Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Christmas with a king #jesus #nativity #homegroup


We are just 2 weeks from Christmas now, so tonight I thought we could again think about the true meaning of Christmas and especially about what it was like for the wise men who journeyed following a star to visit the new born king.

Matthew 2:1-12  (CEV)
The Wise Men
When Jesus was born in the village of Bethlehem in Judea, Herod was king. During this time some wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and said, “Where is the child born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard about this, he was worried, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem.  Herod brought together the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses and asked them, “Where will the Messiah be born?”

They told him, “He will be born in Bethlehem, just as the prophet wrote,
’Bethlehem in the land of Judea,
you are very important among the towns of Judea.
From your town will come a leader,
who will be like a shepherd for my people Israel.’”

Herod secretly called in the wise men and asked them when they had first seen the star.  He told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, let me know. I want to go and worship him too.”

The wise men listened to what the king said and then left. And the star they had seen in the east went on ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.   They were thrilled and excited to see the star.

When the men went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they knelt down and worshipped him. They took out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and gave them to him.   Later they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and they went back home by another road.

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1. Who were these wise men?
They came from the east, probably from persia or babylon or through the arabian desert; they were men who examined the skies and knew the movements of the stars.

2.  Why were these foreigners chosen?
It matters that Jesus was visited by foreigners, by people outside of his Jewish faith.  This is a sign of his coming for everyone across the globe.  It also matters because the wise men saw something different, something unexpected and they knew that this was a sign which they had to follow; this was the bringing of people from across the world to Jesus.

3. What does it mean that Jesus is a King?
We might think of Jesus the baby, the gift to the world.
We might think of Jesus the teacher, telling us how to live.
We might think of Jesus the resurrected, forgiving us all our sins.
But we also need to remember that Jesus is our King; the King for all who rules us and guides us and leads us in our lives.

4.  How can we accept Jesus as our ruler and king?
How can we live with this idea of being ruled and led this christmas?
Does this make our christmas celebrations mean something different?

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Prayer
Let us hand over to Jesus all our worries about Christmas as it approaches at full speed.  Let us ask him to still our minds and quiet our hearts and know that Christmas is about love and celebration that Jesus is our king born to be with us always no matter what terrifying circumstances we might find ourselves in.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Christmas with the shepherds #church #homegroup


We are just 4 weeks from Christmas now, so tonight I thought we could think about the true meaning of Christmas and especially about what it was like for the shepherds who play a key part in the nativity story.

So let's start by hearing what the bible says about the shepherds.

Luke 2:8-20 (CEV)
The Shepherds
That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep. All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord’s glory flashed around them. The shepherds were frightened.  But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy.   This very day in King David’s home town a Saviour was born for you.  He is Christ the Lord.   You will know who he is, because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay.”

Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and joined in praising God. They said:
 “Praise God in heaven!
Peace on earth to everyone who pleases God.”

After the angels had left and gone back to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.”   They hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and they saw the baby lying on a bed of hay.

When the shepherds saw Jesus, they told his parents what the angel had said about him.   Everyone listened and was surprised.   But Mary kept thinking about all this and wondering what it meant.

As the shepherds returned to their sheep, they were praising God and saying wonderful things about him.  Everything they had seen and heard was just as the angel had said.

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1. Why shepherds?
Of all the people the angels could have visited, why do you think God sent them to the shepherds?   They were not only ordinary but they were considered outcasts - smelly people who were on the edges of society and only allowed to look after sheep well away from people and in danger from wild animals and thieves.  They were humble and uneducated and simple and they came as the angels told them to.  What can this tell us about how we approach Christmas?  and Jesus?

2. What names for Jesus?
What three titles are given to Jesus in verse 11?  (Saviour, Christ, Lord)
What do these mean?
They are about Jesus being a treasure - so I wonder, what do you treasure the most about Jesus?

3. How did the angels appear?
Angels appeared to the shepherds whilst they were sitting around, being themselves, doing their jobs.  What might this tell us about how and when God might communicate with us?
Has God ever spoken to you in your ordinary life?
How?  When?  What was that like?
If not, do you think you might have missed Him speaking to you?

4.  What gifts has God given us?
Have you ever been given something precious?  A treasure?  What?
Do you ever think about this as being a gift from God?
What has God done that you find wonderful and amazing?

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Prayer
As we come into the last 4 weeks of preparation for christmas let us remember that Jesus came for everyone and is the greatest gift we can ever be given.  Let us give thanks for the amazing gifts He has given us and ask that He keeps our minds away from the worry and money and business of Christmas and towards the focus of love and joy that Jesus gives us and our families.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Peace; a home group session #church #God #love


I've been thinking a lot about war and peace this week of Remembrance Sunday.  I've been thinking about the horror of war and all the pointless death that still happens.  And I've been praying for peace.  Whilst praying I was  looking for bible passages about peace and found over 20.

Here are my top 3 which spoke to me about peace.

1. Psalm 34:14
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

2. John 16:33
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
And appropriately for christmas 

3. Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born.... And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

- What do these passages tell us about what God thinks about war?
- What does this tell us about what we're supposed to do about war as Christians?
- And how about the fact that so many ways have been fought in the name of religion including Christianity? 


When reading passages in the bible about peace I was also struck by the pieces which tell us that God gives us His peace. 

I've selected four which I'd like us to look at in pairs and answer the following questions:
- What peace does the passage talk about?
- Have you ever felt this peace? When?
- What can we learn from the passage?

1. John 14:27
Jesus said "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. ..... Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

2. 2 Thessalonians 3:16
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.

3. Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace

4. Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer present your requests to God.  And the peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Remembrance Sunday Poppies #preschool #craft

At Noah's Ark toddler group last week we made remembrance poppose.

I drew basic poppy shapes and tore up pieces of red paper.  With glue and concentration the kids and their adults made some wonderful poppies.

We must never forget.


For me information about the poppy and Remembrance Sunday visit the British Legion  

Sunday, 2 November 2014

David and Goliath #messychurch #craft

Today at People, prayers and potatoes Messy Church we entered into the story of David and Goliath with spectacular results.

Thanks to an amazing craft team we made the most massive Goliath ever


There were shields and giant feet and giants on shrinkles ready to be shrunk down to size. 


And then there were David's stones in their bag reminding us that God can bring all our problems down to size with faith, prayer, peace and strength.


And of course there were the plastic cup poppers


A gigantic session.


Plastic cup popper #messychurch #craft

Today at People, prayers and potatoes Messy Church we entered into the story of David and Goliath.  One of the most popular crafts was shooting a pom pom from a plastic cup popper and a "how to" has been requested.  Here's what we did.

You need:
- plastic cup 
- balloon 
- pair of scissors 
- pompom

Take the plastic cup and cut the bottom half off.  

Now you have the top half of the cup with the lip at the top and the whole at the bottom. 

Take the balloon and cut the whole neck off.

Now you have the round part of the  balloon.

Stretch the balloon over the lip of the plastic cup.  It's a little fiddly but just keep stretching the balloon little by little until it fits over. 

Now you have a balloon stretched over the cup so that if you pull it and let go it "pops".




Insert the pom pom and pop away.  Endress and safe popping fun.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Sid the Cat; a life of love. #poetry

Sid chose me
That's the way it was
We went for a kitten
But he stole my heart
A two year old boy
All grown up large
He meowed from his cage
Then cuddled me fast

We took him back
To our brand new house
He made it a home
Often with mice
Or pigeons or frogs
He caught all he could
And he fought other cats
I'm afraid he would

One day on a walk
He followed us far
Into the woods and
Then a dog barked
Up a tree he flew
Twenty foot high
Wouldn't come down
Waited all the long night

No sleep did we get
We worried like mad
But in the morning
For food he came down
From them on
We would take him back home
Then run round the corner
So he wouldn't again roam

Always friendly
That was our Sid
Liked to meet guests
Even if they weren't keen
He'd look at them sweetly
And purr by their laps
My poor allergic friends
Felt like such saps

And as for kids
He loved them as well
He'd let them give strokes
Even pull on his tail
He never once meowed
Or showed any claw
Sid loved attention
Of that we are sure

When Rachel arrived
He loved her as well
No jealousy at all
She was his special girl
Each time she cried
He'd run up to me
Meow very loud
Wouldn't let me be

And when she crawled
He'd encourage her
By walking away
While she reached for fur
And then she walked
And he loved that as well
He'd stay by her side
Then meow if she fell

About four years ago
At age of thirteen
He slowed right down
Wasn't so keen
On going too far
Or climbing up trees
He preferred to sleep
On beds or stairs or chairs or knees or trampolines!

A cancer scare
Had us worried like mad
But they cut it out
It wasn't that bad
Sid hated the collar
Could shift it with ease
Even when we and the vet
Begged and plead.

One year ago
He vanished one day
We thought the worst
Couldn't stand the pain
But the posters worked
A phone call we received
Sid had wondered
Got lost through the trees

He'd found a house
And camped outside
The owners fed him
And he didn't leave
After a week
Of thinking he was gone
We went and got Sid
And brought him back home

This year he'd been
Cheeky beyond compare
Going in people's houses
He didn't care
He was confused
Or that was his excuse
He walked in the road
Pavements he'd refuse

But now it really
Is the end of the story
Sid met a car
Can you imagine my fury
He wouldn't be OK
And the vet advised
He found final sleep
So I cuddled him tight

No more will Sid
Be under my feet
The house will be quiet
No dinner he seeks
But memories stay
Fifteen years all good
Sid was one of a kind
The coolest cat dude.


Does the tower of London really remember?

A friend tonight shared her thoughts about the beauty of the poppy installation at the Tower of London and how it such a juxtaposition to the horror of death it represents.   She is a braver woman than I and she has inspired me to both respond to her and blog here.

Here was my initial response to her post on Facebook:

"I haven't wanted to go see it at all because I'm sure the sheer number will be overwhelming about the horror of the loss.  What i don't understand is that lots of my friends who've been take selfies of themselves smiling on front of it. Why?  How's that a memorial?  I'm just going to wear my single poppy as I always do and pray like mad for all war to end and no more lives to be lost."



Almost everyone I know has at least wanted to go up to London and visit the Tower of London Remembers installation.

I have not.

Right from the beginning I felt nothing but sadness about every mention of the installation.  I know that that's partly the point, but somehow it misses the mark by a long way for me.

There have been some friends who have been moved deeply but for most it has become something to see, a thing to be ticked off the list, an item in London similar to the eye or harrods.

Facebook is full of smiling selfies in front of the poppies and it makes me feel sick.
Why do you smile?
How can you smile?
How can you enjoy looking at all those lives lost?

If I'd gone, and yes I know I might regret not going in years to come, then I know I'd have been overwhelmed with the grief of all those lives lost.

Lost.  
And for what?

Was it the war to end all war?
No

Do we have a better world because they died?
I've never seen any argument saying we do.

Is it something to smile about?
Absolutely not!

So I say again
I'm just going to wear my single poppy as I always do and pray like mad for all war to end and no more lives to be lost.

Friday, 31 October 2014

#ANightOfHope @worldvision

Tonight I share this image of pumpkins carved with hearts to join in with World Vision's Night of Hope.  I've donated £5 to their campaign to help the children of Syria.  We have not and must not forget the plight of children caught up in the conflict.

Please consider donating yourself and sharing an image of #heart.

http://www.worldvision.org.uk/get-involved/night-hope/


Father God
As children around the county eat sweets and have fun 
We remember the children of Syria who suffer in silence 
Amen  

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Lay Pioneer Minister Calling

This morning at church the announcement was made - I have been appointed as the first Lay Pioneer Minister in the Diocese of Oxford.   This is my letter going in the church newsletter to expand on the announcement.


Thank you for all your well wishes on the announcement that I have been appointed as a Lay Pioneer Minister.  It is a really exciting time and I am so pleased to be able to share it with you.  I have had a few people ask for a bit more explanation as to what it really means; so I hope this helps.

What is a lay pioneer? 
The Church of England defines a pioneer minister as "someone who has the ability to envision, form and lead new forms of church appropriate to a particular culture (often called fresh expressions)".  A lay pioneer is a minister who feels called to lead as a lay person.  

Why lay pioneer ministry? 
Right from the start of my calling I have felt God want to use me as I walk alongside people in their every day lives, as one of them, and I feel blessed to be able to fulfill my ministry in this way.  Until recently I couldn't define this ministry as anything other than a "hanging around" ministry.  But in the last few years pioneer ministry has become better known and it's become clear to me and others that this is the ministry I'm called into.

What does my pioneer ministry look like now? 
At St Nicolas we have two fabulous fresh expression services for families who would otherwise not come into a church.  We have our monthly People, Prayer and Potatoes messy church and our weekly Noah's Ark toddler group congregations.  Through these services we are thoroughly open to community.  This is pioneering; actively seeking people to come and join us.  I spend at least half of my ministerial hours outside of the church doing other pioneering ministry activities.  I meet with communities of people where they are, geographically, socially and theologically, to explore what it means to be disciples of Jesus.  That might result in people joining existing churches such as St Nicolas; but might also lead to new ways of being church which are rooted in the teaching of Jesus, whilst looking completely different.  For example Oakwood Forest Church is a completely new form of church which is evolving as it grows.

What will my ministry look like a year from now?
The honest answer is that I don't know; this is a new ministry in the Diocese and a new focus for me.  I will visit other churches to inspire them to reach out into their communities as I have been doing for messy church; I'll be delivering some training about forest church to Ordinands and LLMs as early as next month; and I've been asked to meet with those interested in lay pioneer ministry in the Diocese.  But what else I will do is still evolving.   What I do know is that 'for now' I'll  keep on doing what I'm currently doing; ministering in church, in the parish and in the community.

What can you do for me?
You have supported and encouraged me every step of my journey and I ask that you continue to do so.  Please pray for me as my ministry grows and my role evolves; that I might be sustained and enlivened each day.

Post Script 
After the service on Sunday when the announcement was made Harry came up to me and said "you need a pick axe girl if you're going to be a pioneer".  Wise words indeed.  Harry hit the 'axe' right on the head about what it is that this ministry is - it's about chipping away at society and helping people find God within themselves; and it's about chipping away at the closed doors of churches to let the beauty of the Holy Spirit rush out.  I'm the girl with the pick axe.