows that if it were to grow tall like the tulip it would die, so it stays where it is and lets the tulips do their thing.

frit

Question: Better to stay as you are and not try anything new? Hunker down and let your inner beauty shine? Or step out in faith, into the breeze and make one more step forward?

There is nothing wrong with staying put, but is it what you were called to do. Stepping out of the boat might seem stupid with all those sharks around but maybe you (or I) just have to.

I’m just saying…

 

Are you a hazard tree? (like me)

sorry

Is it possible that through what comes out of your mouth, what you have done or the way you act based on your thought  processes that you have become a hazard to those around you?

Why do I ask this?

A couple of weeks ago I got really angry. Somebody was being treated unfairly and because I loved this person and felt powerless to stop the unfairness I became angry. It is so long since I have felt this fury within me that I didn’t know what to do with it.

On reflection, I remember what I used to do but that is with hindsight. And lots of notes to myself:

Knead dough

Go for a run

Play rugby or football

Get physical but not personal

Spring clean

Weed

Kneading dough, baking bread is one of the most satisfying occupations, in the UK, in some churches they have bread making classes as an outreach. This is not just about all the scripture we can talk about whilst baking bread but in the making of the bread therapeutic bashing is allowed. In my past life many an actual skull has been saved by thumping a piece of dough.

Physical activity of any kind has brought me from angry to accomplished. There is nothing quite like reaching the top of Torc, or getting through a gruelling football training session to get rid of all vilent anger.

Weeding in the garden, that sense of satisfaction when each weed is brutally killed, or spring cleaning a room or an entire house.

All of these activities expend energy and breathing becomes laboured, deep lung filling breathing and with each breath the anger dissipates a little.

But I had forgotten all of these. And I was angry. Knowing you are angry but also knowing your thoughts, words and deeds must be well seasoned. I suddenly understood what someone once told me about Christians and depression. We are taught not to be angry, we are encouraged to live in faith and the fruit of the Spirit are evidence seen in our lives.

Anger is not a fruit of the Spirit. Therefore should we have it? Well yes, anger is a human emotion but what we do with it that sets us apart. So I stopped talking as much, one word where ten or twenty would have been there. The number of times I had to turn immediately back to people and say I was sorry, it was not them, I didn’t mean what I said or I did mean it but not so vociferously.

So there I was a person who people consider mature, acting like a child, but knowing it was wrong and saying sorry a lot. I had a dream in the middle of this chaos, involving death, family and letting go or cosseting. I let go of my anger, I gave it to Jesus to look after for me for a while. He took my toxicity and made me healthy again.

When a tree is damaged either by some kind of disease or weather conditions it becomes a hazard. There is no accounting for which trees will be hazards and which will continue to thrive. Really old trees with massive root systems have been floored in Kerry during our recent storms. Whole rows of poplars have gone but in some rows only a few were floored.

Did I ever feel like walking away from God in my anger? No

Did I ever ask him “why me” “why now” ? Yes, many times

Did He answer? Yes

The problem is that us,  like trees form a web of roots that weave in and out with others roots. Trees only have a few roots that travel down, most travel outwards forming close knit ties with the next tree. And that’s how some trees are felled. One toxic tree falls and brings others down.

One toxically angry person (me) infects those around me. The problem, the thing that made me seethe in anger has not gone, but my perspective is restored and the anger has dissipated into the ether.

Finally, just like RTE says, “if you have been affected by anything in the above passage there is a number you can call. In other words if I have snapped at you in the last week or so, I sincerely from the bottom of my heart, apologise.”