Tag Archive: Religion and Spirituality



Isaiah 58:12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

Catapulted into a hyper vigilant state from my early teens I am about as worldly as it gets. I’ve never had time for the supernatural, fairy tales or sci-fi. It’s the gritty, real and often dark that has always drawn me and still does. Add to the mix a couple of ‘unavailable’ male role models in my life and I have an ‘unavailable’ God, right, get me? Yes of course I talk to God but I have to admit to often not expecting him to speak to my heart. That’s why i choose to be  part of a community of believers who build and strengthen my faith.

Then I have weeks like this week, where lots of things speak to me and I hear God. I’m not talking about receiving materialistic answers to prayer/prosperity gospel stuff, getting what I want and things working in my favour. I mean I am learning to see God’s hand in my life and things working together for his purposes and for the higher good.

A few days ago,  I was with someone who was incredibly grateful for me spending a couple of hours with them. ME?! It was a humbling and slightly uncomfortable experience where someone seriously thought that I had more important things to be doing. It took me back to those feelings of unworthiness, the belief that another human being wouldn’t really want to spend  time with me. Being so aware of the time and believing that they really couldn’t wait to leave and had much better things to be doing. I can take for granted how  those feelings are not there today. The changes in my life have been so gradual and subtle to the point that I fail to see them until others point them out. It’s called restoration.

In Narcotics Anonymous they say ‘the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel

This week I was able to clearly see God purposes for my life. I don’t mean that all of a sudden I heard an audible voice calling me to be a missionary overseas or become a nun. I did see how all our past experiences can be used to give hope to others, bring light to the dark, rebuild and restore. God accepts us exactly as we are, we can do nothing to please him. He sees our hearts, our wounds, our destructive behaviours and he accepts and loves us. We are called by him to bring that exact same patient, accepting and forgiving heart to others. God uses us in ways we can’t ever foresee or imagine.

Our past hurts and stories become gifts in his plan to repair all things broken.

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Doubts and absolutes


 

Dear Lord, You are the light of the world. That’s about all I know just now. These first couple of years of following you have been confusing at times. Continue to reveal yourself Jesus. Amen

Today a friend and I were talking, he said he finds it hard to believe in the angry, violent and jealous God portrayed in the Old Testament. I don’t spend much time dwelling on that to be honest. I see the Bible as a narrative. Stories inspired by God, told by man, which tell of his relationships with his people and their quest to seek him. In fact, thanks to a very helpful comment on my blog I’ve just ordered “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally” by M. J. Borg

However, I do know there are almost 3,000 passages in the Bible which mention poverty and justice.

I don’t spend much time thinking about heaven or what will happen when I die. I don’t like the ”us and them” stuff, the ”who’s in? who’s out?” mentality and I don’t spend time looking for souls to save. I do believe that I’m here to do my bit in bringing the Kingdom to the here and now.

I have to admit to not even liking the word ‘saved’ and sometimes not understanding the term  ‘salvation’.

I can’t get my head around the fact that there are people who go to some sort of fiery pit after death and are burned and tortured for eternity. I believe that idea directly contradicts a God of love and compassion.

It’s quite nerve-wracking voicing my doubts like this but certainty scares me also. Absolutes scare me. I admire people with unwavering faith who appear to hear from God in all sorts of areas of their life, I just don’t have that. I do, however, think God is bigger than our tiny minds can ever comprehend and I seek to commune with him. The sooner I try to define him by my beliefs haven’t I then made him in my image?

 So..if I can’t get my head around these doctrines and beliefs that are banded about so much, am I even a Christian? Sadly, some would say no.

About a year after I began to follow Jesus, someone in the Church said to me, ‘”You are in danger of becoming too liberal and works based”…I didn’t understand what this meant  at the time, but it hurt a bit. 

A year on, that sentence has stayed with me (the church hasn’t). The thing is, I wasn’t ‘becoming’ anything..that is me..that is who I am, always have been, and probably always will be. I try to have a heart for social justice, work with and get alongside the marginalised and from what I see in the accounts of Jesus’s life, that’s what he did too.

In  Matthew 5:14-15: “You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” 

Hopefully, with Christ’s light inside me, i can help bring forth his comfort on earth regardless of my ”dodgy” theology. 🙂

Unequally yoked. What?


 

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and unrighteousness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness.”

2 Cor 6;14

Unequally yoked? Man, this passage carries some weight, generates much discussion and impacts many Christian’s  lives.

What IS she on about?! I hear some of you asking.  (It’s nothing to do with eggs, ok)

Some who read this will have no question as to their interpretation of this passage. For those that don’t I’ll explain what I understand.

A  yoke is a wooden beam which is used between a pair of oxen to allow them to pull a load when plowing a field. It allows equal weight to be distributed to both animals so that they will  bear the burden evenly. In the above passage Paul was speaking to the Corinthians. Some people think that this passage was referring to Christians having relationships with, or marrying non believers. People take this very seriously indeed and inevitably it has huge implications.

I sometimes wonder if it’s another one of those passages that has been taken completely out of cultural context, used as Biblical instruction with too much focus being placed on it. Some people love to have rules.

 The theory is that  a Christian and an ‘unbeliever’, (or person of another Faith) who are ‘yoked together’ by marriage, or relationship, will undoubtedly face  difficulties..their priorities in life will not match, and pain and discomfort will more than likely be the result.

Someone gave me the stool analogy. If you, (The Christian) are standing on a stool, it is much easier to be pulled off it than to pull the other person up on to it with you.

 There are many exceptions to this, I’ve met them. I’ve heard wonderful stories of Interfaith relationships.

All I know is-I became a believer, errr, only God knows how or why..

The, (already rocky) road of relationships became narrow..

It was ‘suggested’ it would probably be a good idea to look for a partner who is also a believer..

So..the road became narrower..

A little way down the road, it turns out not all of us Christians share similar views on major issues and some can actually be quite weird..

And narrower..

 I don’t believe Jesus wants us to withdraw into a Christian subculture. Paul wasn’t telling the Corinthians to break ties with the world, but to put their relationship with God above all else.

Have we demoted Jesus and promoted Paul? A Clegg and Cameron style coalition where Paul has become PM and Jesus the deputy? 

Jesus said ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Luke 10:27). That’s all.


 

Not long ago I went to Worth Abbey for a breather from the rat race and an (almost) silent 30 hour retreat. Worth Abbey is a Benedictine monastery and the setting of the hit BBC TV show The Monastery (completely recommend it for anyone who hasn’t seen it by the way. All episodes available on YouTube.) Anyway, so many hours in my own company with little or no distractions was plenty for a beginner! There was no contact with friends, texting or compulsive checking of my Facebook feed.

It is said that when we are alone with ourselves and in the silence that’s where God is to be found (Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10).

Whether atheist, agnostic or believer, take away life’s distractions and we find out what we worship. What tends to fill our minds at those times tends to be our master or golden calf.

No man can serve two masters. Over the years I have served many masters, from alcohol and drugs to needing to be needed. Thanks to Gods grace many of the unhealthiest ones are gone but I still kneel at the throne of a double latte and a few roll ups to help me through the day.

And sometimes I forget God.

Recently our pastor was discussing Sunday worship within the church setting. I must admit that I do get confused as to what is a ’emotional high’, similar to what people experience at football matches and what is truly experiencing God’s presence. We were asked to think about what distracts us and how hard it can be to focus solely on God for that short time each week. Although Sunday worship is only a small part of worshipping God, I have to admit that singing anything with the word ‘Awesome’ in it has me off and running stuck in my little critical, oh so human self.

Back to the monastery, it wasn’t all the noise of my head contents swirling round like a washing machine on spin. Benedictine monks practice the liturgy of the Hours. Seven times a day, prayers, hymns, scriptures and Psalms are recited and sung. It was a privilege to be able to join in with some of these (I skipped Lauds,the 5 30am one!). It really was the most beautiful thing, the rhythmic praising and acknowledgment of the presence of God throughout the day.

Of course I came back from my retreat enthused and determined. I was straight on to Amazon ordering my own copy of Phyllis Tickle‘s “The Divine Liturgy Of The Hours”. I was spiritually recharged and ready to embark on acknowledging God at marked intervals throughout the day like so many who have gone before me.

So how am I doing with my monastic inspired living?  Well, when I’m not consumed with self, obsessing about blog material or just generally living with free-floating anxiety, I’m learning to see God at work in my life. Slowly but surely and I guess that’s all I could ask for really.

One of the monastery guests asked Abbot Christopher Jamison, ” Can you smoke while you pray?”. “No”, he replied “but you can pray while you smoke.”


 

I am a proud member of Christians tired of being misrepresented, The Christian Left and The Progressive Christian Alliance. Online groups set up to counteract some of  the bigotry and lies that are perpetuated in the name of God.

I find my self fascinated by America’s Religious Right and the lack of separation of church and state over there. It’s just not like that here with the public manipulation and power games, I assume that a lot of our party leaders here in the UK have been much more ‘reserved’ in their faith. I know we have bishops in the house of Lords who  advise the government on stuff but my thoughts are that Christians really are in a minority here and have much less of a voice in mainstream policy. Britain on the whole is much more governed by political correctness. In fact there is a whole ‘I’m not ashamed’ campaign going on at the moment http://www.notashamed.org.uk/leaflet.php, where people feel they are being discriminated against as Christians and are called to stand up and be counted. I ask myself if this discrimination of Christians is as a result of  society being sick and tired of told how to live by often misguided but well-meaning fundamentalists.

 Still, Christians ARE misrepresented here and often find ourselves having to undo damage done by others.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a work colleague who knows I am a Christian. We’ve never really chatted about matters of faith. She said she finds Christians ‘hypocritical’ and while she admires people who have a strong faith, it’s not for her. Turns out her brother became a ‘Born again believer‘ a few years ago. Over the years he has consistently quoted scriptures at her and told her she is going to hell for her lifestyle choices and continuing to refuse to accept Jesus. At a family event recently, he even refused to acknowledge her new partner. She also told me that he has continued to behave in some very dark ways and is an angry bully to the female members of her family. We sat in a coffee shop, my toes were curling as I tried to grasp for something to say. I think I mumbled something like ‘before the reformation, folk were worried about putting Bible in the hands of the common man for exactly these reasons.’ It is a dangerous book in the hands of the ignorant. People will  interpret it themselves and come up with all kinds of crazy ideas and judgements, alienating the majority in the process. All of this sadly, so far removed from our saviour and the things he said and did.

Lord, I’m sorry for some of these people misrepresenting you on this earth.

Friends, I’m sorry for the self righteous, judgemental lunatics that we, as Christians can be.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)


I was recently inspired by this picture of Jesus which I saw on The Christian Left‘s FB page.

An insubordinate rebel..yeah, I can relate to that.

This is the Jesus I love. Sadly, I’m not sure he’s always the same one associated with mainstream Christianity. The one that turned the tables in the temple, furious that people were turning the house of God into a moneymaking extravaganza.

 This is the guy that went out of his way to hang with the outcasts of his day, we would call it Assertive outreach. He ate and drank with tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers. He didn’t judge, just gently pointed people to a better way. This was grace, in action.

 He offended the religious types so much that they killed him. He refused to perpetuate the barriers they had created which stopped the average person from knowing God. The rules and regulations, the ways to behave which they thought earned them favour.

Sorry but as soon as the man-made rules and judgements kick in, I’m off. Tell me not to do something I do it, tell me to do something, I generally don’t do it. I seem to be wired that way. Insubordinate.

One of the common mistakes I make is to think that if I’m not thinking along the same lines as others, God doesn’t love me. I believe grace in theory but sometimes don’t always apply it to my life. I can get caught up in religiosity.

Yes, God is holy. Jesus came to bring us into relationship with him. I struggle with the word ‘Sin’ and the negative connotations it has. Fire and brimstone preaching has alienated the average Joe from even wanting to seek God by using such fear-based, negative language which is full of condemnation. I try to understand  ‘Sin’ as simply as  ‘missing the mark’, ‘falling short’..or anything which stands in the way of us and God. separation from the Divine. Whatever we may think, we all do it but the truth is God loves sinners!

That’s why the message of Grace is so important. God so loved the world that he gave his only son (John 3:16). He loves us as we are. We can’t do anything more or less to earn his love. We have it. We are created in his image. It’s almost too incredible to accept, I know.

The sooner we realise that its God who has to work in people’s hearts, not us. The more able we are to meet people where they are at and really show them the Grace and love of God.

We are all ragamuffins, each of us comes beat-up, burnt-out, ragged and dirty to sit at our Father’s feet” Brennan Manning -‘The Ragamuffin Gospel

Writing in the sand


In John Chapter 8, the Pharisees bring a woman to Jesus who has been caught in bed with a guy that’s not her husband.

They want to know what he has to say to her and refer back to the Law of Moses which says she should be stoned to death. They’re trying to get a rise out of him so they can accuse him of something and they kept on and on at him as well as condemning her.

Meanwhile Jesus just looks down and writes in the sand with his finger. Basically, he blanks them.

He says to them ” If any of you have never sinned, go ahead and throw the first stone ”

He looks down and writes on the ground again. One by one, they all leave. No one throws anything.

I’m going to try to look down and write in the sand more.

I can easily spend time becoming irate with things outside my control. I burn at bureaucracy. I rage at discrimination. I hate the worsening gaps between rich and poor. I see and hear things which really hack me off sometimes, often within the ‘Church’.

In my teens my mum called me ‘an inverted snob’, alas this is still true at times. I generally identify with the underdog.

Still, in the words of Paul  “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1).

So I will attempt to look down and write in the sand more.

Letter to Mr Right


Firstly, yesterday I met Mr Right. I mean he really was Mr Right..about Everything.

And I’d like to thank him..for prompting me to start a long overdue blog.

Thank you again, Mr Right.

I thought I’d write to you Mr Absolute, for the sake of any poor women who may come across your path in the future.I thought I’d give you a few tips on the do’s and don’ts of dating.

So I’m quite a new Christian okay. (In other words don’t be asking me to do any theological referencing to my banter, I don’t have any, just a heart that is being filled with faith for a God I don’t understand) I’m struggling with the daily walk and where I fit in to it all. I don’t feel like I fit in most of the time but that’s just me. I find God in weird and wonderful places not necessarily within the walls of church. Am humbly reliant on a daily dose of His radical grace.

Again, I am thankful to you, aforementioned Mr Right for prompting me into the blogosphere. ive been reading so many  blogs recently and of course feelings of spiritual unworthiness as well as lack of academic ability creep in  as to whether I can write my own. ( I got expelled from two schools for being obnoxious and disruptive) so my academic life never really took off!

when I say Mr Right..i of course mean Mr religious Right. We were ‘destined to meet’ after a few brief emails on a Christian dating site (more fool me you all may say…well, all I say in return is never again!)

 Dear Mr Right,

So, Mr Virtous, to start a date making an issue over someone choosing not drinking alcohol and then probing and probing about why not, until one is almost forced to disclose far too much about their past is not the way forward, believe me. Now don’t get me wrong, ive no skeletons in my closet. I’m open about stuff. I just choose not to disclose it in the first five minutes of meeting someone..Mr Certainty, for your future dating information, it is not the way to make someone feel comfortable. and, while i mention it..the fact that it was such a big deal for YOU..says far more about you and your love of Cabernet Sauvignon. And also, while we’re on the subject of  selective use of scripture (okay i know we’re not there yet but im getting there)…whats that one about causing your brother to stumble again..?
Anyhow..the date…the date to remember with Mr Right-eous. Within five minutes you tell me that you havent spoken to your brother in 8 years. ‘He’s turned away from the lord and is…GAY’ (said in hushed voice)…’not GAY!?’ I whisper….then , ‘its ok’, you quickly reassure me ‘he knows it’s an “Abomination’…oh dear, it’s hard to tell if what I can hear is blood rushing to my ears or my mind slamming shut but I know I that’s when I really start planning escape routes.

Will it be over the sea wall or may be I really will just wrench that bloody Cabernet Sauvignon out of his hand and down it after all?

i make a feeble (and i mean feeble as im a bit intimidated by Mr UpRight’s rightness you know..) attempt with my newly acquired knowledge to explain what I think the word abomination meant in the cultural context it was used..but my words trail away as i got that sudden feeling of trying to grab the soap in the bath..( this dudes been to Bible college I’ll have you know)

 Next subject.. mainline churches and their lack of awareness of the spiritual realm. Mr Certain, you’ve managed to piss off various pastors in the UK by going round  ‘exorcising’ members of their congregation and leaving people in floods of tears. (exorcising-is that a word? well you know what I mean, casting out demons apparently) When called in to the office and questioned on your antics you’re off..in fact Mr Right about everything, you are  thinking of starting your own church aren’t you? because that’s just what we need, more fragmentation and a few more denominations hey?.

I know you’ve seen real demons coming out of people like that woman who tried to stab you with a large knife. Was that before or after you benevolently took away her music collection consisting of INXS and Led Zeppelin for her own protection?

Anyway, Mr Are you For Real?..you did seem interested in me for a few minutes though. You asked me how long I had been a Christian. ‘2 years’ I said and you developed a slightly scared far away look in your eyes. Were you wondering what kind of worldly fun I had been indulging in until the age of 40, what my music collection consists of  and whether it would be appropriate to lay hands on me there and then in the bar and start screaming in my face for the demons to leave?

When you asked what my church was like, i said i loved the outreaching it does in my community, I love working with the homeless , recovery programs and soup kitchens etc really are my thing..you said we shouldnt feed anyone until they’ve accepted Christ..really..?
By now I’m seriously eyeing up your Sauvignon, but instead of necking it am begging my wonderful God for some strength, I think I muttered in a doubtful New Christian kinda way “well, i think Jesus hung out with folk on the margins all the time and that’s what I love about him”

‘Matthew, Mark, Luke and John’ are irrelevant to the new testament church” you say in a very factual kind of way.

‘Oh,really?’ Now im completely confused, am I even a Christian?
‘Change the subject’, my head was screaming ‘we’re not going to agree on much here, move on, get out of here, make an excuse’..’how old are your kids? tell me a bit about yourself”, I say..
‘My wife left me… for an UNBELIEVER ‘ you reply

‘really?’ I say,’funny that..’

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