Saturday, 31 December 2011

A year and a half

It's new years eve, end of the year
Another gone, will I shed a tear?
Well yes, I might this time around
Coz 2011 has been totally sound.

It started just like any other
With hope and joy for one another
And then reality did hit
And down to my desk I did sit

One more course still to complete
Another deadline I must meet
But by spring all that was done
Studies complete, courses gone.

A year of formation I did start
Trying lots and taking part
Quickly all of it came clear
God gave a nudge, my time was near

Plans they flew around my head
Of work to do where I was led
So I set out to do it all
Perhaps too much, but I don't fall

A summer of family and chillaxing
Brought some clarity and axing
I thrashed my plans about a bit
And came to know how it would fit

My ministry clear by the autumn
I could see a diary with space & room
For family, friends and even me
A future of balance is the key

Of course amidst was preparation
For what was full of such elation
My licensing was ├╝ber-tastic
God filled, tear filled, just fantastic

And afterwards my life was changed
I knew my path, my life arranged
Not by me you understand
But by a greater guiding hand

Oh what great joy there is here now
To know I'm held, loved, guided how
I will love and work and play
Through each year, month and day

And so I wave the year good bye
A year outstanding, such a high
And welcome in 2012
Excited for all that it will hold

Thursday, 29 December 2011

2011 at LLM Calling

As we approach the end of 2011 I have been reading endless lists of the best of and the worst of 2011; so I thought I might as well join in and list the top most read posts from the blog this year.

1. A Caring Society
A post I wrote in response to the crisis in the social care system in the UK; it was my first real rant online and it seemed to go down a treat.  I'm not sure I did any good, but from the sheer number of people who read the post it must have raised some enthusiasm for the fact that we need to start caring properly for the people who need help in our society.

2. World Aids Day Flashmob
One small word, Aids; one crazy idea, Flashmob; one vicar who took the idea and flew with it; and not a lot of people who actually turned up.  I started out thinking no one would come and I was shown to be right in the end; and that would have been OK if I hadn't raised my hopes and expectations in the mean time.  All I hope now is that some people came to be more aware of HIV Aids by our actions and you tube clip.

3. LLM Forum
I was surprised that this had been read by so many people, after all it's notes from the Licensed Lay Ministry Forum.  But looking through the searched terms it becomes clear - making disciples; what it's all about.  It clearly strikes a chord with people.

4. Jesus and the Riots
What Would Jesus Do?  A phrase which was over used by a generation before mine but which I find myself thinking a lot.  This was my reflections on how Jesus would respond to the riots whilst I watched the TV news in confusion about both sides.

5. Journeying with Mary Day Sixteen
Perhaps unsurprisingly the words "wrapped him is swaddling cloths and placed him in a manger" are searched A LOT in the days and weeks approaching Christmas.  I was surprised to see so much traffic searching for answers at this time; and thrilled, absolutely thrilled.

6. Osama Bin Laden RIP
How can celebrating a death every be right?  A question I tackled, one Rachel has asked subsequently as our news shows dictators toppled, and one which I have no answer to.  But I'll keep raising the issue.

7. Royal Wedding
We all love a royal wedding, and according to the search stats those who love it the most are the Americans, high from over the pond.

8. Campaign to show respect
What a great idea, to show respect to people through our words and actions.  It sounds easy but I know it's not, but we all have to start somewhere.

9. Would Jesus mock the rapture
It's another what would Jesus do, and this one raised quite a lot of debate on facebook and twitter.  I still stand by the fact that Jesus would not have mocked the individiduals who were sucked into this, although he would have condemned the leaders.

10. About Me
This isn't actually coming in at number 10 numerically, it comes in much higher, but I remain gob-smacked that anyone would want to visit the extremely short piece about who I am.  Makes me think that I really should update it, but I don't feel much enthusiasm to do so.

There you go, these were the top 10 of 2011 on LLM Calling, they might not have been yours and if you have a particular favourite I'd love to know what and why. Thanks for reading.

Gift of Time

This year Mike and I finally followed through with our many times discussed plan to not buy each other christmas presents but to instead give each other time in the year ahead.  Seeing as how Mike works during normal working hours and I work odd hours, including evenings and Sundays, we spend much less time together than at any other point in our years together. 

Many people might say this is the recipe for wedded bliss, and a few years ago I'd have agreed with them, but in reality we miss each other and we're loosing the special connection between us.  Add to this a slight issue of belief and life priority differences and the fact that I give my life to God's work and you can see that time together, connecting and enjoying mutual experiences, is a very good idea indeed.  All we really need is time together.

Of course none of this would have happened without a very firm shove from someone who knew what I needed to hear, spiritual direction is such a tonic.

So this year we gave each other joke presents from the pound shop and have instead arranged to cook a meal for each other once a week, go out together once a month and have a weekend together several times a year.  To get things started I've booked a night of comedy for March and arranged Rachel to have a sleep over in January. 

The gift of time is truly what we need and I look forward to enjoying it.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Day Intercessions



Jesus, born in a stable because there was no room in the inn;
We pray for the homeless

Jesus, born away from your hometown;
We pray for those away from their families this Christmas

Jesus, hunted by Herod;
We pray for those in danger, for those who live in war zones and those who are treated unjustly

Jesus, living as a refugee in Egypt;
We pray for all refugees in the world and for the situations they flea from

Jesus, visited by shepherds and wise men;
We pray that this Christmas, everyone who is lovely be visited by someone bringing comfort

Jesus, preacher and teacher;
We pray for all those who search for a meaning in life, may you provide them with people to guide them

Jesus, healer and deliverer;
We pray for healing for all those who are ill this Christmas

Jesus, born as one of us;
We pray today that peace, hope and love of you be known and felt around the world.

Jesus, we pray to you knowing that you hear us,
that you intercede for us
and that you answer our prayers.
Amen

Midnight Mass 2011 Sermon



At Christmas we are brought face to face with the miraculous, the incredible, the wonderful. We encounter the mystery of heaven touching earth and we rejoice in it.

No one in the Christmas story knows this better and more intimately than Mary; Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is so often depicted as meek and mild, but having studied her this Advent and encountering her life, that is not the woman I now see. We know that she was young, poor and from Nazareth; all making her lowly in society; but she was also strong, brave and knowledgeable. Mary was a young woman, a girl really, who accepted an extraordinary event in her ordinary life and agreed to be “The Lord’s Servant”, trusting God’s call on her wherever that might lead. Mary has left me in awe of her independence and faithfulness.

What do we know about Mary?
We know that she was visited by Angels and told she would have a baby who would be named Jesus and would be the Son of God. We know she managed not to collapse in shock at this and she had her wits about her enough to ask “how?” I’m not too sure I would be so all-together in the same situation.

We know that Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem; that she laid him in a manger wrapped in swaddling cloths; she cared for him, where they were, with what she had. She was visited by shepherds who came to worship her son and she would have seen the message that her son had come for all people. In this humble place her son was held aloft by humble people.

We know that after this Mary followed Joseph to Egypt to flea the danger from Herod; she did this; she followed the plan given by the Angels. And when they returned they brought Jesus up as any normal boy in the small community of Nazareth; most likely in a one room stone structure with a flat roof and an adjoining building for housing the animals; all the gospels tell us is that “he was strong”.

We know from historical records that from 3 BC, a town named Sepphoris was being built about an hours walk from Nazareth. This massive project would have provided work opportunities for artisans such as Joseph; he was a skilled worker in demand. It is likely that as the oldest son, Jesus would have worked alongside Joseph and would have travelled daily to Sepphoris, interacting with the many people involved.

But we also know that in the midst of this normality for the Nazarene family there was something more, Jesus was not JUST an ordinary child. Jesus was being educated in the scriptures and Jewish festivals and if what we know of him later in life is anything to go by, he would have been a questioner and thinker. And then there’s an event that was far from normal; Jesus was visited by wise men; a caravan of studious men who had travelled from another land bringing royal gifts.

Do you see what I see?
Do you see the contrast?
It is like the next King of England being born in Tower Hamlets to a single teen mother and then visited by President Obama and the Dalai Lama.
It is the extraordinary mixed into the ordinary.
It is the mystery of heaven touching earth.


Mary mothered the Messiah.
She mothered him.
She woke him each morning. She helped him to get dressed. She prepared his breakfast. She chased him off to school or to work with his father. She picked him up when he fell over. She kissed his hands when they were cut or sore. She worried about him when he was sad. She laughed with him in his joy. She washed him and nurtured him. And she tucked him into bed at night.
She mothered him.

She would also have introduced him to the scriptures. She would have helped him understand the community they lived in. She would have modelled human relationships. She would have helped him learn about life around him.
She mothered him.

And then, when he was 12 years old, Mary thought they’d lost him in a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but eventually he was found in the temple in Jerusalem. And for the first time Jesus turned to his parents and said “didn’t you know I’d be in my Father’s house?”

Can you imagine how that would have felt for Mary?
Her son, her boy; yet not JUST her boy, not any ordinary boy.
He was Divine.
Heaven touching Earth.

So we are reminded of the two sides of Mary’s mothering.

On one side was the joy, honour and love eternal as she brought Jesus up and then followed him on his ministry. She was there at the first miracle, she travelled with Jesus for the three years of his ministry and she was with the disciples at Pentecost and at the start of the church.

On the other side was her sorrow as she saw Jesus exhausted in his ministry, rejected by his community, condemned, tortured and killed. What sorrow she must have experienced; what depths of torture she must have felt. Yet she never despaired, never gave up and she never turned away from her task.

We can know both joy and sorrow; we experience them in our own lives. We are human, as Mary; she lived a very real life, just as we do. She saw heaven touching earth, and so can we.

How?
Just for a minute I’d like you to think of something beautiful you’ve seen or experienced this week. Bring it to mind and hold it there for a minute.

…..

I won’t ask you to share your thing of beauty. Perhaps it was the beauty of a sunset; maybe the birth of a child; or the smile on the face of someone you’ve not seen for ages. I suggest to you that your “something beautiful” IS Heaven touching Earth; the mystery to be rejoiced in.


Mary has so much to tell us this Christmas as we celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Mary’s calling to being the mother of the messiah demonstrates how well God knows each of us, completely; and loves us, entirely. God knows what we have to offer and what we can achieve, even when WE don’t. I know that can be hard to believe but I also know it to be true. Mary shows us that God needs the ordinary people of the world because he sees our extraordinary gifts; even when we don’t. We need to trust Him and see the wondrous people that we each are.

Last year I was lucky enough to work with a young mum and her kids. She wanted help, she felt like she was failing. I saw differently. I did very little for this young woman; I just affirmed her skills as a mum, built her confidence a bit and supported her in her bad days. God knew what she had to offer, so did I. And slowly, by hearing it over and over again, she came to know it too.

We need to believe in our goodness and recognise our extraordinary gifts.


Mary’s life shows us that God loves us, every single one of us, JUST AS WE ARE. Mary was called to a job she’d never expected, and she did it well. Because of who she was, not what she did; just who she was. That’s all.

Right now; this Christmas eve; I’d like you to remember something that you do well. It might be physical, or emotional, intellectual or relational. Bring to mind this extraordinary gift God sees in you and recognise it. Value it. See the extraordinary that you are.

Mary experienced heaven touching earth!
Mary experienced heaven touching earth and she reminds us that we can do the same, especially at Christmas as we celebrate the extraordinary joy of Christ’s birth.

You are valued and loved and gifted, and as you go out into the world this Christmas, feel that love within yourself and celebrate the goodness God knows in you.
Amen.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Journeying with Mary Day Twenty Eight

Day Twenty Eight - Saturday 24th December 2011

Mary's Joy

It is the last day of advent, the last day of our journey with Mary.
Tomorrow is Christmas and we will celebrate the joy and hope of Jesus' birth to a virgin in a stable. But that's tomorrow.

Today we are still waiting.
Today we get to be still with Mary in her joys.
Her joy of motherhood.
Her joy of seeing her son fulfil his ministry.
Her joy of being there to help and support even when it was hard.

God tasked Mary with a massive job which she did despite it's hardship and sorrow, but we are today reminded that in her journey there was joy.

So as we come to Christmas let's offer thanks for Mary, for her presence with us in our advent journey, for her lessons to us and for her joy which reflects our own joys.

Prayer of the day
Father we have journeyed through advent waiting for your birth, we have journeyed with Mary in her waiting and her watching, her mothering and her following, her sorrow and her joy.  We thank you for the learning and deepening we have experienced this advent and ask that this might continue through Christmas and on through the months ahead. Amen

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Cards

I love Christmas cards; the choosing, creating, writing and receiving.  Every year I consider stopping sending them, as many people have; but I can't do it, I just love them too much.

This year we have been inundated and our house feels all the warmer and more christmassy for them.  Unfortunately 150 cards is our limit to display which means we've got over 60 cards which are not being enjoyed fully.  

But this does not mean they've been abandoned; they've been recycled in craft projects and used as muses for art creations and probably given more attention than the humble Christmas card is used to.  In fact this post only exists because every meal time I've been looking through the Christmas cards on our table.  

So now I share my thoughts on Christmas cards; what I like and don't, what they say to me and what I puzzle over.  Enjoy.

Animals
There are a plethora of animals based cards in the shops; cartoons, photos and portraits of all sorts and styles.  Most of them leave me cold or confused, the cards might be cute but they just don't mean much.  But there are some I like, here are just two.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

The robin in a snowy scene, it takes me right back to the Christmas of my childhood, or back to the winters anyway.  I love receiving the robin cards but have never sent them, it just doesn't capture the actual essence of Christmas for me.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

The farm animals that The National Trust favour also somehow connect to Christmas for me; it's a reminder that farmers work at Christmas, caring for their animals and for creation.  

It makes no logical sense that kittens with baubles leave me cold whilst farm animals work, but there it is.


Nativity scenes
I love a good nativity scene, especially if it's vaguely accurate; these two are being kept in my store of meaningful images for meditations.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

On the other hand I can't get on with the cheesy kids cartoon nativity cards, but Rachel loves them.


Wintery scenes
I'm not a huge fan of wintery scenes as a general rule, with exception of robins and farm animals of course.  But sometimes the odd one comes along which is really poignant.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

This one was sent by one of Mike's aunts and she worked in the building in the picture; now that transformed an otherwise dodgy card into one that I'll keep.


Christmas avoidance
You know the ones, seasons greetings or best wishes or anything which avoids the word "Christmas", why send them at all?  Surely if Christmas doesn't mean anything then the card is a strange tradition to follow.  I especially detest the Disney princess cards but Rachel loves them so please don't tell her friends.


Penguins
I separate them from all common and garden animals because they're something extra special.  Penguins survive winter by huddling together; they could not make it alone and so they make a community.
  
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

This is Christmas summed up for me; God born for us, God among us, God with us.

Happy Christmas

Journeying with Mary Day Twenty Seven

Day Twenty Seven - Friday 23rd December 2011

The Sorrow of Mary

We are at the penultimate day of our advent journey with Mary, we've seen her through from the annunciation to the start of the church. We've walked with her, laughed with her and cried with her.

The image I've chosen for today speaks to me of the sorrow of being Mary. She had so much to deal with, more sorrow than any mother should face; but she coped, made it through. In fact she did so much more than survive, she thrived and never turned her back on God and His plan.

Today with news of the earthquake in Christchurch in New Zealand, we are reminded of the sorrows of our world. We experience sadness, fear, loss and desperation. But like Mary we can survive with God's help.

Prayer of the day
Father we bring before you all those who are in sorrow today and we ask that you comfort them and help them find their way through the darkness. Amen

Praying for Christchurch again

An hour ago the BBC news told of another earthquake hitting Christchurch in New Zealand.

A mere 10 months after the catastrophic quake earlier this year this smaller quake has of course brought damage and injury, but mostly it will have brought back fear and memories and uncertainty.

So today I ask that again we pray for all the people of Christchurch in New Zealand; for safety, stability, calm, hope and love.

Christchurch, you are not alone; from thousands of miles away we hold you in our thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Mary visits Elizabeth Sermon

Luke 1:39-45
After journeying with Mary this advent I was thrilled to be preaching on Mary visiting Elizabeth on Wednesday; there's God at work in that.

As usual I mapped out what I would preach
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

But when it came to the service, as often happens, the preach was led by the Holy Spirit and these became the highlights:

1. John leapt in Elizabeth's womb
What a response, a physical response. John the Baptist recognised Jesus, their connection through the Spirit was already established.

What joy.

But let's be clear; ow!
As all mothers know, babies can really kick and it's not always comfortable.
And believe me, a baby who decides to turn, that hurts.

Elizabeth would have felt the pain and she'd have been scared; yet the gospels talk as if it was all joy. God's ways are NLT always pain free.

2. John the Baptist and Jesus had a life long connection
John the Baptist and Jesus were connected from the start; connected as friends and support to each other; they were born to be together.

Yet the gospels appear to show that John the Baptist did not know Jesus was the Messiah until he came to be baptised. They were connected but in their consciousness they might not have always known it. God provided the people they needed when they needed them.

3. God provides the people we need
This is not only true for Jesus and John, it's as true today as it ever was.
God provides the people we need, even though we might not be aware or understand.

It might be someone we've always known, or someone new; someone in our family, church or community, or someone in the pub. What matters is that they will be in your life and will be ministering to you. God provides.

4. Reach out to others this Christmas
This christmas you should reach out when you're in need; reach out to someone else in need. Just reach out, you never know when you'll be the person God sends or the person God is sending to.

Amen

Journeying with Mary Day Twenty Six

Day Twenty Six - Thursday 22nd December 2011

Acts 1:6-10, 1:12-14 and 2:1-3
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

These passages from Acts, probably written by Luke, detail the ascension and coming of the holy spirit at Pentecost.  There is no mention of Mary being present at the ascension, but as with the resurrection this does not mean she was not there.  However she is back in the accounts in the room in Jerusalem, where they went after the ascension, when the Holy Spirit came and filled them.  Mary was one of the group that were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues; she was one of those we remember at Pentecost.

These verses in Acts are fascinating because they also refer to "the women", pointing to the fact that there were women in the circle of those forming the new church.  Although they were not individually named, as the men are, they were clearly there.  This is a continuation of the value of women in the ministry of Jesus and in the early church.

Mary was there at the birth and death of Jesus and there when the Holy Spirit filled those who were to start the Christian church; Mary was and is essential to our faith.

Prayer of the Day
Father God. as we leave Mary at Pentecost, the last known detail of her life, we thank you for her calling and her ability to follow you where she was needed.  We ask today that you help us do whatever you need us to and to know that we are called just as we are.  Amen.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

63 more years

I avidly watch In Treatment, have done since the start of the first season.  It's clever and well made and real; hard hitting, painful and thought provoking.

Today I watched Series 3, Episode 23, Jessie - week six and it connected with my own past; I feel drawn to share but cant find a clip so my words will have to do, here goes.

The episode picks up Jessie on his 17th birthday; he's adopted, gay, artistically talented and struggling with his identity.  Whilst none of the first three aspects of his character resonate with me, the last does, especially when I take myself back to being 17.  Over the last five encounters with Jessie I have found myself increasingly empathising with his torture about who he is and will become.  In this Episode seven words sum it all up when talking about the life ahead of him:
"another 63 more years to go".

I absolutely, completely and utterly felt that way at 17.  How much more of this unending confusion, misery and self loathing would I have to endure?  If I lived to an average age then it was at least six decades more.

This was the crux of it.
These were the feelings I couldn't cope with.
This unending torture was what pushed me over the edge.

As I watched Jessie's pain in this episode tonight I was taken back to that place and those emotions.

It took months to start feeling able to function again from that low point; years to truly be at a place of recovery.  That sort of pain is never truly forgotten but it can be left behind.

I am 37 now and look forward to at least 43 years more.  Now I look forward with hope and knowledge that I am worth life and love.

If you know someone who seems despondent or depressed, especially at Christmas time; please reach out and connect with them.  Your gesture might give them some hope for 63 more years.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Christian Craft Celebrates Christmas

Over the last week I have delivered three different craft based chrismas services to over 50 children; it has been amazing and a lot of hard work.

My fingers are sore from all the cutting out, my cuticles are weirdly coloured from all the mixing of paint and my nails might have become glued to my nail bed; but it was all worth it, completely and utterly.  There is something about the preparation and planning and manual labour which is central to the ministry with children and families; it's hard work and giving of self and yet it frees my mind and allows me to pray for those I will serve,  The preparation truly is the guts of it and the backbone of the whole provision.

But let's be clear, it is the joining in and helping and explaining and watching the exploration and celebrating the creations which is the absolute highlight and which keeps me going in the hard hours of prep.  And so today I thought I'd share some of the craft which we've engaged with and some of the messages which they've embodied.

Manger Silhouettes
I drew a simple silhouette of a manger with Jesus, Mary, Joseph and a sheep (of sorts).  I then invited the children to go mad with paints, crayons or pens across a page and see what effect it would achieve once the silhouette was added.  There were all sorts of varied and wonderful patterns and effects created but most of them got whisked away before I got a chance to photograph them.  These two were proudly presented to me and they are indeed stunning; showing the sky and the contrasting light from Jesus at his birth. Fabulous.


The Gift from God
I started the People, Prayers and Potatoes session with a godly play style session on "The Gift from God".  I wrapped three boxes and put them inside each other.  I then put a message inside each; the first being love, the second hope and the third joy.  These are three of the gifts God gives us at Christmas with the birth of Jesus on earth. 

The Big Art Piece
I love collaborative art; the way a group can together create something that means so much both as a whole and individually.  I brought one large canvas and a myriad of coloured paints and let the group free with the idea of producing a nativity masterpiece.  Didn't they do amazing; it has so much to offer.


Rocking Donkey
From the sublime of art, to the simplicity and elegance of toddler proof creations. Take one paper plate, cut it into a smaller circle with a fringed tail; cut out some donkey head shapes and allow the kids to colour and stick and create their own rocking donkey ready to carry Mary.


Cross Stained Glass Pictures
Good enough to do again and again; create a cross shape in a card and back it with pieces of tissue paper to create these wonderful pictures.


Star Decorations
Follow the star, see the light of the stars, create your own stars with paper, cardboard, paint, pens, glitter and glue.  Add some wool to make a christmas tree decoration, or leave as they are to decorate walls.


Trees of Love
Who would have thought that the simple heart shape could be so versatile?  I found this on pinterest and the kids and I have loved it.  Here are two versions; one with the tree drawn out and then filled in with hearts; the other focussing on the hearts themselves.  One for Joy, One for Hope and One for Love.


Christingle
Every christmas needs a christingle, the ultimate craft and celebration in one. Whether created from fabric or papier mache or card or with oranges, ribbon and sweets.


Angels
Last but very much not least, there are the angels.  There are so many different types and styles that can be created; using toilet rolls, paper plates, off cuts from rocking donkeys, paper, card, glitter and anything else you need.  Here are just two we created in the last few weeks.


Christmas is a time to celebrate
Craft is a way to enter into the essence of a story
Christian worship needs not be constrained by liturgy
Christian Craft is a pure and simple way to celebrate Christmas.

Journeying with Mary Day Twenty Five

Day Twenty Five - Wednesday 21st December 2011

Resurrected

There is no account of Jesus visiting Mary after his resurrection.  It has always struck me as strange, in fact I have searched the gospels thinking that I must be missing some reference to Mary.  But it appears that there is in fact no record of Mary meeting with Mary in the forty days of his resurrection.

But does that mean it didn't happen?  If the gospel writers don't include any encounter of Mary with Jesus then perhaps this is more to do with Mary's being Jesus' mother and therefore being less useful as proof against those who denied the Lord's Resurrection.

I find it hard to believe that Mary would have not been visited by Jesus; she was so much a part of his life on earth that surely he would have visited with her and reassured her.  I like to think he would.

Prayer of the day
Jesus we celebrate your resurrection, the centre of our faith; and the proof that you are indeed Lord our God.  We do not know who all the people you visited and whether this included your mother Mary, but we know that you came back to earth for forty days for us all, thank you.  Amen.

Journeying with Mary Day Twenty Four

Day Twenty Four - Tuesday 20th December 2011

John 19:25-27
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

There at the annunication, pregnancy and birth, there throughout childhood, there to find him when he was lost at the temple, there at the first miracle and then..... well then nothing until the crucifixion, at the foot of the cross; there again we find Mary.  What greater sadness is there than outliving your child; let alone seeing them suffer and die in pain.  My heart goes out to Mary, my heart breaks for her at the way she saw him suffer and die.  What torture for her to live through.

Mary was the only human at Jesus' birth and his death; there at the start and the end, and the actual end as we will see later this week.  She was chosen by God for a huge task and she had to cope with the joy as well as the suffering through this.  I know her pain; I feel her breaking heart and I stand alongside her every Good Friday in her grief.

But as John shows in these gospel verses; Jesus did not leave her passive in her grief.  Before he left his human life he tasked Mary with mothering and caring for John - the first priest.  Jesus trusted Mary to hold John safe through his ministry.  He also tasked John to care for Mary; they became a family, a team.  Jesus made sure Mary was not alone when he died, and he also made sure that her calling would continue.

Prayer of the Day
Jesus we remember today that you were born to live, to minister and then to die as a man.  We are reminded of the pain that your mother Mary must have felt and ask that you be alongside all those who are suffering or grieving.  Amen.

Monday, 19 December 2011

The ministry fruit cake

Ingredients:
1 unsuspecting person
1 tablespoon of idea
1 teaspoon of vocations advisors
1 teaspoon of spiritual directors
1 teaspoon of friends
1 teaspoon of family
1 Cup of Disbelief - melted
1 Cup of Doubt - preferably runny
1 Gallon of Prayer
1 Cup of formation
2 drops of affirmation
1 drop of licensing
morning prayers
services
festivals
retreats
school assemblies
home visits
charity trustee meetings
church council meetings
ministerial meetings
training courses
supervisions
support groups
spiritual director visits
weekend away with spouse
family holidays
 
Method:
1. Take 1 unsuspecting person.
2. Add 1 heaped tablespoon of idea.
3. Sift together the vocations advisors, spiritual directors and church friends and add to the other dry ingredients.
4. In a separate bowl mix the melted disbelief with the doubt.
5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix in carefully. Don't over work the mixture at this stage or the result might not be achieved.
6. In a separate bowl beat the prayer for at least 1 year; ensure that all lumps are removed and that it becomes light and fluffy with peaks.
7. Take one spoonful of the fluffy prayer and stir into the mix well; then fold in the rest of the fluffy prayer ensuring none is abandoned.
8. Spoon the mixture into a pre prepared tin (preferably one with experience) and level off with a few hard taps.
9. Put the tin into the oven for 3 years, gas mark 17, checking occasionally for progress.
10. Turn the cooked cake onto a cooling rack for a month to ensure it's settled and ready for filling. Then cut in half.

The filling:
1. Mix the formation, affirmation and licensing together well
2. If the filling becomes too stiff then add more affirmation
3. If the filling is too runny then add more formation
4. Spread the filling on one half of the cake before sandwiching with the other half.

The topping:
1. Get hold of a very large bowl and get ready to mix the remaining ingredients together quickly
2. Add into the bowl 12 festivals, 40 services, 12 school assemblies, 24 home visits, 18 charity trustee meetings, 6 church council meetings and 10 ministerial meetings. 
3. Balance this out with 8 supervisions, 3 support groups, 7 spiritual director visits, 1 weekend away with spouse, 2 family holidays, several hundred prayers and 3 retreats
4. Review the balance regularly through the mixing process to ensure a smooth and easy mixture; if the topping clogs up then add in additional family time and retreats
5. Spread the topping over the cake, smoothing out gently.
 
Serving suggestion:
This ministry fruit cake is best served with a cup of tea and with friends. 

 
Warning!
Although this cake appears to last forever, it keeps better if given regular periods of rest in a darkened cupboard.

Journeying with Mary Day Twenty Three

Day Twenty Three - Monday 19th December 2011

John 2:1-11
On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.

When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
“Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.  Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”  What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.


The next time we meet Mary in the Gospels is at the wedding in Canaan as written about by John in the verses above.  Mary was the one who prompted the first miracle; the turning of water into wine.  She didn't ask Jesus if he was ready; she didn't suggest that he might do something special; she just told Jesus the facts of the situation and he knew it was his time.  Yet he denied that it was his time; instead of just asking his mother what he could do about it, he told her off.

This raises so many questions for me:
- how did Mary know Jesus could perform miracles?
- had Jesus actually done something miraculous before?
- had Mary and Jesus had conversations about his ministry and calling?
- what had changed their relationship that he would tell his mother off so publicly?

I wish the Bible had some more to offer to answer these questions, but it does not.  These questions were clearly not seen as important in the grand scheme of the gospel writers; we will never know what might have happened before this first recorded miracle.

And the day continues; in front of the gathered company, Mary just told the disciples to do whatever Jesus told them.  She completely ignored Jesus' chastising of her; she basically over ruled him, pushed him into performing a public miracle.  And he did; he allowed Mary to lead him despite not wishing to.

This event is so important in Jesus' ministry; his first recorded public miracle; and Mary was not only there, but she was instrumental.  Mary was important, possibly essential.

Prayer of the Day
Father we might find it hard to know what we are capable of and wonder when we should do your work; we do not have Mary by our sides but we do have you.  We ask today that you help us to hear your promptings more in our lives.  Amen.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Journeying with Mary Day Twenty Two

Day Twenty Two - Sunday 18th December 2011

Welcome to the final week, week four of this advent journey with Mary.  This week we focus on her important task of Messiah mothering.


Luke 2:41-50
Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Luke tells us throughout about Mary but nothing about her mothering of the messiah.
Yet we do not that..... Mary mothered Jesus.

She woke him each morning. She helped him to get dressed. She prepared his breakfast. She chased him off to school or to work with his father. She picked him up when he fell over. She kissed his hands when they were cut or sore. She worried about him when he was sad. She laughed with him in his joy. She washed him and nurtured him. And she tucked him into bed at night.
She mothered him.

She would also have introduced him to the scriptures. She would have helped him understand the community they lived in. She would have modelled human relationships. She would have helped him learn about life around him.
She mothered him.

And then, when he was 12 years old, Mary thought they’d lost him in a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but eventually he was found in the temple in Jerusalem. And for the first time Jesus turned to his parents and said “didn’t you know I’d be in my Father’s house?”

Can you imagine how that would have felt for Mary?
Her son, her boy; yet not JUST her boy, not any ordinary boy. He was Divine.
And he was separating from her sphere of influence, from our ability to teach him, from her physical presence.  So we are reminded of the two sides of Mary’s mothering.  Both joy and sorrow.  As parents we all experience both, but Mary so much more than most hopefully go through.


Prayer of the Day
Father we are reminded today that Mary was called to mother Jesus as any earthly mother, but that Jesus was given as divine to live a human life.  We find it hard to balance our lives of faith with our lives in society; today we ask for help as we try to bring the two together.  Amen

Friday, 16 December 2011

Journeying with Mary Day Twenty One

Day Twenty One - Saturday 17th December 2011

Matthew 2:19-23
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

Matthew jumps us on a good few years for the next step on the Holy Family's journey.  They had fled to Egypt but now that Herod has died they can return safely to Israel with Jesus.  However they did not go to the area of Judea as they had planned; instead they returned to their home town of Nazareth.

Mary has been travelling around a large area, pushed from pillar to post for her own safety and that of her son Jesus.  She must have been pleased to be returning into her home land and possibly relieved to be actually going back to Nazareth.  Home has such a special feeling doesn't it; it's safe and known and nurturing.  But after the several years of moving it is doubtful that Mary thought they would be in Nazareth to stay; she must have been ready for the next steps where God would lead them and keep them safe.

Prayer of the Day
Father we trust you to keep us safe but sometimes we just long to settle in our own homes, safe and secure and quiet in our lives.  We rejoice that Jesus spent his formative years in his family home town and that Mary could share her community with them.  Amen.

Journeying with Mary Day Twenty

Day Twenty - Friday 16th December 2011


Matthew 2:13
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

The maji have left, avoiding Herod and his need to kill any future leader of the Jews; and now it is time to rescue the holy family. Joseph is visited by an angel again and told to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt and stay there until it's safe.

I have learned enough from Mary over the last three weeks to have an inkling that this might not have gone down that well.  It is likely that she would have had at least one more child by this time and that leaving her community and support networks would have been a tricky prospect.  I verge onto the heretic as I wonder whether she would have queried Joseph; after all the previous instructions were given to her as well as Joseph and this time she was having to follow his lead.  On the other hand, she would no doubt have realised what danger Jesus might be in as the Messiah of the Jewish people, the future leader of a nation.  She would have wanted to keep him safe and would have been pleased to have whatever guidance available to do so.

This is one of these places where I long for more relational detail from the Bible, more depth from which a greater picture could emerge. But I also know that if it were important it would have been included, what actually matters is that the family follow their instructions and flea, keeping Jesus and their whole family safe.

Prayer of the day
Father I find it relatively easy to follow you when you lead me directly, but I find it harder when I must rely on other human beings; today I am reminded that you use whoever and whatever is appropriate to save us from harm.  Thank you.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Journeying with Mary Day Nineteen

Day Nineteen - Thursday 15th December 2011

Matthew 2: 1-12
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route

We are back to Matthew's gospel since Luke makes no mention of the Maji at all; as we saw yesterday Luke ends the nativity account with Jesus growing up strong.  Reading through the researched chronology of the nativity it seems clear that the Wise Man would have arrived many months after Jesus was born, possibly a year or more.  In fact Matthew uses the term "child" which certainly hints at Jesus being beyond infancy.  It doesn't really matter when, what matters is that they came.  

Wise men came, from the east, from lands thousands of miles away.  They came following a star which they had not seen before and which was a sign for them that a new king and ruler was being born.  These were not Jewish people, they knew nothing of a Jewish Messiah; they knew only that a star was showing the arrival of a great leader and they were to meet him.

Again God uses those from outside the society of religious order to confirm the Messiah's birth; again Mary is visited by those whom she would not normally associate.  We know not whether anyone else was with Mary and Jesus; perhaps Jesus had younger siblings by this time; who knows.  I imagine that in an ordinary day of their life suddenly some strange looking people arrived to pay homage to Jesus; what a shock, another!  They presented gifts, rich and rare gifts fit for a king; Mary would have seen this and known the meaning, she would have seen another confirmation of Jesus' importance as Messiah to the whole world.

Prayer of the day
Jesus, king of all, your mother was there as you were again visited; how did she react, was she shocked, was she fearful?  How did you react?  We are often surprised in our faith and by the God-incidences in life, today we are reminded of how many of these Mary had and we rejoice with her.


Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Journeying with Mary Day Eighteen

Day Eighteen - Wednesday 14th December 2011

Luke 2:21-24
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.  When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Jesus was born into a Jewish family and as such was brought to the temple on his eighth day; he was circumcised, named and presented to the Lord.  Mary and Joseph took him to Jerusalem, and this was the site of much of Jesus' major milestones through his life.  A sacrifice was offered according the Jewish Law and birds were sacrificed.

I normally glance over these few verses and head straight to Simeon, but today I've been struck by the sacrificial offering; it seems so small compared to most Jewish sacrifices.  Never before have I heard anything about this but upon research it appears that it is indeed small, it is the sacrifice allowed for poor families who cannot afford a lamb.  This is another confirmation of the low standing and ordinary-ness of the family into which Jesus was born; he was born into a family of love and strength rather than wealth and status.

Luke 2:25-40
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,  Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:  “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”   There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Today the part of this amazing meeting with Simeon which sits most with me is not Simeon's acceptance of Jesus as Messiah, the one he knew he would see before he died; it is instead Simeon's words to Mary "a sword will pierce your own soul too".
 
As a mother I know all to well about the sword which is forever close to your heart when you become a parent; you are always close to being wounded as you do anything to protect your child from hurt and disappointment.  But Mary was to know this so much more than any of us hopefully will; she saw Jesus rejected, persecuted, tortured and committed to a death sentence.  But of course we know this as we look back knowing the entirety of Jesus' life story; Mary did not.  I wonder whether she was hurt or shocked by Simeon's comment; perhaps it stayed with her for many years to make sense later, or maybe it passed her by, we will never know.
 
What we do know is that Mary and Joseph apparently left, went home and Jesus grew strong and full of God's grace.  easy peasy. 
 
Prayer of the day
Father there is so much within this visit to the temple with Jesus as a babe; so much of the future, so much of your path with Jesus, so much of Mary's life.  But today we must just remain here, not worrying about the future.  Help us Lord to remain in the now as Mary must have done then.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Mothers Union Carol Service


Today was the Mothers Union Carol Service which I was honoured to be asked to lead.  I wasn't entirely sure what was happening until the hour before the service so I covered my bases by having an introduction, dismissal and prayers ready. 

We engaged with the nativity story through readings from Isaiah, Luke, Matthew and John interspersed with all the traditional carols.  In the end I didn't need the prayers as they were led by a fabulous lady with intercessionary skills in abundance.

I thoroughly enjoyed the service, gently leading us through the nativity story and singing my heart out to the carols and enjoying Neil's wonderful sermon on the light of the world; what a fabulous experience.  Thank you Mothers Union for letting me lead you in such a beautiful and poignant service.


INTRODUCTION

Good afternoon, on behalf of the St Nicolas Mothers Union, I welcome you all to this carol service.  At Christmas time we delight again to hear the story of the journey to Bethlehem, the song of the angels, the surprise of the shepherds, and their joy as they found Jesus in the manger.  And so today we have come together as the family of God, in our Father’s presence, to celebrate the truth of Jesus in our lives, to receive the good news of the birth of Christ and to offer to God our thanksgiving in the joyful singing of carols.

COLLECT
Lord our God,
on the first day of creation
you made the light that scatters all darkness.
Let Christ, the light of lights,
hidden from all eternity,
shine at last on your people
and free us from the darkness of sin.
Fill our lives with joy
as we go out to welcome your Son at his coming.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.

INTERCESSIONS
Christ, born in a stable, give courage to all who are homeless:
Christ, for whom the angels sang, give the song of the kingdom to all who weep:
Christ, worshipped by the shepherds, give peace on earth to all who are oppressed:
Christ, before whom the wise men knelt, give humility and wisdom to all who govern:
Christ, whose radiance filled a lowly manger, give the glory of your resurrection to all who rest in you

Mothers Union Prayer
Loving Lord,
We thank you for your love so freely given to us all.
We pray for families around the world.
Bless the work of the Mothers' Union as we seek to share your love through the encouragement, strengthening and support of marriage and family life.
Empowered by your Spirit, may we be united in prayer and worship, and in love and service reach out as your hands across the world.
In Jesus' name.
Amen

DISMISSAL
May the Father, who has loved the eternal Son from before the foundation of the world, shed that love upon us his children. Amen.
And the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon us and remain with us always.  Amen.

Journeying with Mary Day Seventeen

Day Seventeen - Tuesday 13th December 2011

Luke 2:8-20
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

I love the shepherds section of the nativity tableau, it ticks all the boxes of wonder and awe with the ordinary people being central to the message and meaning.
 
Shepherds had one of the hardest lives of all people in biblical times; they were some of the lowest in society and discarded as those who lived with the animals.  They lived with the herds for weeks and months at a time, protecting them from wild animals and ensuring that they survived the elements; which meant living themselves in the elements far from communities and families.  They were uneducated and of very little worth; yet God chose them to be the first people told of Jesus' birth.
 
I have read many accounts and interpretations of the shepherds and the reason for them being chosen over the years; the majority of which conclude that the choice of shepherds is confirmation of the proof of the birth of a messiah; after all any fabrication would have chosen a holy man of importance.  I however prefer to think of the shepherds being the first to be told not as a way of providing historical proof, but as a demonstration of how Jesus Christ was born for all people of the world, even the lowest in society.  God chose to send the angels to tell the shepherds as a sign that Jesus was for all people, of all time, no matter how they are seen by their communities.  God showed that human value is of nothing to Him, He values us all as we are.
 
I love the fact that "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart".  She held the visit from the shepherds as a teasured occurrence; it spoke deeply to her and she held it in her heart.  I wonder what that means; perhaps she saw that God was choosing the lowly and the excluded and this showed how deep her son's task would be.  Perhaps she realised how wide God's net was being cast and therefore how broad Jesus' ministry would be.  Perhaps she basked in the pure joy of a celebration of Jesus' birth despite it being lowly and quiet; God was showing how great it was to Him.  Whatever it was, she treasured it and thought on it and no doubt this was part of the birth story she told to Jesus in the years of his childhood.
 
Prayer of the day
Lord of all, we thank you for reminding us that Jesus came for all.  We are more than good enough to receive your grace, love and forgiveness and for this we are in awe.  Remind us to treat those who are excluded from society with the same depth of love and ministry that you do.
 

Monday, 12 December 2011

Journeying with Mary Day Sixteen

Day Sixteen - Monday 12th December 2011


Luke 2:7
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

I have always loved this verse; it's so gentle, so beautiful and so strong.
There was no room in the inn, but Mary didn't let that stop her caring for her new born infant. She didn't shout, scream, rant or rave; she just got on with her new job as mother despite the situation.

I will let you into a secret, a badly kept secret; I'm a ranter and raver.  I find it extremely hard to keep my emotions inside for very long and often find them spilling out into a rant.  Who do I rant at?  God!  Yes, I rant to God in my prayers quite often.  I used to hold a lot of guilt about it, but I know God would rather I rant in prayer than rant at people who don't deserve it.  If I had been Mary I would not have simply wrapped Jesus in cloths and placed him in a manger; I would have then got on my knees and ranted about the situation my beautiful boy was born in. 

Luckily I have been chosen for many tasks for God, but not this one!  And that's the point that's with me today.  Mary was chosen for her specific qualities to be the mother of Jesus; she was resourceful, strong, gentle and calm; everything she needed at the birth and throughout the years she mothered the messiah.

Prayer of the day
Father God you are the only one who knows us inside and out, completely; we ask for more acceptance of that as we follow your calling on our lives.  It isn't always easy to follow where you ask us to go but we are today reminded that you have excellent reasons and we should trust them.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

British Newspaper Archive

How exciting, a massive volume of British Newspapers are now available and searchable online.  You can now search for articles from the start of the 18th century until the mid twentieth century.  I am properly thrilled.  However I have let myself and everyone else down by making my first search of this fabulous archive my own birth date; how little imagination have I got?  But it's shown me all sorts of interesting things that have happened on the 13th December through the years, apart from my own birth that is.  Here are some highlights.

13 Dec 1851 - a child made a miraculous escape from a well in Scotland.

13 Dec 1773 - preparations were being made for the Queen to start her lying in at Buckingham Palace.

13 Dec 1902 - the second anniversary of the battle of Nooigedacht.

what can you find?

Dear bullies


Dear bullies
See that boy doing his homework in homeroom?
Last night he Talked His friend out of suicide.

See that girl you just called fat?
She is starving herself.

See that old man you made fun of cause of the ugly scars?
He fought for our country.

See that young boy you must made fun of for always being sick?
He has to walk home in the snow cause his family is too poor.

If Mary and Joseph had facebook

As I continue journeying with Mary through advent and preparing a sermon on Mary for Midnight Mass I have been pointed towards this by a friend; what a gift



The music is perfect
The story wonderful
The social media aspects great

Watch it, you won't regret it.
Now I just need to figure out if I can use it in any services this Christmas :)

The Bible in a Minute

This video has been around for a long time, 3 years in fact, but I have never got around to posting about it before now.  I love it; for kids, teens, adults, explorers, bible readers and theologians alike; it just has so much to tell us about the breadth and depth of the bible in just 1 minute.



Here are the lyrucs
"BIBLE IN A MINUTE"


EARTH MADE, ADAM EVE
CAIN KILLS ABEL, HAS TO LEAVE
BORING GENEALOGY
GREAT FLOOD, OLIVE LEAF

TOWER BABEL, ABRAHAM
SODOM AND GOMORRAH AND
ISAAC, JACOB, JOSEPH, MOSES
TEN COMMANDS, PROMISED LAND

JUDGES, DAVID, SOLOMON
SENT AWAY TO BABYLON
JOB, THEN A BUNCH OF PSALMS
PROVERBS AND THE SONG OF SONGS

MAJOR PROPHETS, LION DEN
MINOR PROPHETS, BETHLEHEM
GOLD AND MYRRH AND FRANKINCENSE
SATAN AND SAMARITAN

CHOOSE DISCIPLES, OTHER CHEEK
WALK ON WATER, THOUSANDS EAT
LAZARUS, FIG TREE
LAST SUPPER, GETHSEMANE

BLOOD MONEY, THIRD DENIAL
PONTIUS PILATE, PUBLIC TRIAL
FORTY LASHES, TO THE TREE
WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?

THIRD DAY, EMPTY TOMB
REAPPEARS, FIVE WOUNDS
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES NEXT
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Journeying with Mary Day Fifteen

Day Fifteen - Sunday 11th December 2011

Welcome to week three of this advent journey with Mary.  This week we look at parenting on the other side, other side of pregnancy that is.  We following Mary, Joseph and Jesus through the first weeks and months of being together as a family.

Luke 2:6

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.

Doesn't Luke make birth of a first born baby sound easy.  My experience is not quite as simple as that, but don't worry I'm not going down that path.

Mary is a mother; she has her son in her arms. She knows the immense joy of motherhood, the miracle of life, the weight of her task as a mother. I know those feelings, I can feel them like it was yesterday rather than 6 years ago, it is truly amazing.

Prayer of the day
Father and Mother of us all, as we sit with Mary in the joy of new motherhood we experience the joy you must feel with each new life on earth. Remind us of this joy today as we celebrate Jesus' birth on earth. Amen.

Journeying with Mary Day Fourteen

Day Fourteen - Saturday 10th December 2011

Luke 2:4-5
So Joseph went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

We are back in Luke's gospel; back to the detail of the birth itself. Next week we find ourselves in Bethlehem; but first Mary and Joseph must make their way there.  I love the fact that Luke in these verses focuses on Joseph, I'm sure it was might hard work for him to get to Bethlehem with his heavily pregnant wife to be.  But I can assure you that more than 30minutes in the car is no joke when you're expecting a baby, let alone several days or weeks on the back of a donkey. 

Just imagine that!  Yes, I really did say days or weeks. It wasn't just around the corner, or even the next town; it was a massive journey across a country and it would have been a long hard slog.

Luke's account of the journey doesn't mention there being no room at the inn until after the birth, but for ease of understanding and chronology I'm including this image here.


So Mary is sore and weary after a long and uncomfortable journey at the late stages of pregnancy. She must have been looking forward to a bed, a proper meal and some time to rest, but no such luck. There was no room at the inn, at any inn, so they took a warm dry place instead, possibly with the animals. I'm guessing just being out of the elements would have been comfort enough, but not exactly what she'd have expected for the labouring of her first born.

Prayer of the day
Father life is not always what we hope for or expect; the journey can be long and tiring and the destination more hostile than comforting. . Today we're reminded that we need to worry less about the how and what, than the why and when as we follow you. Amen.