Rachel's at school, Mike's at work and I get to visit a friend and her brand new baby in hospital.
Rachel and I are at tiny talk in the morning, Mike's at work and we have a curry together in the evening, as every Friday night.
I'm pregnant with Kendi and now running my own company, Mike's at work in Woking and we're waiting and hoping and praying.
Our first year of marriage; I'm a project manager in Basingstoke, Mike's a developer in Reading and life is a lot of fun.
We are both at UMIST preparing for our finals; or at least I'm preparing for finals and Mike's still trying to get his project sorted. We are living in a flat with 8 other fantastic people, the best of friends.
I'm studying my A-levels, in my first year and not working too hard to be honest. I'm having a lot of fun, possibly too much; and spreading my wings as far from home as possible. Favourite stomping ground - Camden Market.
I'm a teenager, at secondary school and trying to figure out how to cope with the ever evolving and changing friendships and alliances. Not the best of times.
A mere nine year old, about to head off to Hong Kong for a month to stay with my godmother; little did I know what an amazing time that would be.
Five years old, I have just started school and am in Mrs Stokers' class. I love the sand and water tables.
A little 1 year old, pretty cute from the photos I've still got.
after the flooding in Pakistan in 2010 Lal Chand lost everything. But with help from Christian Aid partner CWS-P/A he is now training to be an electrician and will be able to support his family.
I was shocked and horrified at the sight of the floods in Pakistan, so many thousands of people loosing everything. But that immediate horror was nothing compared to my anger and disappointment when the British news stopped covering what was clearly an ongoing humanitarian disaster. There were the odd reports, but if you didn't make the effort to seek specific news of the region you could easily think all was back to normal.
It is wonderful to hear of programs like this which have made a real difference to people who's lives have been turned upside down.
Christian Aid are asking us to give 10p for every light in your home. Wow, there are a lot of lights in our house. We don't think twice about having lots of lights that we use for different reasons. In the lounge alone there are 4; the kitchen has 12, plus two in the oven, 1 in the extractor fan and 1 in the microwave, oh and the fridge freezer is another 2, that's 18 in the kitchen; 2 in the playroom, 1 in the toilet and 2 in the hallway; 1 on the landing, 2 in bathroom, 3 in our bedroom, 2 in Rachel's, 3 in the study and 2 in the spare room. In total that's 40 lights in our house so I'll donate £4.00.
The Sign of Jonah
As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.
There's a lot of old testament in this passage centring around Jonah. The audience would have known what Jesus was talking about and would have realised that Jesus was saying he was the new king.
This passage is about repentance and about giving up that which separates us from God. It's very apt for lent (good old lectionary) and so I wonder what I'll give up today especially. I'll certainly be giving up talking because I've developed a massive ulcer.
Jesus you keep telling your people to repent, to come closer to God. Help us come closer with you. Amen
These themes are the five provided by The Bible's Big Story we received teaching about the the LLM Forum last weekend. I wasn't sure if I'd blog about them, but following my posts on preaching curses and explaining my faith to atheists I thought it might be interesting to some readers.
1. Maker and owner
God had always existed, He is without beginning or end. God always acts with love and it was this love which brought Him to make the world. God made the very beginning start and saw over every step of evolution. He loves the world and it all belongs to Him. We create and own nothing that does not use God's resources; even our bodies are made by God given us on loan. We are given all we are to serve others and glorify God.
2. Because I - Therefore you
God tells us who He is in the Bible, He tells us what He does for us and what He wants of us. Because God does so much for us, so we should expect to do for Him. God wants us to serve Him and to serve our communities with the love He gives us.
3. The Divine Plan
God created everything, it was His divine plan. But man sinned and so God brought a great flood. Even after this man still sinned, so God came to Earth as Jesus. Jesus lived the life we are meant to live and died to save us. God gives us the gift that we are forgiven. Jesus remains on earth as the Holy Spirit calling and helping us to serve God and everyone we meet. Now we are a forgiven people death is not the end, it is a door to eternal life. This is the restoration of God's original divine plan.
4. Jesus, the final word of God
Jesus speaks the truth of the Old Testament through his words. He interprets the old scriptures and presents it in a way that could be understood. Jesus tells us how to live, how to worship, how to serve. He is the final word of God. All that was before has been replaced by Jesus' words and actions.
5. Jesus, master and model
Being a Christian is not a part of our lives, it is the very reason for our lives, even if we don't realise it. We must involve ourselves in politics and care of the people and planet and change for good. We are called to serve and follow God's word through Jesus.
884 million people in the developing world use unsafe drinking water sources.
Let's get some perspective on this massive number. 884million is:
- more than 14 times the population of the UK
- just under 120 times the population of London.
- nearly 3 times the population of the entire United States of America.
In short it's a massive amount of people. A massive amount of people who might catch diseases that kill them from the basic need to drink.
I hope you agree with me that this is completely unacceptable and will count your blessings and donate today.
Christian Aid are asking us to give 50p if we've always lived in a property with running water. Yes, that's me, even the most basic of student accommodation had running water once the ice was thawed, so I commit to donating 50p today.
The Lord's Prayer
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
I love the Lord's Prayer; it's structure, the way it's engrained on my heart, the way I've known it forever, it's complete coverage.
I've never been able to just say it like some people tell me they do. For me it takes me deep into God's presence, every word has a purpose, every truth touches my heart. It is the truest of God's words for me.
This is the second of the children's work activities I'm doing during Lent and Easter. This Sunday was Lent 1 and the gospel reading was Mark 1:9-15 which is all about Jesus' baptism. On the theme of baptism and water I decided to have an activity floating crosses on water. The crosses float for the whole week, allowing us to be washed clean anew by the spirit with Jesus.
Here are the steps we took in the craft:
1. Take the piece of craft foam and draw the shape of a cross onto it
2. Cut out the cross shape
3. Use the first as a template and make another in a contrasting colour
4. Float the two crosses together on the water
5. Pray over the crosses Jesus we remember your baptism and your father's proclamation of you being His son. This week help us know that we are washed clean and guided by the spirit. Amen.
Rachel made her own style of cross which I love, here are her creations
Yesterday I blogged about whether we should preach the curses. It was written as a reflection and to see what other preachers would think. But beyond my expectations it has started two powerful conversations with two different friends who both happen to be aetheists. I never expected this, I just didn't think that this would be the subject that would cause them to reach out and debate with me. Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased, but it's also been a challenge. They've raised questions which it's hard to answer in a way that makes sense to them. It's challenged me about how I explain my faith to those who haven't had my experiences.
This post starts by providing the conversations and my initial responses. It then provides some more detailed thoughts. I am no expert, I am no great theologist; this is just my attempt at trying to explain my faith to those with none.
Conversation on Twitter:
Should we preach the curses?
- Preaching the *whole* bible is testing your faith?
No, it's about finding the message in the Bible to be preached. The curses are known, but do they help people seeking God?
- Are you preaching to people seeking or people who’ve already found?
Both. In fact we're all seeking God even when we've found Him, we're seeking His call on our lives and His truth today.
Oh and one small thing, life tests my faith most days, it's just that my faith, thanks to God's grace, passes :)
- Fair play - teasing me back. :) You know I’m an atheist right? As if if wasn’t obvious.
I do but I don't hold it against you :)
Conversation on Facebook
Should we preach the curses?
R "This is one of the major problems for me, as far as believing in a merciful and all-loving God. How do you square that with the list of atrocities and lack of mercy shown throughout the bible?http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/cruelty/nt_l...ist.html And that's just in the New Testament! Let's not even get into Leviticus. To cherry pick the bits which are palatable to us in these enlightened times would suggest we are imposing upon it a sense of morality external to the bible and seems a bit disingenuous if we are being asked to believe in it as some kind of eternal truth."
Me "I have no problems with the quotes in that link, these are truths that Jesus is saying. But there is a huge difference between experiencing pain of separation of God and being treated badly by God and that is the key. I would hate to be separated from God, to not hear him and know him and love him and be completely in relationship with him. It's all about relationship for me. Jesus at no point says that anyone will be condemned, he refers back to the rath of God in the Old Testament to try and explain to the Jewish people in words they would understand. I don't believe in Hell. It doesn't fit in with the God I know and the preaching of Jesus. I do however no that being able to experience Heaven on Earth is what matters and that being excluded from that by our own actions is sad. does this make sense? It is hard to explain when the focus is on the "what" of the Biblical words rather than the "why"."
I do not think it's useful to get into a list of scriptural references about curses and blessings, or to get into debates about what a specific verse of the Bible about. We can all find segments of the Bible which prove or disprove anything; that's not productive or useful or what the Bible is about.What is important in reading the Bible, as a Christian or as an atheist, is to understand how it was written, why it was written, when it was written, by whom it was written and what it’s themes are.
No one should read individual elements of the Bible as a pure truth; it is made up of different elements which need to be read in their context. When studying the books of the Bible, it is important to look not only at the information a book contains but also at the literary form that the author has used. There are the laws for the Jewish people, these were written to help them worship and live correctly. There are the books of History which provide actual truths and can be proved by historians. There are the poems and songs which take elements of worship and story and make them memorable for sharing. There are the wisdom books which raise questions about moral issues, and ask hard questions about life. There are the gospels which provide the good news of Jesus’ life and ministry. There are the letters from Paul which detail the what, why and how of the early church. When reading a verse or biblical quote it's important to know which book of the Bible it comes from and what the purpose of it's provision was.
The Bible was also written between 3000 and 2000 years ago in a very different society and with different understandings of the world and ourselves within it. What was "right" then, could be "wrong" now. Is having sex with a thirteen year old "wrong"? Yes, obviously, but it wasn't in lives which were ended before you turned 30. We know the Bible to be the word of God, but it is through the understanding of the words that God speaks. I do eat selfish and pork and I do work on the Sabbath; none of those things stop me being a Christian.
There are many blessings in the Bible, truths which I believe help us come closer to God when we accept them. And yes, there are curses as well, points which we need to heed for us to be in the closest relationship with God we can be. I know the curses, I fear the curses; what I don't want people to focus on are the curses. We are sinners, we do things wrong and God loves us knowing this. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins and to bring us back into a right relationship with Himself. He asks us to do the best we can and He gives us much advice to help, but He won't abandon us when we fail.
I have never preached on the curses; mainly because I heard more than enough of it as a child and it led me into a fear filled relationship with, and without, God. I only developed a relationship with God when I realised and knew and accepted that He loved me despite my faults and His expectations. I leave the knowledge of the curses to others and help people coming to and dealing with their faith through positive love.
Oh and to end, this was also provided by one of the guys just to be provocative. Here are my thoughts.
Guess which one the Bible's OK with
The Bible is not OK with slavery and the Bible isn't anti gay marriage.
The Bible was written thousands of years ago, therefore a Biblical definition of slavery is different than a modern western one. The Bible's reference to slavery is more like being indentured. You would be a slave if you are paying off a debt to someone, this being preferable to the death sentence which was the other option. This slavery was not exploitation, in fact the Bible only allows for slaves to become slaves voluntarily, abducting free people and making them slaves is prohibited in the Bible.
Fast forward several thousand years to the slavery which European Nations exploited and you'll see the kidnapping and mistreatment of people for the good and profit of those in power, that's very different.
I know that there is a huge christian movement against Gay marriage and gay relationships being against God. I can not agree with this AT ALL!! The mentions of not sleeping with fellow man are included in the Old Testament of the Bible. These writings were providing details of the history of the Jewish people and on them expanding the number of people in the world, increasing God’s people. This, as we all know, takes procreation and that means men and women having sex. The Bible talks about this a lot because it matters.
There is nothing I have ever read, or in any commentaries I have ever read by theologists, which says that it is a sin to be gay or to have gay sex. I refute this entirely and I will argue till I'm blue in the face about it.
Last week on Christian Aid's Count Your Blessings was the week of Justice. Today we move into a week of Transformation.
82% of the British Population are now Internet users compared with only 0.2% of the population of Mali.
I have to admit to knowing next to nothing about Mali so I've done some research, for a start here is the country's location on a map
Source: World Vision
Population: 12 million
Life expectancy: 53.7 years
Access to clean water: 60%
Adult literacy: 22.9%
Under five mortality: 218 per 1,000 live births
Languages: French and Bambara
Main religion: Muslim
Mali is the biggest country in West Africa. The northern part of the country is covered by the Sahara desert, the southern area is hilly savannah. Mali is very hot and dry from February to June; rainy, humid, and mild from June to November; and cool and dry from November to February. Mali is heavily dependent on foreign aid and vulnerable to fluctuations in world prices for cotton, its main export, along with gold.
My initial reaction to less than 1% of a country's population being online was shock, it never occurred to me that there would be countries with such immense proportions of poverty. And I am not altogether naive, I am well aware of the state of Africa and poverty. Sometimes we need to hear the statistics to really appreciate the needs of others. I'm glad to have heard them today. I hope you are too.
The question is then, what can we do?
Christian Aid are asking us to give 50p for every hour of leisure time you will spend on the Internet today. I will spend at least 4 hours on the Internet today. The majority of this time will be related to my ministry in some way because my life is my ministry, but it'll also be a lot of fun, I enjoy my work. So I commit to donating £2.00 today.
The Sheep and the Goats
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’. “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’. “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’. “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
All I keep hearing is the hymn "when I needed a helper ... Were you there, were you there?".
I love that hymn and it really sums this passage up well; we are called to help people as we would help Jesus.
Today we're called to ask ourselves whether we nurture the lonely, comfort the distressed, house the homeless, feed the hungry. Do we do all we can? Are we truly the sheep our shepherd wants us to be?
Jesus we hear today to know you in everyone we meet and treat them as we would you. Help us overcome our fear about this. Amen.
And this is just one of the reasons why; the money goes towards projects in the area he lives. Projects like the one on today's World Vision's Lent Calendar
A young girl participates in a special day of training for crèche children (aged 3-6) in Soweto, South Africa. Children are taught how to get help if they are being abused by an adult. South Africa has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the world and this program, a partnership between World Vision and the government, is working on behalf of innocent children to do something about the situation."We tell the children if somebody asks you to do something you know is wrong, you don't have to keep quiet about it. You can report it to your mother, to your neighbour, to your aunt, to your sister, to people you are comfortable reporting it to," said Cece, one of the crèche teachers who brought children to the event.
Other reasons I sponsor a child are:
1. Rachel gets to have contact with a child a world away and learn about how different people's lives are.
2. Sponsorship makes a proven difference in kids' lives, through the support and education they receive.
3. It is something I can do that makes a difference, no matter how small, in a continent I adore.
If you'd like to know more about sponsoring a child with World Vision the visit their sponsorship pages.
Watching this mother doing absolutely everything she can to save her child makes me think about how far we would go for our kids. I don't mean as individuals, there's no doubt that as individuals we would move heaven and earth for our children. I mean as a society.
Do we value our children?
Do we have the best systems to protect our children from harm?
Do we put children first in our society and in the decisions we make?
Or do we let them fall through the cracks?
Do we assume that they'll be OK?
Do we watch them drown?
If society is this mother elephant, how would the child fair?
How can you not smile at this picture, it's just wonderful. I love giraffes but I'd love them even more if they suddenly burst out in a show of colour.
I know it's not great evolutionarily to stand out from the crowd, especially if it makes you more obvious to your hunters or less attractive to the opposite sex. But I've never liked to blend into the background; it's just not me. Don't get me wrong, there are times when I long to be invisible, but mostly I am a bit of a drama queen and like to be noticed, especially if it's for something I've worked hard at. I like to try new things and break new ground and start new projects. I'm not your girl for the slow and steady work, I get bored easily and will start looking for new challenges.
Of course God knows all this and so He calls me to a ministry which uses my inability to stand back and blend in. He uses my personality to be obvious and seen and out there. I might not be tall and elegant but I certainly am colourful in my own way.
So do you stand out from the crowd?
Do you stand up for what you believe in?
Does God call you to stand out for your Him?
I would suggest He does, it's just a case of finding out how He calls you to stand out as yourself.
Following on from this morning's session for the kids on the unforgiving servant I saw this on a friend's facebook wall. Isn't that amazing how things come together, especially in Lent. This has so much to say to me about what it means to forgive.
Anyone can hold a grudge, but it takes a person with character to forgive.
It certainly is hard to forgive, it means seeing beyond whatever caused us pain and really working on how we can heal. It means sitting with the hurt and working through it. That takes effort.
When you forgive, you release yourself from a painful burden.
This is the truth that most people don't realise. Forgiveness is a lot about being freed from the pain, hurt and energy which is takes to hold a grudge and retain hate. It is definitely worthwhile putting the work in to move on with your life.
Forgiveness doesn't mean what happened was OK, and it doesn't mean that person should still be weclome in your life.
This is a hard one, especially if the person receiving the forgiveness doesn't realise it. Forgiveness is about moving on, it's not about saying it was OK, it's not saying that you'll accept the same behaviour again, it's not saying that you trust the person anymore. It doesn't necessarily put things back the way they were before, in fact it might never; it's about allowing the pain to pass. Sometimes part of forgiveness is about distancing yourself in the future to help you and the other person avoid the same again, this is especially true when it comes to addictive behaviours.
It just means you have made peace with the pain and are ready to let it go.
Making peace with the pain, what easy words and what a hard task to achieve. You have not forgiven something if the event and feelings associated with it are still on your mind and eating you up. You have not achieved forgiveness if you think about it all the time or it triggers your emotions. Forgiveness is about truly moving beyond what happened in all senses.
Today in God Squad we looked at the parable of the unforgiving servant which Jesus told to help Peter understand forgiveness. It is provided in Matthew chapter 18.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
We started, as ever with worship. We meet with parachute games, we give ours sins to God with paper balls thrown to God and we hear we are loved through a song. We entered the story by hearing the story as told by Bob Hartman in the Lion Storyteller Bible which the kids loved, especially with the repeating theme of hey, ok then. The kids totally got the fact that we are told to forgive others like God loves us.
I had prepared a table with bowls of water, stones and the images of ripples on water which were in my post on apologies.
I asked the kids to think about the ripples of love which come from being forgiven and then invited them to drop a stone into the water and see the ripples. They all had a go and I was astounded how much they thought about the process; I don't know why though, these kids are amazing.
Next I showed them some pictures of broken toys including these
I asked them to say how they'd feel if someone broke their favourite toy and whether they'd be able to forgive the person who did it. They all agreed that it would be hard but that they would be forgive someone.
We spoke a little about bullying
The kids shared their experiences of bullying and how they tell their teachers and parents if it happens. We spoke about turning away from someone who's being mean and we prayed together for all those people who bully others.
The girls and some of the boys in our group love craft, but for some it's just not their thing. I always have a few craft activities available to hopefully engage everyone in at least one activity. Today we had colouring of a WWJD picture, making a paper hat with the logo WWJD and the activity everyone took part in.....
Making WWJD bracelets.
1. get a piece of paper and scribble on loads of colours to show how you feel when someone is mean to you or breaks a toy or shouts at you.
2. cut that piece of paper into thin strips (I had marked lines on the back of the paper for the kids to cut along)
3. roll up these strips with the colours on the outside to make paper beads
4. repeat the process 4 times and write W W J and D on each one
5. string the beads onto elastic and tie round your wrist
The kids loved it and the bracelets were worn with pride, here are some of the kids showing theirs off, aren't they great.
Oh and if you're wondering what WWJD is; it's What Would Jesus Do. I wanted the kids to think what Jesus would do if he did something wrong - he'd say sorry, or if someone was mean to him - he'd forgive them.
The Baptism and Testing of Jesus
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
Jesus Announces the Good News
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
I always thought that the lent should be a period of suffering, being like Jesus in the wilderness. But the more Lents I live through the more I realise it's about dealing with big things in your life.
Lent's about looking at yourself and the way you are being tempted away from God's path for you. Lent's about travelling with the angels and knowing they're protecting you whilst you deal and heal.
I pray for myself and you all this lent as we journey through our pain and temptation; may the angels hold our hands and the healing be achieved at Easter. Amen
Today was the annual forum for Licensed Lay Ministers in the Diocese of Oxford of the Church of England. We were lucky enough to be attendees at the CMS course "The Bible's Big Story".
A one-day course for those who have a great love for the Bible but want to know more about how it fits together chronologically or theologically
I took pages and pages of notes (on my phone of course) throughout the day, it was truly breath-taking in its truth, grace and revelation. I have loads of ideas of how I'll share what I've experienced and learned; as well as now having a list of possible blog posts as long as my arm.
So what's the course all about?
We live in a world where biblical resources are increasing, yet the British Church is becoming really biblically illiterate.
We are all called to share Jesus, but we can't do that unless we know the Bible intimately. The Bible's Big Story is a tool to help us know the Bible and be able to share it.
Often we have pieces of a jigsaw but we don't have the whole picture, we have the cross stitch but not the tapestry, we have the verses but not the whole book. Does our church know the big story? Or do they know bits and pieces?
The aim of today is to get an idea of the big story, a sense of the narratives. We learn the Big Story by teaching it, it's ongoing, we're always learning. The best to get to know the story really is to share the story.
I completely recommend the course, if you lead groups in your church, if you are wanting to go deeper in your exploration of the Bible or if you're just looking for a spiritual pick me up. But be warned, you'll want to share it with others.
This morning at breakfast we were watching the birds in our garden. There were a pair of blackbirds eating the bread on the lawn and interacting with each other. There were two blue tits in the cherry tree eating the buds and jumping around together. And then there were the three robins.
For most of the week we've seen three robins in the garden getting progressively more active. There is definitely one female and then two males competing for her attention. it's lovely to see, the males fly around so fast it's spectacular; whilst the female sits and watches and avoids their dive-bombing antics.
Rachel was thrilled to see all the birds and was asking what was going on so I told her they're pairing up for spring. I hadn't thought this through, suddenly I had gone down a path I hadn't intended.
What's pairing up?
Why are they getting together?
Is that like you and daddy?
How are the babies made?
I actually don't know much about bird reproduction so I was able to be suitably vague which she accepted. But she's definitely starting to realise that there's something I'm not telling her about how the sperm meets the egg. I wonder how much longer it'll be before I have to explain it some more. Perhaps if I just find out details of bird reproduction that'll be the best way forward.
Christian Aid partner Ekta Parishad has begun a 13-month journey across India to transform the lives of hundreds of millions of Indians living in poverty. The group will campaign across 25 Indian states to demand that the government hold to their promises on land rights. The climax will see 100,000 landless people, some barefoot, covering 350km to Delhi in October and November 2012, in one of the biggest non-violent campaigns the world has ever witnessed.
This is the most amazing campaign, both in it's simplicity and it's scale. People walking across a country (a massive country) to raise awareness and change Government policy about poverty and the rights of the ordinary people. I pray that the Indian Government will respond to this action and bring about action on it's promises to provide the people with the rights to their land which they farm and help them get out of poverty.
This weekend Christian Aid are asking us to give 10p if your local MP has held an open meeting in the last six months. If you don’t know, give 20p and find out by visiting findyourmp.parliament.uk. It's a good job there's an option for Don't Know because I don't know. In fact I think I know that there's no chance and I have unfortunately given up on my appauling MP. I have written to John Redwood MP at least a dozen times and NEVER heard anything back. Instead I take my issues higher and have quite often heard back from cabinet ministers.
Christian Aid are also inviting us to join us on a march for Justice here in Britain in October 2012, by contacting your local Christian Aid office. I've never taken part in a march, not even as a student, they fill me with fear. It's all the crowds, I just can't stand massive crowds - better you didn't know that about me but it's true and one of the reasons I don't like shopping. So no, I won't commit to join a march, but I will commit to raising awareness of it and blogging all about it.
Jesus Calls Levi and Eats With Sinners After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
I adore this about Jesus, he refused to abide by the social norms and so should we. We should not go up against aestheists just because the media want us to. We should eat with people of other faiths and none even though this is seen as strange by some. We should open our doors wide to the homeless and addicts and those who need our help the most. We are called to follow Jesus, so let's follow his example.
Jesus we thank you for showing us how to live and how to accept, now help us as we break our own societal norms and follow your example. Amen.
During lent we think about our wrong doings and we say sorry. We say sorry to God and we ask for His forgiveness. It's like throwing a stone into water and watching the ripples spread out. The ripples of the apology, the forgiveness, the healing and the change in behaviour.
Saying sorry is hard. It takes a lot of courage and a fair amount of humility. When we say sorry we are saying that we know we've made a mistake and that we will try not to do it again. That's a big deal.
It's something we expect our kids to do when they're tiny and yet we find it almost impossible as adults.
Why is that?
Is it because we don't see what good it can do us and the receiver of the apology?
I think it might be.
I like to think of an apology as an echo, a wave of sound bouncing back and forth. Or, to use another system of waves, as a ripple on water.
Sometimes our sorry's are small, for small things which only affected one person. In these situations the ripples don't travel very far, they move out and are then absorbed by the water and forgotten.
But other times we need to give a massive apology, perhaps to quite a few people at once. The ripple that hits the water then is massive, they go off at speed and last for many minutes in the water affecting lots of the surrounding area before being absorbed.
In some situations people owe apologies to each other and they say sorry together meeting in the middle to a calm space. So it is with two sets of ripples on the water; they move outwards and start interacting until they find peace and calm between themselves.
Other times many people owe apologies but they are all stand alone and their ripples never interact and never affect each other. The ripples are seen more than felt before they are gone.
And then there are the huge apologies, the ones which could change the world when they are given. For these there is a lot of weight and waiting around and the impact is huge. There is the initial ripple of shock and disbelief, then the outward moving wave of acceptance and change. The ripples keep going out with the apology spreading and decreasing as it touches those affected. This is an apology which needs to be given and needs to be received. This is the one where acceptance of the apology matters before the ripples are absorbed.
God takes our apologies, small, medium and large; and accepts them. He forgives us and helps us deal with the ripples from our actions. This lent let us give our sorry's to God and let Him heal us through water.
This Fairtrade Fortnight Take A Step.
Millions of people in developing countries depend on farming. But they are trapped in poverty by the rules of world trade, keeping those at the start of supply chains powerless to earn enough to cover their costs and with nothing to save for their families.
Choosing Fairtrade offers farmers and workers a better chance to work their way out of poverty, through fairer wages, safer conditions at work and a little extra, called the Fairtrade premium, to invest in projects to improve life for their whole communities.
Your step for Fairtrade can be as simple as trying a new Fairtrade product, or as big and bold as launching a campaign to get your whole town to go Fairtrade. Every single one counts, because together they lead to life-changing projects in developing countries.
For your first step just click on the video above and see what taking a step means.
If you want kids to grow up with healthy lungs then join the British Lung Foundation's Campaign to help children exposed to cigarette smoke in cars. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a smoker, ex-smoker or non-smoker – make a pledge to keep your car smoke-free when children are travelling with you.
Research shows that more than half of children in the UK have been exposed to cigarette smoke while travelling in a car. Smoking in a vehicle is particularly dangerous for child passengers as their lungs are still developing – and they are less likely to speak up and object. Children are worried about this, they don't want to breathe cigarette smoke. Would you're child like to join the campaign? Rachel has.