We don’t have the same supernatural experience … but our own .. ?! Maybe a little lost…
Prayer: Now this is where I really start to see something out of today:
Give us the grace to look for you among the crowds and the perseverance to find you even among the commotion. Keep out hearts and our attention fixed on you. Amen.
Christmas Action: Honour your own baptism…
Well, I think I was baptised as a child – so is it that, or the first personal decision (Billy Graham), or coming to an understanding of Grace (Oak Hall)… ?! Every step on the journey is important, right?
Small Gifts, Big Consequences: (from The Road to Daybreak)
From Seed Resources
The world like things to be large, big, impressive, and elaborate. God chooses the small things which are overlooked in the big world.
Nouwen uses the story of the loaves and the finishes to demonstrate that ‘what little we give away multiplies’.
This is the way of God. The little love we have, the little knowledge we have, the little advice we have, the little possessions we have, are given to us as gifts of God to be given away. The more we give them away, the more discover how much there is to give away.
This is what we seek to do in bringing together a range of voices in Big Bible - the more we each contribute our small mite, the more the possibilities for conversation open up.
The Discipline of Generosity (from The Return of the Prodigal Son)
Generosity is a sign of moving from fear to love… overcoming emotions/feelings that hold me back from freely giving.
The root of ‘gen’ as being our ‘kinfolk’ – giving out of the relationship, rather than waiting for the feelings to be right…
Be great to think of more small ways to give generously … is making me think about how technology/micro-payments have made it so much easier to support others (especially in times of not having much ££, though generosity of time, etc. is also important) – e.g. JustGiving, PayPal, etc. allow a gesture of support with a small donation – and more people are looking to work together – look to 50 people for small donations – and encourage them to support your work more than just financially – rather than 1 big chunk of money from somewhere – it’s inspiring…
“do not fret over those who prosper in their way” – so much worry about how others are doing, rather than rejoicing that they are doing well – and finding our own path…
The righteous are generous and keep giving … truly seen this happen with many in my communities (online, offline, blended – you name it) – especially in terms of time, encouragement, and practical support!
God = beyond all generosity – gave us love – out of which we can find the strength to give.
Christmas Action “Accept the challenges of life without moaning and groaning about them.”
Fear and hostility are not limited to our encounters with burglars, drug addicts or strangely behaving types. In a world so pervaded with competition, even those who are very close to each other, such as classmates, teammates, colleagues in work, can become infected by fear and hostility when they experience each other as a threat to their intellectual or professional safety.”
This is one of the most depressing things to observe – especially in Christian work – where we could be working together, doing great things, but ego still fights through (and even noted in the way that things that are funded – when it becomes more “dangerous” to give things away/share for free…). Big Bible was set up to allow a space to share what’s already on the net, and also to add some new content to that, and those values can be tricky to adhere to always… Had been thinking about this this morning – and pinned the above pic to Pinterest!
Almost a “WWJD” verse? We have a race before us (our own race, but we can encourage others also in their races, support what they are doing, etc.) – Jesus is the one we look to to inspire us, also remembering that he endured the Cross … so that we may not “grow weary or lose heart.”
Prayer: Teach us to disregard the difficulties/hostilities aimed at us, knowing nothing can remotely equal the ignominy of death on the cross.
I always think that this kind of comment should be accompanied by a note that the cross was horrendous, but that doesn’t mean that our sufferings do not count… God is with us in them…
Christmas Action: Take responsibility today for one action you would rather not claim. That’s a saying that is accompanied by a slightly sick feeling, though I can’t think of anything I’d want to do this about at the moment … usually the sick feeling won’t go away til action is taken … so… ones I can think of done at the mo!
The Discipline of Gratitude (from The Return of the Prodigal Son)
Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of complaint.
e.g. see ‘3 Good Things‘, or this jar idea. I certainly did this the year after I was put on antidepressants and it made every day more manageable to scribble, or often draw, 2-3 things that you were grateful for in the day, and allowed appreciation of the small things also.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” … I’ve been very privileged to be working on Big Bible for the past couple of years where I get to hear great content from lots of different people, giving me more insights into the Bible – and (today) we started using a different book of the Bible as inspiration each month, starting with Genesis.
Prayer: As we pray in God’s name – we declare who he is to us…
Christmas Action: I’m just going to write this out in full:
Be grateful today for all the “little things” done for you that you often may take for granted. Recall this Estonian Proverb: “Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.”
An encouragement not to over-think much of what happens in the Bible – especially in the story of the Presentation at the Temple.We just have to be part of the story? Walk with them, listen to those who give us stories – maybe strange/frightening… step in & allow them to surround us.
Good to know that this evening as fighting off a headache …so can get out for NY Eve dinner…
Simeon – who had been promised by God that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah:
God, you can now release your servant;
release me in peace as you promised.
With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation;
it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:
A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,
and of glory for your people Israel.
Prayer: “Lord, prepare us for your presence then, now, and forever, Amen”
Love this as a prayer. Short, sweet and to the point. A bit like some tweets…
Christmas Action: Visit an older member of community/family who is alone – bring smiles as gifts.
Does smiling at the many older people in the swimming pool today count?
The values of childhood? “The eternal Son became a child so that I might become a child again and so reenter with him into the Kingdom of the Father”
Children = purer, not polluted by the world, speaks as they find it is the one I always think of … dreams big and believes everything is possible!
How Great is the Reward! Luke 6:20-21. Blessings for being poor, hungry & crying … (always wonder how we respond when people ask us about this… all v well saying blessings in heaven – can make it hard for people to listen to us… is also great joy in living still on earth).
Prayer: Beatitude = “Supreme blessedness or happiness” – be blessed rather than with superficial happiness. Sorrow for sins rather than tears over our worldly losses…
Christmas Action: Give something away – e.g. a place in the supermarket queue or do a chore for someone…
Sounds quite like experiences of depression – waiting for the dawn, clinging to all kinds of things hoping that this time there will be a different way out … but that if listen “to our restless hearts” we may find joy in sadness, peace in fears, and compassion in the midst of greed.
I guess I’ve been taking time out this week – Christmas for many = a mad shopping rush … I ended up with much of mine from a couple of places in Prague (small, but something not available in the UK …) so was done, knew I was having a quiet Christmas, and seeking a week away from responsibilities. So what have I done (just thinking this through for myself, and seeing the joy in what has been some sad times) – I’ve been here since Thursday evening:
I slept a lot (always good!), kept up with #adventbookclub, and wrote my thank yous!
I got to spend time with my Mum/Dad and youngest brother & family
Been out for one walk (usually pushing myself down the gym)… probably need some fresh air now.. .
Read 3 out of the 8 books that I planned to for #DigitalParenting, but created a clear bibliography, and got myself going on it …
Read the last 5 of the Narnia series & started to think how could use in #BigRead13
Read about 5 nonsense novels & watched several films
Kept content going on #BigBible whilst managing to detach from emails, and largely on social media for ‘fun’!
I’m far too good at looking at the huge pile of what still needs to be done … so thought I would enjoy what I have done … So shortly it is time to pack up & head back north – First Class had cheap tickets so should be enjoyable, right, despite the 2 changes!
Prayer: Surrender sackcloth & weeping to joyously praise in song.
Christmas Action: Practice cheerfulness (hmm, always have reservations about this, it’s good to look on the positive side of life, but sometimes that just leaves people feeling even more misunderstood & that there must be something wrong that they can’t be positive about all kinds of things …). I did find that writing a thankfulness diary, however, allows increased cheerfulness … Trying to find the balance between those pat Christian answers, and those which are genuine encouragements to heed…
Stretching out our hearts to God: (from Reaching Out)
“When God swells in us, we can enter in a wordless dialogue with him while still waiting on the day that he will lead us into the house where he has prepared a place for us.”
Henry Ward Beecher- “Prayer covers the whole of a man’s life. There is no thought, feeling, yearning or desire, however low, trifling, or vulgar we may deem it, which, if it affects our real interest or happiness, we may not lay before God and be sure of sympathy. His nature is such that our often coming does not tire him. The whole burden of the whole life of every man may be rolled on to God and not weary him, though it has wearied the man.”
Billy Graham – “Prayer is spiritual communication between man and God, a two-way relationship in which man should not only talk to God but also listen to Him. Prayer to God is like a child’s conversation with his father. It is natural for a child to ask his father for the things he needs.”
“Remember that you can pray any time, anywhere. Washing dishes, digging ditches, working in the office, in the shop, on the athletic field, even in prison — you can pray and know God hears!”
“Avail yourself of the greatest privilege this side of heaven. Jesus Christ died to make this communion and communication with the Father possible.”
“There is a much more human option to reevaluate the past as a continuing challenge to surrender ourselves to an unknown future.” I know that Anna Blanch does this formally every year, and this piece caught my eye a few minutes ago:
But as we ritually look forward, do we sometimes neglect to spend enough time looking back? Reflecting on the past year – thinking not only about the things that went badly and might provoke change, but also those moments of joy, success and learning? Do you do that? I know I don’t do it nearly enough. I certainly don’t dwell on the many clear instances of God’s goodness. The final few days of the year provide a perfect opportunity to give some serious thought to the lessons of the year – to remember where God has been at work in us, and even to recall the times when he has seemed silent. Martin Saunders, Youthwork Magazine Blog
“We can see that a growing surrender to the unknown is a sign of spiritual maturity and does not take away autonomy”. Trying to understand what he’s saying in other bits attempting some paraphrasing: In surrendering ourselves we leave ourselves free to be guided, knowing that there is more ahead in our lives, in which we can do many important things & if a loved one dies allows us more freedom [not sure I like that bit - but thenlikeis not always best]. Certainly giving up Winchester/so many friends there has left me free to pursue what I believe I’m supposed to be doing in Durham, creating a new circle of friends ..
Prayer: ”Let us firmly believe that the paths you point out to us are the ones we must take.” Reminds me (again) of bits of Narnia that I’ve been reading – when children ask Aslan what would have happened if they had made a different choice, and he says that is not for them to know – they have made their choice and has been put on that path (they are not puppets – he guides, but does not force, and they take the consequences, but he is with/alongside them whatever their choice).
Christmas Action: Thank God for the giftedness & company of another…
“Names tell stories… in His name I am called to live. .. His name has to start telling the story of being born, growing up, growing old, and dying – revealing a God who loved us so much that he sent his only child to us.”
Persecution in Jesus’ Name: Luke 21: 15-18. Hmmm, cheerful! But ends on encouragement that ‘not a hair of your head will perish’ … having just read The Last Battle - C.S. Lewis’ heaven sounds lush – so even if do die…!
Prayer: God cares for every hair on our head, but others may betray us. “Help us to ensure this treachery, this hatred, in your name. Amen.”
Just got sidetracked by seeing my contribution to #onlinecarols2012 go live … full service at 2pm today – coming join in at @onlinepraise!
God came to use because he wanted to join us on the road, to listen to our story, and help us realise that we are not walking in circles but moving towards the house of peace and joy.
Now earlier today @sallysjourney linked to a story re Christmas goose … but on Facebook, immediately as I thought I’d like to link to it, I saw it come up in blog post – so go about half-way down and seek out the goose analogy for the coming of God to this world – he came to be with us, to help us understand in which direction we should be going! We don’t have to struggle on our own – we can accept God’s invitation not to be afraid.
25-26 “If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
27-29 “Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.
30-33 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.
Prayer: You often said ‘Be not afraid’. “May your message sink into our heart and offer us merciful consolation and joyful assurances of your unending card and concern. Amen”
Advent Action: The mistletoe – has no root – cannot grow without something to cling onto. Include a sprig as a reminder that we are dependent upon God..
I had a nasty feeling that today’s topic was going to be on forgiveness … just because of some stuff going on at the moment – people I’ve forgiven for one thing, but behaviour since is very hard to forgive… trying to find the balance between forgiveness & not lying down like a doormat/standing up for justice – sigh = not straightforward! In the last week I’ve talked to Stephen Cherry about his book Healing Agony: Re-Imagining Forgiveness, as we may run some webinars, etc. for #bigbible. Book blurb as follows:
One of the most profound challenges a human being can ever face is how to forgive in the aftermath of injury, hurt or violation. Healing Agony explores the theology of forgiveness alongside a number of contemporary forgiveness stories in order to glean insights for those facing just this challenge. While God’s forgiveness is revealed to be a simpler matter than is sometimes imagined, forgiveness between human beings is shown to be far more difficult, enigmatic and open-ended. This book offers a map of the rugged terrain that victims of serious harm, or those who seek to accompany them, will need to navigate if they embark on the venture of trust we call forgiveness.
I’m also friends with someone who works with The Forgiveness Project , and good to talk, but still a little jumpy after a Christian event (few years ago) where I was told “If you say I forgive, it will happen” – not convinced it works like that … especially if don’t feel is responsibility taken/repentance…
Today’s reading is helpful, and it feels right to stand out/pray for a little more, so, again, I am going to type out in full:
In forgiving we are still in control, “I forgive you.” But to be forgiven by you means first of all I have to say, “I’m sorry. There is something that I didn’t do for you.” That is hard and puts me in a vulnerable position, in a dependent position. I have handed you over to suffering… Somehow I have failed you. I am sorry I failed you. I am sorry that I wasn’t the kind of mother, or father, or friend, or brother, or sister, or neighbour, whatever that I wanted to be. Can you forgive me? It is not just asking the individual. It is having the ability to say “God, can you forgive me?” Can I be open to forgiveness? Then your heart can move from the hardened heart to the heart of flesh.
So, that’s more about being forgiven – and naturally, we have many things – small and large, we should ask forgiveness for …
As someone with a fascination for community I am going to copy this whole bit out:
Parker Palmer, a spiritual writer of the Quaker tradition, says community is the place where the person you least want to live with always lives. So community is not like a place where you love each other sort of freely and warmly and affectionately. Community is in fact the place where you are purified, where your love is tested, where your childhood of God is constantly put through the mill of human relationships. That is what community is. Community is a place where Judas always is and sometimes it is just you.
What I have been seeking to do with Big Bible – it’s certainly not about me, but about finding a range of voices, and giving them an opportunity to speak … Some I might agree with, some I may not..
I wondered if this was chosen, as with Catholic nuances in this text, there’s more of an adoration for the apostles, but I see that in each community that we live, we get to know the names of those in the community with us, there may be weaker members … but – am I reading too much – we can do much together!
Prayer: “Let us understand that our gatherings into church, family, and neighbourhood as a way to find you in the midst of imperfections and humanness – especially our own”.
Advent Action: “Love enough to remove one annoyance you know is a cause of irritation to another”
[Maybe I should stop annoying my Mum by being still in my PJs, sat in bed at 1pm!]
So … once we realise how beloved of God we are, we will recognise that all others are beloved of God … we are all special/equal in the eyes of God. I hope this is how I live my life already…
Now what is particularly interesting here is the way that Nouwen indicates how being ‘special’ to God is different from how the world sees it – the world sees ‘special’ as ‘different from everyone else’ and e.g. awards are valuable because not everyone gets an award (I guess that’s where some of the debates about CNMAC etc have come from). The world says we have to compete to be better than others – rather than supporting/encouraging others from where they are… (coaching perspective…?)
“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
This is a verse that’s often used as an argument against “Christian celebrities”, but we are in the world (if not of the world), and if we want the world to listen, we have to participate in being part of that world, but with the right approach…
Love this video… Jesus managed without Facebook (because it wasn’t invented – naturally) – but we have these powerful communications tools at our fingertips – share with the world:
Prayer: Take away our desires to be the best, greatest, famous, popular, etc… and a willingness to be the last, least important, etc…
Advent Action: Well, we’ve been looking at some options for thankfulness on Big Bible … Make a list of blessings/benefits given to us, give thanks, and share as possible…
“when you can hear in your heart, not in your head, that you are truly God’s beloved daughter… everything turns around.”
Certainly spent long enough thinking through whether “really” accepted … was then going say had a ‘feeling of peace’ – but even then can’t trust feelings, just have to trust, and go ahead on that basis.
Loved before we were born, and after we die (and whilst we’re living too I hope!) .. that always raises questions for me about if I was chosen, what about anyone else – then I think we are all chosen, but we have to choose to want to be chosen? Does that make any sense..
Prayer: ‘Consecrated us into your care’ …
Advent Action: “Wear a sprig of holly as a sign of our goal to do good and as a symbol of eternal life.” I have holly in my garden I have seen – with berries and everything …
Can I just say… it’s been a lovely day. I managed to get up on time, fought the wind/rain, the bus arrived 60 seconds after getting to the stop, stopped early, got to train station in plenty of time, got a good seat, got some work done, arrived early enough in London to pop off to Kensal Green to pick up the authentic Brazilian flavouring for black beans (I got a taste for it when I lived in Mogi das Cruzes), arrived in plenty of time for giving a talk at Oasis College, which I really enjoyed, and the staff/students seemed to enjoy/find helpful, posted a tweet to see if anyone wanted to meet at Liverpool Street as finished in plenty of time, and got to meet with @batty_towers for a 20 min chat, before a decent seat on the train, picked up by my Mum, nice meal, and now heading to bed with Book 3 of the Narnia Series – that’s The Horse and His Boy as far as my series is concerned .. whilst catching up with Rhod Gilbert’s Work Experience as a police officer… Prayers for good sleep & concentration for the forthcoming week
Prepare the Way of the Lord: (from The Road to Daybreak)
Advent – intended to be deep time to prepare for the coming of Christ (not the presents, etc.). Christ wants to join us – but we need to be truly open (in order to hear, etc…)
A reminder of the difference between the urgent & the important … Time disappears in a whirl .. and we think we have all day to take time for prayer – and suddenly it’s evening (oh yes, know that feeling – not that I’ve ever planned an actual day of prayer!!)
It’s been a long day, bed is overdue, but I want to look at today’s (well, yesterday) material…
We are frail human beings .. and so many give into the temptation of power .. not always obvious sorts of power. Chasing celebrity maybe? It’s a debate that sometimes goes on in my head … we need good spokespeople for the church/Jesus, but how do we ensure that those people are well-informed, in touch with a wide range of opinions, and don’t get lost in a climb to power. Similar arguments could apply to chasing qualifications…
But the image I’ve found offers to fill us with power… but I guess not power focused on self…
I’ve quite often returned to ‘The Message’ version of this:
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I’m always trying to learn how to get a better balance, and take time to rest … we only get one shot and “no one ever said I wish I’d spent more time in the office”… much as I love my job, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between work/leisure … life is more than deadlines … And I can hear Brian Draper talking about ‘unforced rhythms of grace’!
However busy the space is… quiet spaces can be found… here’s a pic I took in London:
“Life is Advent” – be alert for the coming of God – recognise that he is coming at all times…
Of particular interest – bearing in mind my particular interest in #MediaLit13 - is that ‘read in the daily papers’ for signs of the coming of God (alongside friends, family, teachers…). As a lecturer in media studies (though I don’t think you need that to notice..) – we know that papers tend to focus upon the bad news, so that does make me wonder how we find the good news of God’s coming..
Just makes me think of that twisted view that we should have ‘fun’ then ask for forgiveness when old … but we never know when God is coming, or when we may meet with an accident, etc. Once we look past the ‘rigid rules’ of so much ‘religion’, and accept that we are finally enabled to ‘live life to the full’ why would we want to wait? Keep calm, carry on with life, and enjoy the time when it comes … #thinkingaloud
Prayer: Pray for alertness- as a Dr ‘watches for signs of returning health’ [so much thought of analogies after the Cranmer Hall Christmas Party last night!]. My brain is tweaking at the words ‘endurance’ to watch…
Advent Action: Up early 15 mins, or to bed 15 mins later to ‘watchfully wait & pray’ – do we not do this as we go about our daily lives?
Two women = changing history (always inspiring, but particularly so here)
“How can I ever let God’s grace fully work in my life unless I live in a community of people who can affirm it, deepen it, and strengthen it?”
Community is an endless fascination to me – I always sought to create it as a Guide leader, as an Oak Hall leader, and feedback was that people, who had come individually felt part of a proper community – if only for a short time. What I love is that social media has enabled us to extend the time of that community – some loose bonds, and some have developed into strong bonds – and that’s what I’m seeing happen among those that join Big Bible… and that’s what keeps me going! Once a couple of other large commitments are out of the way, the plan is to undertake research into what it means to be in community online – and what the ‘reality’ of that looks like… and the other day I wrote a piece on this for Bible Reflections!
“He makes me lie down in green pastures…” – well, it’s been a little frosty for that today, but I have certainly spent most of today lying down, either dozing or reading Harry Potter. I have way too much work to do, but need some creativity which means need to catch up on sleep… And over the past few years I’ve definitely made my way through some really dark times…
Prayer: SO many daily distractions = short-sighted. How to pay full attention/truly listen?
Advent Action: Memorise a prayer helpful in times of trouble – a prisoner learnt the whole of Psalm 23.
Walking in the Presence of God: (from The Living Reminder)
Well, that’s a huge challenge to keep my mind ticking over all day – we thinking that ‘loving God with all our heart, mind & soul’ is to give “as much as possible”, but God wants ALL our heart, mind & soul. All of it… All of it…!
Sorry, am just going to chew over that for the rest of the day…
Claiming True Peace: “Keep your eyes on the Prince of Peace” – not spending his time chasing power, doing what others want of him … spends time with the poor & weak – speaking forgiveness & encouragement. POWERFUL in itself…
Fruits of the spirit in a different form: “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”?
Love, peace, unity – are these the things we are exhibiting to each other, to the world…? We can take no control of what others do, but as (digital or otherwise) disciples we can but seek to think about our own interactions & behaviours …
Prayer: Seek harmony in our lives as the angels did when announcing Christ’s birth … thinking back to last week’s sermon – “we are it” – as also outlined in Martin Saunders recent post… are we seeking harmony when we “announce” how amazing life with God is…
Advent Action: Hmmm, liturgical music expressing calm serenity – I’m not sure that Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas…” which Spotify chose to play at that time was exactly on the money! Pops off to YouTube…
I’ll listen to that whilst I go and look at Pam’s post.
Passionate Waiting: Not sure I can quite get my head around what is written in here … the tie in of passion & waiting makes some sense – in that if you are passionate about something, and that you recognise that change takes time … then it’s worth waiting for (thinking of knowledge about 1% changes, etc.)…
Waiting for the Lord: Isaiah 25:6, 8-9 - sounds like a good party – who said God was a stick in the mud ‘will wipe away the tears from all faces’, as we ‘rejoice in his salvation’.
Been reading a lot of The Narnia Chronicles at the moment as I prepare for #bigread13 .. I’ve read Rowan Williams book, read the first 2 of the series (starting with Magician’s Nephew), & watched the 3 recent films … giving me some interesting insights into living a life, and taking responsibility for our own lives!
Prayer: Beautiful prayer re: wiping away our own tears, recognition of blessings, but also that we recognise others that need our help – there’s so many opportunities to give small encouragements, etc… it’s not all about the big actions.
Advent Action: Requests us to say ‘yes, always’ to God. I always feel that I’m feeling my way with God – he’s probably being clear with what he’s saying to me – I don’t feel I can give an unqualified yes because I’m not sure if I’ve heard right or not – e.g. moving to Durham was a hard decision as I was giving up a permanent (if part time role) on 2 higher grade points than the new, contract based role – but despite things not being straightforward since arriving – - waiting on a lot of things – I still feel I’m in the right place, and the odd message of encouragement from others really helps keep that focus…
This bit stood out for me “To die to our neighbours means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus to become free to be compassionate. Compassion can never coexist with judgement because judgement creates distance, the distinction, which prevents us from really being with the other.”
I always think, who am I to judge anyone (although this then can bring criticism that we should be helping others on their Christian journey if we think that they need guidance) … life coaching training in particular gave me a real philosophy of “people start where they are – there is no where else to start”. People have to reach their own points when they are ready to change, and maybe they’ll ask for help to change … that does not mean that the behaviour of those others may not hurt in the meantime… but then I try and remove myself from that sphere of hurt…
A day-course on ‘change’ I went to many years ago – only 3 things are involved in situations – you, the other person/people, and the situation – which of those have you any ability to change?
Interesting – book is given in NIV ‘do not judge’ – I like comparing with The Message’ and “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment.”
My Winchester housegroup have always said they think I am good at accepting people as they are, and I think I have definitely become more and more accepting the more I have wrestled with my own issues through counselling … although maybe sometimes I should get more angry!
Prayer: Replace harshness with compassion… Amen!
Advent Action: Again, an interesting challenge – make a short list of those you dislike – even surreptitiously – expunge one from your negative thoughts.
Anger & Greed – “the inner side of a secular life, the sour fruits of our worldly dependencies. What else is anger than the impulsive response to the experiences of being deprived?” Hmmm, making me wonder about ‘righteous anger‘?
Definitely reminds me that we are to seek ‘grace’ in all that we do – we can disagree, we can be angry, but can we demonstrate a way that’s not “of this world” in doing so? Can we challenge what the world does? Reminds me of this interpretation that my Winchester church did the other week (thanks Facebook for allowing me to remain involved):
It’s a big challenge, especially for a cultural communications historian – I’m fascinated by how different cultures/people make meaning (from the same thing) – and reminds me of John Stott’s idea of “double listening“.
Prayer: Love the second half of this: “Help us to sever our dependencies on the world’s distraction and give us an opportunity to find ourselves in the shelter and safety of your wings”. Amen
Advent Action: Hmmm, forgo the world’s distractions for a day- but would a walk in the countryside be ‘the world’s distractions’? Unfortunately half of what he suggests is what I do for work, but tomorrow, however, I’m staying with friends in Winchester and will have a day that’s largely offline!!
We were not designed to live alone. Where are our circles of intimacy? Who is making you feel alive? Who says “You are a beautiful person, you are the beloved of God, don’t forget it?”. Not quite in those words, but I had a meeting this morning as having been in Durham for 3.5 months and my job description (which we knew was too big) has been threatening to engulf me … but having been told that are more than happy with what I’m doing, my health is important at the moment – take the time to sleep well, eat well, exercise well, socialise, etc. and know that you are doing a good job but you are more important!
This just brings back to mind some of the debates that I’ve seen on Twitter over the past few weeks:
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
What does this mean when we have theological disagreements? Do we listen to those with the loudest voice? Those with the best public profile? Those that ask the most questions? One of the people (amongst many) that I’ve seen dealing with the issue of #womenbishops gracefully is Claire (we had a tweetup in Winchester!)… but at what point does being full of grace mean sitting back, accepting the status quo – people need to be challenged she indicates more strongly in a later post.
In discussions on BigBible, have looked at the issue of tweeting in church – and looking at Romans 14:21 & the issue of not being a stumbling block to others in church. This doesn’t mean DON’T tweet in church (for some people it’s powerful), but be sensitive to those who don’t understand it – maybe raise it as a topic in church – explain you’re not playing Angry Birds, and I thought this was a great comment to take further:
… thinking about being/not being a stumbling block to others. What structures of accountability does the CU have. How far is Bristol CU in line/out of line with any National policy? I’m thinking that whatever heartfelt, prayerful reasons the group my have for making this decision, they need to think about the message it gives to the rest of campus, and the world and whether this is a legitimate conflict to enter in to. Is anyone , other than the media, calling them to account for the gospel?
And here’s a (tongue-in-cheek) thought as to what this would look like if the church demanded similar provision that has been acceded in the church for women bishops.
This Advent stuff is definitely making me think about what I engage in daily!
Prayer: I’m going to take the prayer as written:
Lord, we ask for the discipline needed to be a true member of our communities. May we choose and be chosen to be God’s beloved. Amen.
Advent Action: Interesting idea (not feeling crafty!): make a small tree on which to hang apples to remind of failings wishing to avoid this advent … hmm – what’s my equivalent! Just looking out of the window at Durham Cathedral reminds me of many things to be thankful for (way too aware of my failings, trying to concentrate more on what doing well!).
Staying Close to God: (from an interview in Liguorian Magazine, October 1992)
Interesting. Control what you take in every day. Having seen this blog post this morning, already have interesting ideas swirling around my head – always been my passion to be master of my technology, rather than have it be master of me – and taking time out from technology (or using technology differently) is also important. In many ways we have MORE control about what we see through out technology (bought up in a Brethren church we weren’t allowed a TV because of ‘bad messages’ coming from it or some such, and I never understood why not, as it has an OFF button) – although obviously we “pay” for much of the free services that we have through advertising etc and have little control over what/which we see. (Why I love history – shows that so many concerns/questions are recurring – e.g. looked at VD posters for PhD – in WW2, this was the first time that these came out of the toilets onto public display and a vocal minority were worried “Concerns, proved correct by the questionnaire respondent on page 222, were that children and young people would get a distorted view of sex, or that parents would have answer awkward questions.”
Nouwen says “It’s not a question of pushing bad things out but a question of holding on to something really good.”
He also advises having a “prayer on your lips wherever you go” – if you’re getting impatient in a queue, take the focus off yourself, and pray for e.g. the cashier who is trying to keep up! Nice!
Having watched so many debates degenerating online recently – particularly about #womenbishops & the UCCF story (not allowing women speakers) recently, a beautiful reminder “Live in peace with each other.”. This does not mean we have to agree with each other or stay silent, but be gracious… I liked this tweet from Martin Saunders
Although still debating what I think of his recommendation of:
Did you wish you could control taking that in?
“Always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” and ”give thanks in all circumstances”.
Prayer: A heart that overflows with gratitude … to wash away all worries. [Tears often give an opportunity to release fears that are bogged down - and an opportunity to discuss with others... thanks Cranmer Crew last night]
Advent Action: Be generous in your prayer for others and their well-being. Sara B has #trainprayer – wonder if I can find a particular spot like that … I usually have about 5 minutes on the bus!!
“The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the Christian life…”
This immediately makes me think of ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’, which my head translates as that the lack of something will make you notice it more. In a strange ‘head-jump’ this takes me to part of my PhD thesis, where I looked a VD posters, and what was missing tells us significant things as much as what is THERE:
“We note throughout that the assumed audience for these posters was a heterosexual one. In wartime homosexuality was illegal, and thus was not officially perceived to exist.”
Reading these messages is a cultural activity – because of the debates and (near?) normalisation of homosexuality – it’s more noticeable that it’s not in 1940s posters. Sometimes it takes a different cultural lens… or a change of time, to see through a message/action.
In our world there’s very little time for silence/stopping – I stopped for an hour yesterday (though I was relaxing with the TV/jelly-beans) – because I’d kind of reached my limit. For many years I have kept myself busy so I’ve not had to think, but much of that has been released, but I still haven’t really learnt to let go of my busy habits … though the fact that I’m chipping away at a backlog has to be progress right?!
In amongst all this busyness one moment in my life stands out always, to remind myself how important time to sit still is … in my round-the-world trip, I went to Doubtful Sound (New Zealand – Captain Cook saw it and was ‘doubtful’ if he would get out again) – where the boat was taken into a mirror lake, all engines shut off, and we stood and listened for about 5 minutes – and even silence isn’t completely silent – birds chirruping, water lapping, wind moving, etc.. I have used that, and my times with Brian Draper, to remind myself to slow down.
Preaching and Praying:Mark 1: 35-39. Well, there’s a powerful reminder that Jesus took time to rest & pray! And reminds me of the time that I used to run prayer mornings on Oak Hall holidays, that God designed the world for 6 days of work, 1 day of rest – and that if we don’t rest, then God will force us to! I also wrote a piece on this for Bible Reflexions – and as you can see, I haven’t got it sorted – but as we were encouraged to think over the last couple of days – be thankful for the small things (aka the times I’ve managed to slow down!)
Prayer: To gain a taste for ‘solitude’ so that we can truly meet God.
Now – there’s an interesting distinction on Wikipedia:
Short-term solitude is often valued as a time when one may work, think or rest without being disturbed. It may be desired for the sake of privacy.
A distinction has been made between solitude and loneliness. In this sense solitude is positive.
I’ve been talking about rest, but also there’s a sense of loneliness, which I think I’ve been struggling with sometimes in a new place… but that’s not what this seems to be talking about – time to listen to God, understand and respond. Now.. who was it that I was going to get to write a post for Big Bible on ‘finding God in the noise’.
Advent Action: Interesting – look back at active/solitude moments – assess how function under both conditions and seek to have a balance of both in our spiritual journey. [I think I'm finding quite a lot of 'spiritual space' in my new desire for swimming ... ]
Simone Weil: “Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life”.
Interesting, the root of the word ‘patience’ is in the French ‘patior’ – meaning ‘to suffer’… if we are not patient, then we are just thinking wishfully’. That reminds me of life coaching teaching – that a goal without a deadline is just wishful thinking (hence why I make so much use of do.com)!
Blessings Fall on the Faithful: Hebrews 6:9-12. Diligence, faith and patience – these are good to demonstrate to inherit the promises. My brain always whirls around the question of ‘grace’ as it wars with my ‘protestant work ethic!’ … we are saved by grace, but out of grace it’s likely that we’ll demonstrate the above, and the other fruits of the spirit?
Prayer: “Make the challenges on our spiritual journey into opportunities to say “yes” to your love.” Obstacles becoming doors … yes, I can see that. The last 3+ years have been pretty hard, and I would love a day when I’m just not really tired, and not still seeing a pile of things ‘to do’ (I am chipping away at my backlog), but I can see how many of the hard choices (that I didn’t want to make) have really been doors to new ways of living… We keep going a day at a time – or often a few seconds at a time – and those all add up to something amazing! It’s a great way of ‘living in the now‘ apart from anything else – although not the way that I would have chosen!
Advent Action:“Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, by watchful alertness.” Hmm, make plans for contributions of service to others/positive changes to your spiritual life – although leave space for God’s input. Well- I’m doing this for advent, and then have a diary ready for January to start doing my ‘thankfulness’ again, and think I’m going to work my way through The Voicea chapter at a time.
In the midst of our dark world: Yes, we live in a busy, busy world, which has encouraged us to expect that much can be resolved in an instant:
“It’s someone else’s fault – they need to fix it for me”
“I’ll win the lottery and then everything will be OK”
“I’ll have my stomach stapled, then I’ll be skinny & everything will be great”
“God needs to sort this all out – I need a miracle”
Through my last 3+ years of counselling, I have slowly come to a realisation that often the miracle that God gives us is the daily miracle – for some days this may be the ability to get out of bed, on others it may be something more spectacular. As Nouwen says “When I have no eyes for the small signs of God’s presence… I will always remain tempted to despair.” God didn’t come to earth with a ‘big bang’, but sent a small child to be born in a manger, who died naked on a cross…
Prayer: God cares about the small things in our lives: Philippians 4:6 challenges us:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ”
We should also be thankful for the small things. Amongst the loud commercialism of Christmas, we need to remember the promises that God gave us, and the hopes of his coming.
This is something that I spent Saturday morning listening to Rich Wyld talk about – see Storify of his talk.
Advent Action: Note ‘with thanksgiving’ – we are to look for ‘one small sign that God is present in my daily life’. I like to see God on my daily walks, and as I’ve written this 3rd December – here’s something that lifted me out of quite a dark weekend – the sight of Durham Cathedral in the snow (whilst I was wrapped up warm – I was incredibly thankful for warm boots/coat & hat – making me think of places such as Winchester Churches Nightshelter & the Trussell Trust who are both particularly busy at this time of year)
So, on ‘The Big Read‘, I essentially run an online book club with a housegroup affiliated, but enjoying the thought that I can join with @pamjweb and a few others this advent in reading Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen.
The internationally renowned priest and author, respected professor and beloved pastor Henri Nouwen (pronounced Henry Now-win) wrote over 40 books on the spiritual life.
As Merton before him, Henri always stressed the relational. He writes very directly about our contemporary longings for meaning, belonging, and intimacy and, at the same time, integrates this with a powerful vision of service and social justice. Fr. Nouwen often used the three core themes of solitude, community, and compassion to help people enter into a fresh vision of the spiritual life.
Nouwen believed that what is most personal is most universal; he wrote, “By giving words to these intimate experiences I can make my life available to others.”
Read more at the Henri Nouwen Society, from a man who was a synthesist, valued community, and encouraged each to look for his personal journey … and also had his own battle(s?) with depression.
Advent begins the Christmas cycle of the liturgical year – running from the Sunday 4 weeks before December 25 and “are often thought to symbolise the four different ways that Christ comes into the world: