Wednesday 28 September 2011

Memories flood in

As Babyloss Awareness Week approaches I am preparing for the service of remembrance, finding music, poetry and prayers. I'm obviously more tuned into my emotions through this and more aware of my grief, but it certainly does seem strange quite how many reminders are around.

I was clearing out my handbags at the weekend; in one I found Kendi's last scan, in another the teddy I bought when he died, bought so that I could carry a reminder of him with me.

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Then in a session on prayer we were asked to pick the image that spoke to us and look what was there
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And I saw it again yesterday, on a bookshelf, when I was speaking to a woman about Babyloss.

These images might be meaningless to most people, but to me they trigger memories and together hold great meaning.

If you would like to support the Babyloss awareness campaign then please consider wearing a ribbon.

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Tuesday 27 September 2011

Service of Remembrance for babies lost before or shortly after birth

Service of Remembrance for babies
lost before or shortly after birth

Saturday 15th October 2011 at 3pm
St Nicolas Church
Sutcliffe Avenue, Earley, RG6 7JN

An hour of music, poetry, prayer and remembrance.
We will start by lighting candles in loving memory of all babies that lit up our lives for such a short time.

The service is open to anyone who wishes to attend, so please spread the word of the service to anyone who you feel might like to come.

If you are unable to attend but would like your baby remembered, have any questions or would like to speak to someone in confidence please contact Emma on 01189260673.

Part of the Baby Loss Awareness Campaign

A poem about children with hidden disabilities

I am the child that looks healthy and fine.
I was born with ten fingers and toes.
But something is different, somewhere in my mind,
And what it is, nobody knows.

I am the child that struggles in school,
Though they say that I'm perfectly smart.
They tell me I'm lazy -- can learn if I try --
But I don't seem to know where to start.

I am the child that won't wear the clothes
Which hurt me or bother my feet.
I dread sudden noises, can't handle most smells,
And tastes -- there are few foods I'll eat.

I am the child that can't catch the ball
And runs with an awkward gait.
I am the one chosen last on the team
And I cringe as I stand there and wait.

I am the child with whom no one will play --
The one that gets bullied and teased
I try to fit in and I want to be liked,
But nothing I do seems to please.

I am the child that tantrums and freaks
Over things that seem petty and trite.
You'll never know how I panic inside,
When I'm lost in my anger and fright.

I am the child that fidgets and squirms
Though I'm told to sit still and be good.
Do you think that I choose to be out of control?
Don't you know that I would if I could?

I am the child with the broken heart
Though I act like I don't really care.
Perhaps there's a reason I'm made this way --
Some message I'm sent to share.

For I am the child that needs to be loved
And accepted and valued too.
I am the child that is misunderstood.
I am different - but look just like you.

Author Unknown

Sunday 25 September 2011

Jesus as a boy in the temple

Today we did Jesus as a boy in the temple with God Squad.

- God wants us to seek him
- Jesus was no longer a child
- Jesus wanted to learn more about God
- adults were surprised by his action

We started the session in prayer and thinking about the week ahead.  We then thought about ways that we might think about God.  Many ideas were given, mostly relating to creation and nature.  

We talked about how we could seek God; the children identified prayer and singing and with some help came to the Bible and Church.

I reviewed Jesus' childhood and introduced the story of Jesus visiting the Jerusalem Temple when he was 12 years old.  I showed some pictures of how historians think the temple would have looked in Jesus' time and tasked the children with working together to make their own from boxes, tubes, paper and sticky tape.

The children did an amazing job, the temple they created was so much more than I expected them to produce.

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We placed God in the temple and then read the Bob Hartman version of the story together.

It was a fantastic session which we all enjoyed and which I'm sure will remain in the minds of the kids and the adults who saw the temple and heard the children back in church.

+Colin's vision for LLMs in Oxford Diocese

Ministry of LLMs in non church settings 
- think of how being a Christian, a disciple, an LLM might change how we are and act in our lives outside church
- we bring a different view of humanity and this is an important reflection in the world

Ministry of presence
- the real impact of mission is in the presence in society
- we are recognisable people of God in the midst who can be a presence
- through our presence in the world we can bring people together as community

Doing new things
- in church eg messy church
- in the community eg meetings and worship for the community
- in schools eg RE, assemblies

Meeting a theological hunger
- Dawkins and Hawkings have established a debate and polarised discussion on theology, we can be in this

Helping people in praying
- most people feel deskilled in prayer, we can help by showing how we all are learning through experience
- through our sharing and teaching we can show how there is no wrong way to pray

As LLMs we are an integral part of the whole church; our mission is that of God who longs to see His church grow.  That is +Colin's vision for us.

Praying with children ideas - Yvonne Morris 

Yvonne Morris is the Oxford Diocese Childrens' Advisor.  We were lucky enough to have her come to St Nicolas today to share her experience and ideas on praying with children.  These are the key ideas are collected and will definitely be trying out.

Prayer cubes - helps chatting and catching

Tabernacle of prayer - have a sacred space where prayer can flow in God's presence

Images - where is God in this picture?

Sidewalk Chalk - allow the kids to draw or write their prayers or draw their relationship or journey with God

Asking God which game he'd play with you - it'll say a lot about what God would like from us

Silent Sunday

Saturday 24 September 2011

BBSG First Meeting

Berkshire Babyloss Support Group
Providing a supportive place for parents,
and families who have experienced
the loss of a baby.

Group Meets from 8pm on the last Monday of month.
At St Nicolas Church Hall, Sutcliffe Avenue, Earley.
(Through the door at left side of the church hall, follow the signs)

We welcome anyone who has been affected by the loss of a baby before, during or shortly after birth.

Upcoming dates:
Monday 26th September 2011
Monday 31st October 2011
Monday 28th November 2011
Monday 19th December 2011
Please spread the word to anyone who you feel would like to come along.

Clearing the study

I spent over two hours this morning clearing my desk and study, and the results are pretty pleasing.

It started because I was looking for the Babyloss Ribbons and couldn't lay my hands on them easily. It continued because it felt therapeutic. It ended with a much more organised system, a clearer desk itself and a sense of readiness.

I threw out loads of old clippings and notes and random items which I thought might have been useful during my training. I photographed those which I had an inkling might be of future interest but otherwise I was just a touch less than ruthless.

I have organised files for Lay ministry, parish ministry, all age services, children's work, youth work, bereavement and pastoral care, messy church, schools work, adult learning, miscarriage and babyloss, charity work and personal things. They have a place now, I can find them and they'll be useful when I need them.

I feel more organised, more prepared, more ready; as if the chaos which training can sometimes feel is over, ready for the chaos which I'm sure ministry will often generate. Now to make sure it never turns into this perfect example of a clergy desk by Dave Walker.

Friday 23 September 2011

Licensing is on the horizon

This blog is called LLM Calling.
I started it when I first acknowledged that perhaps I was having a calling to a lay ministerial vocation.

Anyone who has read through from the start has seen the process of discernment, preparation, selection, acceptance, training, formation and the start of ministry. They've seen the ups and downs, the excitement and fears, the uncertainties and glimses of confidence.

I know, as I read some of my older posts, how much I've changed in this time; in fact I'm thankful to my blogging for allowing me to see that change. It has been a mere three years and yet I couldn't feel more different about life, the universe and everything than I did at the start.

And now comes the next step;
the supposedly exciting step;
the part everyone in training aims for;
the event which has me a nervous wreck;

We had our first pre-licensing meeting last night and it has me freaked out.
I'm going to be licensed; it's really going to happen; in front of probably 1000 people and maybe more.

I've been told that I will be changed that day; that's something awe-inspiring and unknown for me to ponder. But perhaps worse still is the worry that nothing will happen. I think I'm ready to be committed.

I know that it's good to have all these nerves now, with over a month to go; I can hope to deal with them and feel more ready on the day. I just am shocked by the intense reaction I have to this awesome experience that is coming up.

I honestly hadn't thought much about the actual licensing before now; it's really happening.

Thursday 22 September 2011

God was not having a bad day when he made me

I'll say it again

God was not having a bad day when he made me

And again with gusto

God was not having a bad day when he made me

Even though it often feels that way!
God made me as I am, exactly as He wanted.
He love me just as I am.

But this does not mean I don't have a role to play in my life and health.
I can now accept, just about, that I'm good enough; and through this have realised that I can do my part to be better.

That means:
Prayer - check
Time - check
Accepting myself - check
Looking after myself - ah, yes, Oohps.

So I'm getting fit; it's time to do my part.
I'm blogging this challenge, that's what I do, but rather than clutter up this blog I've got a different place .... Finding Fitness by Forty

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Listening as meditation

I have spent hours over the last few years trying to record the sounds of the waves on the pebble beach on the Hampshire/Dorset coast. I adore the sound; the rhythm, the movement, the gentleness, the force of nature; it comforts and relaxes me completely.

It is fantastic to learn that I am far from alone, as I discovered this morning on the BBC News Pages .

Sound Artist Bill Fontana has been recording the sounds of the waves at Chesil Beach and is going to play them in central London. What a fabulous project, what an amazing sound.

I agree with Bill entirely, listening the natural world is to me a form of meditation; a way of engaging with creation and the wonder of the world around us. Next time you have half an hour spare and need to relax I recommend you take yourself to a wood or park or beach or river and just listen, I promise you that you'll be blown away.

Eurozone crisis and the Media

I am sick and tired of hearing the depressing news that the Eurozone is in crisis; that Greece is being followed down the swanny by Spain and now Italy. It's not that I'm not interested; it's that it is depressing both emotionally and economically.

Surely someone somewhere soon will realise soon that the endless negative reports about the world's economy is making us ordinary people less prepared to spend money!

Why would be go out and spend when it seems that the world is in a downward spiral to bankruptcy?

Why would we purchase anything from countries in trouble if they truly are on the brink of collapse?

Why would we believe that the recession is going to end some day?

It seems to me that amongst the many clever economic plans to solve the eurozone crisis perhaps the simplest would be ......

stop scaring us all to death

How about instead telling us about some good news stories such as all the small businesses that are starting up at the moment.

Monday 19 September 2011

Save the Children #healthworkers campaign

Every year 8 million children under the age of five die. They are dying of completely avoidable causes, such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. No parent should see their child die because they can’t get basic treatment.

On Tuesday the world leaders are meeting at the United Nations, and Save the Children are calling on David Cameron to set an example to the rest of the world. They’re asking him to put health workers at the heart of his government’s plans to save children’s lives in poor countries. 

Today I signed the Save the Children petition, and today I am asking you to do the same. There are currently just over 40,000 signatures on the petition. Save the Children would like 60,000 by the time of the summit. That’s two days away. Two days to get all those signatures. 

Can we do it? 
With the help of us all they can! 
Together we can make a difference.

If you believe that no child is born to die, please sign the petition, and keep the politicians working towards that goal.

To support this campaign the bloggers @helloitsgemma and @michelletwinmum are trying to get 100 bloggers linked up with a 100 word meme before Tuesday.

What you need to do:
1. Go sign the petition NOW!

2. Write your 100 words about a great health professional you have encountered in your life. Add a link to the petition and include some information from Save the Children about the #Healthworkers campaign at 

3. Link to a number of other bloggers and ask them to do the same.

4. Link your blog post up to @michelletwinmum blog by Tuesday at

4. Tell the world; by Tweet or facebook or good old word of mouth.

My 100 words:
One hundred words on a great health worker, the only problem is choosing. For this campaign I'm choosing the nurse at my GP practice who sends reminders to mums about the vaccinations that are scheduled for our kids. She reminds us, we book in and then as gently as she can she allays our fears, answers our questions, gives the injection and copes with the child screaming in her face. She sees every child in the community, she delivers the free vaccinations for everything under the sun and she even has time to talk. Can you imagine just some of this provision in the third world? That is our campaign in a nutshell!

Sunday 18 September 2011

People, Prayers and Potatoes "Creation" Session

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Today at midday was the first ever People, Prayers and Potatoes at St Nicolas Earley.  

Based on the messy church concept it is a way of experiencing a Christian narrative in a more informal way.  The service includes craft (in the hall), before praying and worshipping together (in church) and then eating jacket potatoes together (back in the hall).

Armed with God's spirit, much enthusiasm, plenty of ideas and a blessing of helpers we kicked off this new monthly missional service.

I started by doing the Godly Play on Creation before allowing them to respond in one of a number of ways:

1. By drawing, writing or collating

2. In reflection with the Godly Play itself

3. Through the making of prayer stones

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4. In the creation of acorn sheep

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5. With the tactile experience of playdough

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As you can see, the creations on creation were fabulous, both the young and young at heart enjoyed themselves.

Moving into church for the worship element worked really well, allowing a quietening ready for reflection, prayer and song.

And who would ever turn down a home-cooked jacket potato lunch with friends; true fellowship together.

This service was and is God given; given to us as church so we can give to the community.  Amen.

Thanks to the following blogs for inspiration in designing the craft for the session.

Major Love of Film's Bug Rocks

Red Ted Art's Acorn Sheep

Nurture Store's No cook playdough recipe

Silent Sunday

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Silent Sunday

Saturday 17 September 2011

Praying for the Welsh Miners

Lord, Father of all
We pray for your sons with you in heaven,
May they bask in your love and compassion.

Lord, Father of all
We pray for the bereaved families,
Bring your comfort and love to them as they deal with their loss.

Lord, Father of all
We pray for the miners who have lost their colleagues,
Give them strength as they work in the mine again.

Lord, Father of all
We pray for the community grieving their friends,
Fill them with compassion and community spirit as they live with the holes in their lives.


Some can't cope with the twisted slinky

Following on from life is like a slinky spring I just couldn't resist writing about Mike as seen here

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Mike spent over an hour today working hard to untwist my twisted slinky spring. After five days of tormenting him on the kitchen table he couldn't take it any more. He couldn't see a spring all twisted up, it upset him. I'm sure this says a lot about his personality but I care not to delve into it right now.

Why am I sharing this?
Because I'm sure Mike is far from alone in not coping with mess and chaos and the confusion of life as shown by a slinky spring. And that's fascinating to me because I was the same before I learned to trust God with my path and the future.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Life is like a slinky spring...

Many of us might wish that our lives followed a clear path with known curves and a progressive development making a beautiful pattern much like this:

But the reality of most of our lives ends up being much more like this:

There's a tangle and a twist, a confusion or two and some back-tracking; there's a mix of colours and directions with a few stable sections here and there.

The same, in my experience, is very much true of callings to ministry. There may be some smooth stretches but mostly the path through a calling is exciting, terrifying and confusing all at once.

The thing is not to worry, not to stress, not to think too far ahead.
Take one small section of the journey at a time; one colour before another, each curve in turn. That is easier said than done, but in my experience keeping focussed on the here and now is easier than looking at the big confusion of the changing picture as a whole.

No slinky springs were harmed in the making of this blog post, a beautiful one year old worked especially hard to provide the inspiration for the writing.

Thirsty for the Holy Drink

Today I am sick.
After nine weeks of a debilitating cough my body has finally given in to itself in a dramatic fashion; namely me coughing, then collapsing in the kitchen with my head hitting the bin. I was out for a minute at most and happened to have Neil (vicar), Mike (husband) and friend (nurse) with me at the time so it was as good a place and time as any could have been. But it was scary, mighty scary and has left me feeling exhausted and fearful today.

So this thirsty thursday there was only one drink I needed, a Holy one, the blood of Christ, the eucharist. And thanks to the ministry of home communion that same nurse friend came this morning and shared the eucharist with me.

In my fear and my illness and my healing I drank the Holy Drink and knew that I was cared for by God and His church. Perfect.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Autumn arrives

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This is a perfect Autumn day to me, 
this is a sign that Autumn has arrived,
a pure blue sky as far as eyes can see,
and a nip in the air and dew on the grass

The conkers are falling, the acorns too,
the blackberries are heavy on the bush,
tree leaves are turning another hue
And there's a crunch on the path as we walk

The sun's shining down with heat disappearing,
the air is cooler, but clearer as well,
summer has past but winter awaiting,
And walks are required to enjoy nature anew.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Open and closed questions

Today Rachel's been telling me about her science lesson when she learned about Open and Closed Questions.  She had lots of examples to show me and had really got the hang of it.

She had me asking some and was surprised that I knew how to do it.  I'm not sure why she was surprised, she normally assumes I know everything, but she was.  Luckily Mike came through and demonstrated a lack of knowledge which thrilled her.

Mike's lack of knowledge, yes he really didn't know, reminded me of my surprise on pastoral care courses I've been on.  There seem to be many adults who don't know the difference between and open question and a closed one.  I know in most of life it doesn't really matter, after all we don't necessarily need the names of things to use them; but being able to frame open questions in a caring capacity is important.  So here's a quick definition and a few examples.

Closed Questions
closed questions invite yes or no responses, no more and no less.  They tend to close down a conversation rather than encouraging the sharing of information.  For example; did you feel upset when your friend ignored you?

Open questions
Open questions require the responder to come back in any way they like; therefore encouraging a more open flow of conversation.  For example; how did you feel when your friend ignored you?

Sunday 11 September 2011

An entire faith blamed

The news today has obviously been focussed on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Mostly this has been well presented, remembering those who died, those who saved so many and the memorials in New York and Washington.

But there has also been a lot of discussion on terrorism, the ongoing threat to the western world and on fundamental Muslims. I have been reminded of the way that the entire Islamic faith was blamed for the 9/11 attacks; they were demonised and feared and life became very hard for muslims in the US, UK and elsewhere.

What was that about?
Why was an entire faith blamed for the plan involving possibly 20 people?
I don't remember the entire Christian faith or Roman Catholic church being blamed for the IRA terrorist attacks across London.

I sadly conclude that the world needed a demon to blame, and Islam was an easy target. Perhaps there was discrimination, misunderstanding and hate in the US towards Islam; I don't know, but I doubt that if the attacks had been by the IRA that a hate campaign would have been waged on the Irish or Christians or the Church. Yes the attackers deserve condemnation and those who support them need to be monitored; but an entire faith should not have been blamed.

Ten years ago my Muslim neighbours could barely look me in the eye, yet I in no way held them to blame. Today I know they felt collective guilt and worldwide grief, but had no idea how to show it. If I could go back ten years, I would speak to them and talk and tell them how disgusted I felt with a whole faith being blamed by the acts of a few.

Making Disciples; a role for us all - Bishop Colin

One of the themes of Living Faith is "Making Disciples" and introducing people to Jesus.  This is a major role of us as LLMs.

How do we make disciples in today's world where people know the 'un-pretty' past of the Christian church?  We need to ask that question for ourselves and work out discipling in the here and now.

Our country has mainly lost touch with the Christian story; the generations are less and less even aware of Jesus.  It is from this point that we need to introduce Jesus to people, whilst also balancing the needs of the life-long churched and those who have turned away from church in the past.

We need to come from different angles to different groupings of people; each context having a different way of being (re)introduced to Jesus.

To help us think about discipleship and bringing people to Jesus from their various background, we will look at Acts; in Jerusalem, Athens and Ephesus.

Acts 2:14 onwards - Jerusalem
Peter starts speaking with the people where 'they are', dealing with their questions.  He then introduces the relationship that God is already in with each of us, and how they failed God by crucifying Jesus.  When they asked for help Peter tells them to "repent and be baptised".  300 hundred were then baptised.

Acts 17: 16 onwards
Paul is now in Greece and is greatly distressed to see the city full of idols, even though he must have known it would be.  So Paul spoke in the synagogue to the Jews and in the marketplace to whoever was around.  Philosophers questioned Paul and his speaking about Jesus' resurrection; to which he starts affirming their religious manners.  He tells them that they should not worship the unknown, but worship the Creator God who lives everywhere.  Eventually Paul tells them that God commands all people everywhere to repent before the day of judgement.  But not many turn to Jesus, it instead takes time for them to become Christians.

Acts 19
Paul was shocked and surprised that the Christians in Ephesus had never heard of the Holy Spirit.  They had been baptised by John in the spirit of repentance waiting for Jesus.  They had been living in community with God at work in their lives, but something was missing.  Paul came and helped them discover Jesus for themselves.

By looking at those three encounters in Acts we can consider how we might make disciples with different people in the places they are. 

Hopes for the LLM Community - Bishop Colin

Over the next five to ten years +Colin hopes that as LLMs we will:
- feel more valued in our ministry for God within our churches and communities
- get the pastoral care we need within our parishes
- feel equally important as the clergy in the Diocese
- always have an up-to-date working agreement with our incumbents which details what our ministry is
- think about our own ministerial development and access courses that would benefit our ministry
- consider deployment on a wider basis where needed in the deanery
- increase the numbers of LLMs and more younger LLMs
- have ministerial teams which understand the ministry of LLMs
- spread the gospel within communities in which we live and work 

Where were you on 9/11?

Ten years ago today the world changed; I changed.  In the morning I thought I knew the world, international relations and conflict; by the evening I knew that everything I had known was invalid.

Here's my story of 9/11 from a sleepy town in England.

Ten years ago I worked in Henley on Thames.  It was a tiny company of four of us and myself and the two assistants were in the office.  The morning passed as normal, me writing a report from a workshop the day before, the girls happily chatting whilst they typed and filed and organised things.  We were all busy and somehow forgot to go out to get our lunches at the normal time.

At almost 2pm Anni decided she could wait for lunch no longer and went out to buy something.  She was gone longer than normal and when she came back into the office was white as a sheet.

I remember her saying "a plane has flown into the twin towers in New York."

I couldn't take it in and of course I assumed it was a tragic accident.  But she kept saying it wasn't an accident and we needed to turn on the radio.  We turned it on and the three of us sat in stunned silence as we heard the news.

No accident
Hijacked plane
Terrorist plot
Attack on US soil for the first time ever
Hundreds dead

And then another plane hit!

If life had shifted a bit after the first plane, it jumped to a completely different place altogether when the second plane hit.

The emotions flooded through me;

A country I had no particular affection for and a city I didn't know had suffered the most immense loss; of course I'd feel sadness and empathy for the victims and their families, but it was more than that.

All three of us new life would never be the same again.

After trying to decide what to do for an hour we gave up any idea of work and we all went home.  I had to switch off the radio in the car, I couldn't drive listening to the reports.  Even so I had to stop half way home and just sobbed as the emotions overwhelmed.

By the time I got home the fear was extraordinary; London might be next, or Paris or Berlin.  And where was Mike?  In the city of London!  I couldn't get hold of him, mobile phone systems were overwhelmed. So I watched the news and prayed London wouldn't be attacked.

For four hours I watched the news with tears streaming down my face.  And when Mike came home we kept watching through the evening knowing that he had colleagues in those towers.

The world stopped for us that day; it stopped as we watched, but more than that, it stopped it's normal trajectory forever and took a new course of fear and religious intolerance.

Today as I remember where I was ten years ago I pray for those who died, those who were injured, those who mourn; and I pray that we can find a way to stop terrorism in our world.

I'll never forget where I was on 9/11; it will stay with me forever. And that's no bad thing!

Saturday 10 September 2011

Helping other people read the bible - Christine Baxter

It is a good idea to start simple and get deeper gradually.  Reading a Children's bible can be a great place to start.  Offering to help is always a nice thing to do, perhaps guiding what to read and meeting regularly to discuss.

There are hundreds of aids to reading the bible, we are spoiled for choice.  The Bible Reading Fellowship, Scripture Union and the Bible Society all produce guides to name just three.  Helping people find one that works for them is part of our ministry.

Dramatised provisions of scripture can be an entertaining and fun way to explore the Bible.  There are many contemporary drama companies who do such things.

One of the things happening that St Johns Nottingham is the production of material for people who know very little about scripture.  It is a CD-Ron encyclopaedia of Christianity, searchable within both the Old and New Testament by themes.  It is aimed at A-Level learning.

One way to get people to read the Bible is to make it a church project, perhaps using a book.  For example "essential 100" (E100) takes people through the pertinent parts of the Bible.  These are fabulous as short courses.

There are many online resources available for going deeper into the Bible, for example Foundations 21 by BRF.

When people are getting to grips with the Bible then we need to move them on.  We may try putting the Bible in it's historical context.  Perhaps we'll "get critical" and enter into answering the questions that the Bible raises; debates can be fantastically exciting and engaging for some people.  

We need to remember that everyone is different in their life, background, knowledge and experience; we need to know an individual before we can really help them.  And of course pray; praying that the Holy Spirit brings people to a thirst for the Bible.

A possible preach on Mark 1:29-34

"As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was." [NIV]

Sermon aim
To share Jesus' healing ministry and the way He continues to heal us when we let Him.

Summary of the sermon
1. Jesus went to Simon's mother in law who had a fever.  That might not sound that miraculous, but 2000 years ago a fever could kill.  There was no paracetomol, no antibiotics to cure infection; a fever was extremely life threatening.

2. Jesus took her hand and helped her up, from her near death bed she was healed.  It was a simple act, a miraculous act of healing.

3. And Jesus went on; He healed others who were sick and drove out demons.  There are many debates whether these demons were possessions or whether they were depression and mental illness.  But whichever, He healed.

4. Jesus still heals today.  He brings hope to those who are sick, which can help then feel calm and rest and heal.  He brings peace to those who are tortured, allowing them to face their illnesses and heal with help.

5. But of course we all know of extremely devout Christians who die if cancer and suffer extreme depression.  And that is hard to hold together with the knowledge of healing.  I have spent time with people in these situations, I have lived through it myself.  And I know that Jesus does heal; he may not cure the cancer or instantly remove depression; but He walks alongside those who ask and brings healing.  It may be peace, it may be hope, it may be physical healing; but it is what God knows we each need to deal with our situation.  It is our understanding of healing that perhaps needs adjusting; our expectations.

6. Jesus healed.  God heals.  The Holy Spirit heals.  We can ask for healing.  We should know we can be healed.  We must have faith that our healing is exactly what we need.

God who heals and drives out demons today as Jesus did in his time on Earth.
Do the same again in our lives and those who need it.
For Jesus' sake.

Preaching Narratives - Christine Baxter

Sidney Greidanus in 1970 reviewed some studies on preaching in the 18th century, from this he argued that there are two main ways of preaching narratives.  Exemplary preaching and Salvation History Preaching.

If we preach on the text by focussing on the people in the text then we would say it's anthropocentric.  By holding up Hunan beings as examples we are exemplary preaching.  The trouble with this is that biblical characters often achieve great things and this leaves people feeling inadequate and incapable of meeting their calling.  

When we speak about people then we speak to the will and not to the heart, bringing about a "got to try harder" Christianity.  This is too prescriptive and leaves no room for the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand we might preach about God in the story, looking at the salvation history.  In this way we focus on the big picture, on what it says about God and how we can learn from this.  

This way of preaching tends to give us hope because we come to know that God is, and does, more than we can think of or ask.  He can always save us.  We can always hope in God.  We are always loved by God.  We learn to trust in God.

Preaching about God (re)launches a relationship with God and brings us truly to worship.  In this we know that God can and will act in the world for us all.

The use of scripture in preaching - Christine Baxter

What is preaching
Preaching is speaking the grace of God to the heart so that discipleship is evoked.  It's less about speaking to the heads and more about speaking to hearts.

We should not be trying to teach, that is not it's main purpose.  Preaching is the living word of God, based on the written word, through the spoken word.

How should we preach?
God speaks to our hearers through our preaching, rather than the preaching itself being the speaking.  Our preaching should be in such a way that the hearers can make a response to God.  We are facilitators.

We preach for a response; we need to preach so people long for what God can give them.  Of course if we are to allow a response then time is needed in the service for that.  We need to ensure the moment isn't stolen away.  Holding silence at the end of the sermon can be a perfect way to allow God to speak and people to reflect and respond.  

Often at the end of services people want to be able to talk about what has moved them.  We need to be ready to minister to anyone who is responding and needing help; be that immediately or or weeks later.  This ministry helps people to see situations from God's perspective rather than the world's perspective.

God does not tell us or chastise us, he is gracious and full of love and grace; we need to remember that and do the same.

We preach by the way we live and the life we lead as well as what and how we say the words.  This is just as important and something that needs taking into account in our actions and sermons.

We preach both to others and to ourselves; this means we need to make time to respond and repent and receive from God.

John Wesley would never allow anyone to preach unless they were fasting at least two days a week.  This is about being pure and receiving and channels of the Spirit.  That might not mean fasting with food, but certainly some sort of fasting could be useful.

We need to preach prayerfully; asking for the spirit to speak through us and act where needed.  We also preach expectantly; knowing that God will speak through us and bring the aim of the sermon to others.  And yes, it's right to have an aim in our preaching, one that can be written as a collect.

God who .... (scripture)
Do the same again in this situation
For Jesus' sake.

Preaching is a spiritual activity and we might encounter difficulties and should expect spiritual warfare.  We should be prepared spiritually for backlash and ready to accept and respond appropriately.

Preaching is scriptural; it is helping people to engage with scripture.  The lectionary helps us with this by taking us through the Bible in 3 years.  

But at times it might need help if there is a message to be given.  For example we never hear Ruth chapters 2 onwards through the lectionary, but perhaps the congregation would benefit from a focus on Ruth as a book sometimes.  It is about preaching the whole text when the text provided falls short of the mark.

When we read a newspaper we understand what we're reading, for what purpose.  That will be different than reading a letter from a friend or one from a bank manager.  In the same way that we read based on context; we need to read each book of scripture knowing it's context and background.

Application is the word of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit works first, the hearer works second and the preacher is the third part in the application of scripture.  But do we ever trust God to apply His word to His people?

Sometimes we need to delve into the text and draw the congregation into further depth.  But sometimes we might do better to draw no conclusions but to purely present the word of God as it is and in it's context.

Our application of the scriptures can often be so much smaller than what God can want.  It is therefore important to allow space for God to engage in the thinking through of the word for the people.

Through our preaching we can issue an invitation from God to the people as individuals to respond; much as we will have done in our sermon preparation.

Eg "Jesus calls us to follow Him; I was myself called to follow Him and try my best.  So, will you follow him?"

We preach differently depending on the size of the congregation.  That doesn't mean the subject and application and message is different; but that the style of preach will alter. A full church needs a more formal preach, where as a congregation of 2 families would be easier to engage with in a more relaxed, personal way.

John Stott says we need to preach in our current context; we need to think about the scripture in relation to the events of the week.  This is extremely important, we need to address current events in a rounded way and allow God's Word to talk to is in those situations.  

It is good to prepare our sermons with the Bible in one hand, the Newspaper in the other and with prayer throughout it all.

Gossiping and grumbling

@MotherRose1 tweeted this verse this morning and it spoke to me.  So I thought I'd share.

Why do you gossip? 
Why do you grumble? 
It's the evil one's plan to allow you to stumble! 
Stand up in Gods goodness and Grace.
I am with you my child.
Now take your place.

There is a lot of gossiping and grumbling that goes on in every group of people I've ever encountered.  Work colleagues, friends, social groups, families, and the worst offenders in my experience - School mums!

I thought that it wouldn't happen inside churches and was bitterly disappointed when I realised it does.  It goes on at a different level, with more compassion and based on concern; but it quickly tips over to gossip.

It happens over coffee, in home groups, at socials, in meetings; by new members, old timers and many who should know better.  It happens between ministers, in vocation groups, and I'm betting in every group of people although I hope the Bishops don't.  And the worse thing is that it's horribly easy to join in with, I am guilty!

So today I am reminded of a vice to try and put down, today gossip and grumbling shall be avoided.

Friday 9 September 2011

The use of scripture in our devotional lives - Christine Baxter 

For Christine scripture has been at the heart of who she is and what she's been doing since she was 15.  She studied a degree in theology, became a teacher and a Reader at 23.  She has spent her life teaching scripture and doctrine and being a reader in the parishes she's lived.

Scripture is essential to our spirituality as Anglicans.  It grows over time in relation to who we are and our life circumstances.  Throughout life it is important to find a rule of life for us to study scripture.

Christine asked us to think when we last and will next study scripture.  Perhaps we answered that it's at church, at night, each morning or in some other pattern.

As Christian ministers it is likely that our pattern of reading scripture is daily, weekly/fortnightly, monthly/termly and annually.  For example I read the bible every morning, study in more detail each fortnight through study group, prepare sermons each month and follow the lectionary through the year.

Christine proposes that we talk through our prayer pattern with our spiritual director or someone else.  The purpose of this is to make sure that we are being nourished but not exhausted by our patterns.  From this input we can then make any adjustments that might be needed.  This is especially important at times of transition in life eg marriage, new baby, change of job, bereavement, retirement, licensing etc.

God is available to help us adapt our scriptural studies through life, He wishes us to be sustained as disciples of Christ.  If we start feeling jaded in our ministry we might wish to change our scriptural study to allow the Spirit to work with us more easily.  

It is easy to slip into patterns where we study scripture only for our ministry and not for our own sake; this is a dangerous situation.  We are called to ministry for who we are, this needs sustaining and forming through the work of the Holy Spirit.

For most of us the every day reading of scripture is our breakfast; we remember what we had for breakfast today but not 2 weeks ago, but it's essential to stay alive.  As Anglican ministers we are encouraged to read the offices regularly, committing ourselves to listen to the whole council of God over a couple of years.  This is our spiritual breakfast.  By reading the scriptures we are getting into the mind of God.  This drip feeds us, barely noticeably most of the time; but over years it changes us as a drip on a rock would form a bowl.

Sometimes there are opportunities to look in detail at something, to grapple with it, to really get to know it abc absorb it.  Often these will throw up areas of scripture which are wells of comfort; places that speak to us in times of need.  

For me they include:
Matthew 28:16-20 the great commission "be disciples".
1 John 4:18   "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."
Jeremiah 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart".

These are passages that speak to me; that are known to me intimately; that are a comfort to me.  They are always there, always available and always speaking to me.

We can help each other in our scriptural study; by reading and praying together, by sharing together and by sharing resources that help us read the scriptures.  There are reflections, patterns for reading, commentaries, art and plays; through these different mediums we can see something new.  Of course not everyone will like everything, but through the exploration we might learn something about the text or ourselves, or both.

One of the great privileges as ministers is that our studying of scripture can result in us teaching or leading others in the scripture.  Allowing a further period of study and grappling and understanding.

Conference joy

I hoped I'd be back later with excitement and back I am.  Within half an hour of seeing people I haven't seen in a year and joining together in fellowship I knew why I needed to come to conference.  

There is something specific about the calling to lay ministry, something that needs celebrating with other LLMs.  I love my ministry in the parish, I am blessed to be valued and included.  But I am also blessed to be part of a large body of lay ministers who are called specifically to a role different to that of priests.  It's good to be reminded, especially as licensing approaches.

Pre conference ponderings

I am at All Saints Pastoral Centre in Hertfordshire awaiting the start of the Diocese of Oxford Licensed Lay Ministers conference 2011.  I am not particularly thrilled to be here, but it's mighty hard to put my finger in why.

Certainly I'll miss Rachel and Mike and that's a factor.  I know I won't sleep well and that's never great for a weekend.  There's a fabulous speaker coming to St Nics this Sunday and I'm seriously disappointed to be missing it.

Then there's the subject of the conference itself "The Bible Today"; it just doesn't fill me with anticipation.  I'm sure I'll learn a lot and have much to reflect on (watch this space) but the title leaves me uninspired.

I have been praying for enthusiasm but it's not arrived; but I'm trying to keep an open mind.

I'll be back, hopefully excited.

Brian McLaren - Christian identity in a multiple faith context

This talk is a prequel to his upcoming book with a tentative title "Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed walk into a bar".

As Christians we know how to have a strong faith, but we also know how to be hostile to other faiths and their beliefs.  We have centuries of history of our identity like this.  It might not be a glamorous history, but without knowing our past with it's history, violence and genocide we can't possibly move forward.

It might be nice to have a benign and weak Christian identity which avoids the hostility of strong Christian identity; but it in itself is not really celebrating being Christians.

There should be a third way, a third identity; one based on stories and history which actually brings into our identity both the violence and peace of our past.

We need a new story that sweeps away all the myths of our past and is inclusive enough to include all Christians.  We need to return to what Jesus actually did and said and base our faith on that.  A gospel faith.

There are 6 narratives in Jesus' story; and they all still stand as applicable today:
1. Domination
2. Revolution
3. Purification
4. Isolation
5. Competition
6. Victimisation/self preservation

These are the stories that send us into the world in battle against others.  They give us ways that we as Christians we can be 'safe'; by dominating, by overthrowing oppressors, by blaming others for our problems, by scapegoating, by feeling mistreated and oppressed which needs freeing, by aiming to start again alone.  All these separate 'us' from 'them'.

Instead of a narrative of a clenched fist, Jesus told stories of the open hand.  Instead of warriors, he sent us as farmers.  He showed is baptism as the cleaning from the old stories a d resurrection as a new narrative people with a fresh identity.

We are going to need theological shifts to understand the Bible in this open hand narrative.  This will be a shock, after hundreds of years of reading the Bible to support our warrior identity.

Jesus tells us to be non violent even in the face of violence; we are not called to fight but to forgive.

Jesus gave us the Eucharist to be a continuation of eating with sinners; yet our Eucharist is 'just for us'.  Why?  When did it become exclusive rather than inclusive?

Jesus never plays self preservation; He shows us pursuit for the common good - for everyone!  Would he exclude the Palestinians from their lands?  No, he'd work for peace of all together.

We need to leave our hostile narratives and work towards peace together.  As Christians we should lead this, we can work with other faiths and together come to a peace as faiths different but together.

Religions are similar but their mysteries are different at the core.  If you compare Christianity and Islam then you will see that we say different things about different things.  We do not conflict, we are talking differently.   

We need to be celebrating our similarities and accepting our differences; through peace. 

We see false Jesus' being proclaimed; Jesus' who make us more successful, more important, more happy, more in control.  We need to start realising that Jesus is strong and benevolent; we need to have that same faith.

We can be Christian and love other faiths and even aestheists.  We can love them for their faith and questions. 

All of Gods creatures are part of creation, we need to be benevolent to them all whether person, animal or plant.  We need to develop a new doctrine of love for creation of all forms.  We are called to a focus on love and acceptance and peace.

It's a new identity walking in the way of the Lord.

My thoughts

As I heard Brian McLaren speak I was really touched by the fact that many UK Christians definitely feel like victims in our secular society.  This has never sat well with me; I've never felt like a victim, never felt marginalised.  I've always felt a part of a multi-cultural society which allows many different people to live together despite our differences.  

So why is it that so many Christians like to feel like victims?  Is it about wanting others to save us and support us?  Or is it because it feels safe if we're together as the oppressed.

I say that if we feel oppressed then it's of our own doing!  

As I am in community with many peep of different faiths and none I encounter no negativity; I encounter interest and love.  God is love, I am loved, I love others; and in return they open themselves to me and accept and reciprocate my love.

We need to move beyond thoughts of separation and realise our role as disciples of Christ; forgiving, loving and giving.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Child behaviour related to nervousness

Over the last week I've been visiting lots of friends; what luxury.  

These friends all have two things in common:
1- kids who have gone back to school in the past few days
2- kids who in the last few weeks had started acting out

Before I go any further let me be clear, I'm no child expert; I'm a mum, I love kids, I've done graduate level courses in psychology and child development and I'm observant.

I was fascinated to hear my friends all say similar things
"xx is bored, ready to go back to school", "xx is needing so much of my attention all the time", "xx is behaving like a toddler again"

It got me thinking; how come all these kids, including Rachel, of all different ages are suddenly at the end of the holidays behaving out of character?

And then it came to me; nerves.
If all these kids were starting to get nervous about their return to school, would their behaviour make sense?

What was the 'evidence'.
- Boredom is a word used when you want more attention and adult led activity, as comfort and distraction.
- Acting like a toddler is attention seeking and emotional over-sensitivity.
- Needing more time with mum is comforting and distracting.

The behaviour which was driving my friends to distraction appeared to be emotionally led; it seemed clear to me that all our kids were being clingy and challenging because they were emotional with nerves at going back to school.  Perhaps not in a way they could identify themselves, but subconsciously felt.

It was a hypothesis and it made more sense than a sample of unrelated and personality diverse children all suddenly becoming difficult for no reason.

I spoke to Rachel about going back to school and noticed that she sought greater physical contact when we talked.  She couldn't verbally express nerves but was displaying nerves.

I spoke to a friend about my possible thoughts on her child's behaviour and after talking to the child told me that they were indeed nervous.  And just yesterday another friend confirmed my suspicions.

This is no scientific experiment, but it seems to me that when our children atypically display immature behaviour, perhaps it's them trying to tell us they're worried about something.

Just my thoughts.
Anyone else ever thought about this?

Strange Dream

I had the strangest dream last night, it left me feeling perplexed and a little disturbed.  Here it is:

One huge eye coming from the church ceiling made me shrink in fear, my eyes started bleeding.  Arms with scaly hands and talons came out from the walls, making me weave up and down the aisle to avoid them.  A huge staring crowd were at the door not letting me out, they weren't angry but staring in a threatening way.

Well thanks to my spiritual director I have some clarity about what my subconscious is worried about.

I know I'm called by God.
I enjoy my ministry in the parish.
I'm excited to be licensed.

But ....
I am a free spirit, I like following Gods call on my life wherever that takes me and the "church's" bracketing and organising of ministry feels constraining.  

It's the process I'm fearful of, not the ministry; and that I'll take one step at a time.

Monday 5 September 2011

Teachers aren't surrogate parents

So said Nick Clegg today and I agree entirely; but perhaps it's not the parents who need telling this, perhaps it's the schools and social systems themselves.

I don't expect teachers to be a parent to Rachel, absolutely not; but I DO expect them to communicate with me as her primary carer and therefore take into account my knowledge of her. This means dealing with each child as an individual, which is not what I experience from school.

When I tell school that she's worried about something at school I don't expect school to tell me there's nothing they can do about it. I expect them to listen to me as her parent, who knows her inside out, and explore how they can support me as a parent in her care.

I think the main problem is that the system wishes to dictate the way our children are brought up, based on some sort of fictional average child. As soon as this is corrected and children seen as individuals and parents valued as those who know best how to look after them, then the better.

I know that takes time and effort; but I'm sure the teachers would happily give up much of the form filling and testing in order to have time to spend nurturing and caring.

Freddie Mercury would be 65

Today I just have to share the fabulous google doodle commemorating what would today be Freddie Mercury's 65th birthday.

I know I'll be the hundredth blog to post this but for there are two good reasons why I'm doing so.

1. I've been thinking about what we as a church might do for World Aids Day, and that always makes me remember Freddie Mercury.

2. I vividly remember the day Freddie died because I was walking to my GCSE music class with the three others who were studying music when I heard. One of them, Matt, was and I guess still is a massive Queen fan and he was shocked and upset by the news. It's a retained memory and one that comes back when I hear Queen's Music.

So today I share this in the hope that Freddy's memory might live on through his music and that this might inspire the world to find a cure for HIV Aids.

Saturday 3 September 2011

The nature of home

For many people Greenbelt represents 'home' for them; perhaps it means to be at peace, to be protected or to be with people you love.

At Greenbelt this year I felt less at home than I did before, or at least that's what I'd have said last weekend.  But now I ponder I realise that home shouldn't just be easy and comfortable; it might well be challenging and thought provoking with love.  And Greenbelt was certainly that.

And being home; does that feel like home?  Well yes, in a comfort sense; but it's also challenging spiritually being home, being where the conversations are harder to have.

So what is the nature of home?
It IS a feeling of peace but also to be challenged to improve.
It IS a place of protection but not to be segregated from the realities of life.
Mostly it is a place to be with people we love and this is anywhere, as long as I have Rachel and Mike and God alongside.

Holy inappropriate???

I'll start this post by admitting I'm not a Daily Mail reader, in fact I read it at my in-laws as a form of painful entertainment than anything else.  But this article has really got my goat...

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Complaining that Bishop's are too real? Too approachable?  Too relaxed?

People prefer their Bishops to be alouf, separated and robed at all times? 
What is that about?
Did Jesus robe specially? I think not.

I've been wondering if it's a set up, to try to get a rise from people like me, but knowing the daily mail I think it might be serious.

It seems to me that Bishops can't get it right whatever they do.  Their either disconnected from the real world and theologising from ivory towers; or their slovenly and approachable.

Personally I like this move towards a more open style; it is a public demonstration that Bishops are human, like the rest of us, called by God to their ministerial role.

As a mere lay minister I will robe when needed; but mostly I will be dressed as me as appropriate for work with kids.  My clothes do not change my calling or ministry, that's all inside.

I wonder whether Bishop John will be open collared at my licensing? Of course he won't, after all we'll all be robed.  But how about the day after when he's coming to a special service at church?  I hope he doesn't expect me robed because I'll be running Sunday school and can't do that in a cassock.  It'd be great to see him informal with the kids, just as Jesus did.

Jesus can't be in history anymore?

It appears that Australia are going to remove the BC and AD date terms from school history books.  Instead they will now use BCE and CE; before common era and common era.

Does this mean that there is historical doubt over the birth of Jesus Christ?

Or is it that the sheer mention if Christianity in schools is too dangerous an issue?

Has the world gone mad?

I know I speak as a Christian, but seriously, even Mike believes Jesus Christ walked the earth and surely it's an appropriate point in time as any. Indeed the cut off for BCE and CE IS Jesus' birth.  This seems like fear speaking to me, a fear over faith.

Please Australia, let's concentrate on big issues in education, like historical knowledge if world faiths.

Freecycle use

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I have used freecycle both to pass on our old stuff and get things like a water table and play house for Rachel over the years.  

Over the summer months it's really come into it's own.  I've gone to freecycle to source toys, games, materials and art & craft bits for the various services we're launching this month.  How fabulous; items being given a new lease of life in the community.

It's a win-win idea which has taken the world by storm and which I recommend you use if you're trying to recycle or get hold of something you need.

God can't do much for nerves

After my previous post on the new series of services starting this month and my apprehension I've had a few people ask why I'm nervous when I've obviously got God on my side.

This makes me smile; the idea of having "God on my side" and that these people think I have some sort of hotline to immediate help.  

And yes, I know I have God on my side, as we all do.

And yes, I know that my ministry is God led, and held safely.

And yes, I believe God to be in these new provisions.

But that makes it worse; because if God's in it all then anything that goes wrong MUST be my fault.  

That's why my nerves remain and that's why I'll put as much effort in as possible.

Friday 2 September 2011

Strapped in and ready to go...

My ministry that is!

On Monday afternoon our new weekly toddler service for the community Noah's Ark @St Nics kicks off.

Two weeks on Sunday our new monthly service for the young and young at heart People, Prayers and Potatoes will be opened for the first time.

Three weeks on Monday the new monthly Berkshire Babyloss Support Group will be open for anyone to attend.

Three exciting new undertakings, three ideas provided by God, three new missional activities for the community, three new responsibilities for me.

I'm excited, but also very apprehensive; it's been a long time since I've held so much responsibility; and the nerves are because it's making this ministry malarkey very real.

In just two months I'll be licensed as a lay minister; two months! Where have the last two years gone?

It's going to be an exciting few months ahead with my ministry in action, my licensing and all; so climb on board and hold on tight because my blog's going every step with me.