movie night: discussing difficult questions together

 

SV400002

summer fun – many years ago

In the middle of the busy-ness of holiday club at church, which we were all part of (proud mummy week!) we made time to sit and watch a film together that A had seen and wanted to share with us. Now this was not, obviously, one to share with T so late one evening the rest of us sat down to watch Hacksaw Ridge (rated 15). If you are looking for a feel good, easy on the eye movie this is NOT it. It is hard to watch, gritty and violent. It is based on a true story of a conscientious objector who was awarded the US medal of honour in America during WWII, showing his decisions and people’s reactions to him. It is a film of inner struggle, the way we are shaped by our circumstances, of principles being lived in the extreme context of war. I’m not sure it would have been one I’d have picked out for a family film night – even though we do almost always discuss what we watch together in the light of our faith and our values.

The most obvious discussion point was of course is there a ‘right’ Christian view on war? Of course this isn’t one neat question and our discussions ranged from ‘What is pacifism?’; ‘What is Just War theory?’; ‘Tell me about conscientious objectors’; ‘Is there a right answer?’; ‘What should we listen to, the God of the Old Testament who sends his people to war or Jesus in the New Testament who doesn’t?’ right through to talking about the Quakers, religious freedom and unsurprisingly Bonhoeffer. None of these are easy questions, with straight forward answers. And in a way as a parent sharing faith I could not escape the background question – ‘how am I supposed to get from what the Bible says to an opinion or a principle that I can live by now in this world?’. So much for a light family movie night, or a bit of time out from the busy schedule! But we do discussion in this family, tired or not we love to grapple with the tough questions together. But don’t be under the impression we discussed until we were content with the answer and then went to bed at peace with it – this is ongoing, and I’m sure we’ll talk together about the same questions from many different angles and in the light of different contexts over the years to come.

 

 

These are not clear cut, neat and tidy discussions with a definite outcome or answer. These questions yet again challenge us to cope with that and live with that – not at all easy especially when life in general is shaped by definites and routines, clear cut thinking. In a way growing up in a vicarage is a tough call for my amazing autists, from an early age we have had to cope with and live with a certain amount of uncertainty, flexible routines and have had to regularly adapt family life around Andrew’s (and mine) fluid working patterns. But when we come to discussions like this I am so very thankful for it, because from an early age we have established (unwittingly) categories, or ‘boxes’ in our thinking to put the maybes, not-yets, perhapses, and yes-and-no’s of life. If we hadn’t we might not have coped with the stresses of the necessary flexibility of our routines! I guess in a way we did the same thing we did for metaphors and similes, we named them and that gave them a box to be put in which made them manageable. The ‘grey area’ discussions need a box in our thinking too, a ‘we-can’t-see-the-big-picture-but-God-can’ box or an ‘its-a-paradox’ box.

20170814_105338

We also discuss in the context of faith, not in the abstract (if there ever can be), in the context of both what we know about God and what we have experienced of God, within the balance of truth and experience. What we know of God from the Bible – all of it, the big story – and the community experience, including our own personal experience, of the people of God in the past and now, all in the light of the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

In order to grow a healthy relationship [with God], we need a good balance of truth and relational experience. It is important that we learn to wrap one around the other, viewing one in the context of the other, so that they are inextricably linked, instead of compartmentalizing them as separate elements. (Parenting children for a life of faith, Rachel Turner)

And importantly we discuss together – there is very little point in me pretending that I have it all sorted out, or that I know all the answers even though there is a feeling of pressure as a parent to give an answer. Discussing together is authentic, grappling with tough questions acknowledging there is no easy answer is real. Modelling real faith to our children is not always easy and neat let’s face it!

 

So, to the questions!

What is pacifism? I have written a little about this before when reflecting on Remembrance Day . The Mennonite ‘Truth and Justice Network’ have some interesting articles about active pacifism, and the Quakers also have some useful resources.

Just War? A detailed essay about Just War theory here gives historical context and ethical basis for the theory. An easier to dip in and out of explanation is here.

Bonhoeffer It is easy to find out about his life, and the painful decisions he had to make during WWII. His wrestling and his response to the unfolding circumstances around him, and his internal, faith values are a powerful testimony of faith and of real relationship with God that shows us the depth of difficulty we have living faithful, faith-filled lives for God and also the peace we can find when our lives our deeply rooted into God. 

What does the Bible really teach us about war? What about the differences we seem to see between the Old and New Testaments? There is a really interesting article about historical context and anthropology by L.Stone which gives a context for us to read the Old Testament passages within. It challenges us to think what is different about the people of God to the people groups around them. There is also a useful discussion on Biblica  which tackles the question head on, and explores how we can understand God’s holiness and judgement revealed to us in Jesus.

05208-20130205_100108

 

 

 

Advertisements

one of those weeks

Firstly let me apologize that it’s been a whole month since my last post. I don’t really know how it’s become so complicated and busy for us as a family lately! But I’ve missed having the chance to sit and reflect, and chat with you. How are you all? Is life busy with you?

This last week we had a break from school. Andrew took A away for a holiday, and I had a break here at home with T & B – who was still at college. Inevitably as Andrew was away the week was challenging in ways I could not have even thought of! A friend I rang for help at one point commented that she couldn’t wait to read the blog, so here goes…

Andrew had taken the girls and I down to my Mum’s for an overnight stay on the Sunday. The boys were heading to the airport on Monday morning. I was, believe it or not, meeting up with my sisters for a spa day on the Monday and then we had tickets to travel home by train that night so B could be back in routine for college. It was a surprisingly good day at the spa actually, and really special to have the space and time together. We finished the day with a massive afternoon tea in a beautiful setting with live music – what a treat.

IMG_20190527_161404406

The train journey was hard work, managing the anxiety and the dynamics between B & T. It was helped by finding seats on both trains, no delays and the lovely surprise of sitting opposite a travelling cat on our second train which distracted us beautifully. However when we got off the train and were met by a friend to drive us home (Thank you – you know who you are!) I realized I had left my keys at home in the scramble to get going the day before. Dark, raining, but thankfully not on our own on our doorstep! Well after a few internet searches, and phone calls we met a local locksmith who coped with us, and got us into our house again!!

Tuesday was a day spent recovering from all the stress of change, travel, people and the shock of being locked out!

Wednesday began positively, T was up and ready (even if full of nerves) to go our for a pony day at the riding stables she goes to. A friends parents came and picked her up and took her for me. B then went off to college and I breathed and then got the hoover out. B had commented to me that the sitting room smelled funny, so I went there first. We had eaten tea in there so I figured it would just be the lingering smell of chips and nuggets. But no, tucked in neatly behind the sofa was a present from the cats… a well dead pigeon. After a good talking to myself I set to and cleared it all up.

Was just putting the bag of rubbish outside when a car arrived and there was T back early – brought back by her friend’s Dad (Thank you!!). She’d fallen off her horse.

As soon as the door closed T fell apart, having masked at the riding stables, masked on the way back in the car and in lots of pain she just lost it. She was shivering, sobbing and not talking. So I tucked her up into my bed, got the calpol, and sat with her waiting for her to calm down. It’s so difficult when emotions and pain are so overwhelming that words just can’t get out, I feel very helpless in those situations. As soon as the pain relief should have started working I tried to find out what was going on. She was still pale and cold, but as I talked to her she began to overheat and then the sensation of the covers and clothes became unbearable and in all of this I could see she wasn’t moving her arm. In my head I began working out what would be the best thing to do. This reaction didn’t seem to indicate a bump or bruise. It was hard to think straight though at the same time as managing T. So I texted a friend, blurted out what had happened and asking what they thought I should do. She rang, we chatted and then she said she’d ring back in 5 with a plan! True to her word she rang back 5 mins later having spoken to a GP to ask whether T should go to a walk-in or A&E, organised a lift and sent them to come and get us (again thank you, you know who you are!), and thought through what I needed to take with me, and what to tell B about getting home from college – she was amazing!! (Thank you – you know who you are!)

IMG_20181013_130816772

We sat in A&E, just keeping T as calm as I could. Triage, waiting, sent for x-ray, called in – it was broken. A clean break right through near the top of her arm – too high for a plaster cast. img_20190530_083804287.jpg

So we were sent home with a collar & cuff sling, and advice to keep pain relief going. What a day – what a week!!

When he got back  (thankfully no further unexpected challenges) Andrew asked me if the week had made me wonder about getting back into driving. Do you know it hadn’t, but it had made me so very thankful for all the friendship and support that we have been surrounded by being part of the church family and the local community. When I pray for what we need as a family, God does sometimes give me or Andrew the gift, talent or resource we need to face the challenge but more often than not he gives us what we need through other people. I don’t quite know how I would manage to parent, adult or stay vaguely sane without that network of support around us.

 

the unexpected conversation – prayer

 

IMG_20190506_135316985

When you actually stop and think about it prayer is unbelievable – in the awestruck sense! One simple, everyday word that means approaching the Creator, Eternal God, and being invited not just to an audience with majesty but also being invited to climb onto our Father’s knee.

Last week I was involved in ‘prayer week’ at the local secondary school (one of the things I do is being an active member of the school’s chaplaincy team). It’s a week when one of the year groups gets brought to a prayer discovery/experience lesson led by us as part of the RE curriculum. We then also go and visit RE lessons and answer questions and chat together about their thoughts on Christians and prayer.

Of course not all students are Christians and the activities we plan hope to open up discussion and a chance to chat with us as chaplains about our experience of prayer and what it means to us. We even decided to make 1 min ‘what prayer means to me’ videos this year that could be used in classes! Scary!

 

Lots of the discussions I had were so interesting, hearing why students thought we might pray, and why they didn’t. It was good to have that space to chat honestly about faith together. I love doing things like this – despite it terrifying me! – the conversations are so real, no facades.

One comment in particular stuck me, that prayer sounds scary. Yes, I think it does when you stop and think about it. I mean we really, genuinely believe prayer is communicating with God the Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit…don’t we? Not just words of comfort said in hope that someone might be listening. Not wishing. Not putting coins into the vending machine to get what’s on our list. Christians dare to believe that prayer is communication with God. That student’s comment made me wonder about how mundane and chore like we can often make prayer sound like – to others and perhaps to ourselves too.

Prayer is such an unexpected invitation. A privilege. A crazy, unbelievable conversation. We can be ourselves, we can speak and the Bible suggests that Father God enjoys listening, and wants us to come to him as Dad! How unexpected is that.

The day to day modelling and teaching about prayer continues in our family life – with its ups and downs, questions and wonderings. Prayer out loud together with each other can seem rare and surprising. But God’s greater than all that, listening and present and constantly drawing us into conversation. The other night T didn’t actually say ‘No’ when I asked if there was anything she wanted to talk with God about, and there was a little pause of quiet followed by a ‘yep, done it!’. I smiled, and felt fairly certain Father God did too.

05208-20130205_100108

Easter holidays

 

When the school break happens leading up to Easter it’s a little tricky in our house!

A lot of patience was required from B, A & T as Andrew & I worked and prepared different services and events. A lot of patience was required by Andrew & I as the kids needed help relaxing, finding things to occupy themselves with and completing work.

In the end we began the holiday fortnight digging out a new pond in the back garden, with A designing and directing, me digging when I could and finishing other things when I could, and T with a trowel & paint brush checking for archaeological finds! Andrew mostly in the study or out for work, and B also working.

We found some fairly recent broken house tiles and the remains of a garden brick wall we think – and perhaps some pieces of a not-so-old plant pot! We also finished a pond.

As you can imagine it was a lesson in ‘I am simply not good enough, I can’t do all this without help!’ My patience has limits, each day has limited usable time, and lets face it washing clothes (and people!), cleaning, tidying, food (though Andrew handles that thankfully) and time together all still have to happen – sleep is apparently still fairly optional in our house but that’s another blog! Where does my help come from??!

I look to the hills!
Where will I find help?
It will come from the Lord,
who created the heavens
and the earth.

The Lord is your protector,
and he won’t go to sleep
or let you stumble.
The protector of Israel
doesn’t doze
or ever get drowsy.

The Lord is your protector,
there at your right side.

Psalm 121 (CEV)

There’s a limit to how far you can dig deep into your own resources, or at least that seems true in my experience. I’m finite. I’m not brilliant at everything. I’m tired – genuinely, mentally, physically and emotionally tired. I’m not enough many days. My faith in a faithful God is where I go for resources that go beyond my own; like walking uphill on a hot day and finding a well overflowing with cold pure water.

There’s no limit to how far you can dig deep into God’s heart finding love bigger, greater, stronger than you can ever imagine; patience that can outlast eternity; peace – real peace; forever new beginning forgiveness; mercy; being known, heard, understood; home…

 

It was I suppose a good context for Easter celebrations in the end. I went into Good Friday knowing I desperately needed help and forgiveness, knowing I couldn’t make it on my own. And found as if for the first time, as always, surprising mercy and love flowing from the heart of our full of life God.

 

 

seeing in colour: how do we experience life in all its fullness?

IMG_20190309_174449829

Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (John 10:10 MSG)

“It’s so sad Mummy”, “what is T?” – “they don’t see all the colours.”

We were chatting about our two lovely, cuddly kittens. We’ve been busy in T’s bedroom, new curtains, some bigger shelves and a good sort out. We’ve also been making a house together for her dolls, and have so enjoyed the colours and fabrics and papers we have been playing with. And Jaffa loves it as you can see – on this visit to the house he found the bedroom and decided to settle in for a nap tucked in by T, too cute!

Cats apparently only see in black and white, or only a very limited range anyway. Of course we talked about how they had only ever seen things this way which meant that the shades and densities of black and white and all in-between were what they were used to, they could still have favourites and enjoy the differences (Jaffa seems to love pink for example, but we don’t know that pink looks the same to him as it does to us).

Recently someone reminded me of John 10:10 – life in all its fullness, life in abundance is what Jesus gives us as he comes into our lives. And I thought back to this little conversation. Spiritually we have got so used to seeing only in black and white, and we are very comfortable with that. But God sees in technicolour! And in Jesus it is as if he opens our eyes to catch glimpses – not too much or we’d be overwhelmed – of the dazzling colours of real, full, life. I expect we each get to see and experience different glimpses too. The abundant life of God splashes into our lives in different places and in different ways. One of my go-to phrases about my life as a disciple is that ‘my joy looks different from yours’ (or swap in peace, or hope etc). I don’t mean that God’s truth is relative – not at all – I guess I’m meaning that the expression of it, my experience of it as it splashes into and through my life here on earth may be very different from yours. We are unique, and God’s revelation of himself is personal at the same time as being the same truth for all, across all time and cultures.

IMG_20190314_151156601

We each see and experience in a different way. Some much more differently than most. My girls see and experience the world around them differently from most and sometimes I wonder if that means they see very different shades, depths and brightness in the colourful splashes of God’s abundant life that break into ours.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to understand more of what they see, what their faith experience feels like? Wish I could be a fly on the wall. But it’s their personal friendship with God, their story with him. I only walk alongside, hoping to encourage and enable. But I’m also walking alongside ready to listen and learn, and rejoice when they share with me. I am learning (still!) to listen when T starts to sing in the garden or as we walk – it’s in these songs that she often describes her friendship with God, or her wonder at him and all he’s made. When I chat with B about a faith experience of my own, I’m learning to be braver and gently ask how she sees it, or if she’s experienced anything similar – and am learning to wait for her answer (which may come days later!). When I am planning something for a church group I’m enjoying asking B, A & T what they think, what they would choose to do to explain, or what craft or activity it makes them think about. Drawing and doodling together continues to be a great way of talking and sharing faith experiences together too.

What are the times your kids are able to share an insight about their faith?

In what ways does God’s abundant life splash it’s colour into your family life?