Love is patient, love is kind…practicing family love during lock down

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The trouble with lock down is that it is magnifying our weak spots! It is intense being together 24/7 for this length of time!! (Or is that just us – please tell me it isn’t)

Loving each other as a family cannot stay as words only, this pressurized time needs us to step up big time and become much more conscious of our actions towards each other. Not at all easy! Our actions means our tone of voice, our assumptions (often based on un-forgiven baggage lets face it), our body language and facial expressions (which of course we don’t all read in the same way which adds another layer of complexity), our acts of service and choices that affect each other.

The Bible gives us a daunting description of family love…

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

from 1 Cor 13

… and of course shows us what that love looks like in practice in the life and death of Jesus. The passage finishes with ‘LOVE NEVER FAILS’. Oh help!

Truth is, when I rely on my ability to ‘try, try, try again’ with even just one of the adjectives in the passage I run out. My fragile, incomplete ability to love is not enough to never fail my family. It is true that being a Christian is not to be perfect – but rather to know we need perfecting by the grace of God.

This week one of the new words for T in her school work at home was ‘invoke’, to actively invite and welcome in, to call upon the presence of. A word that for me conjours up a picture of embrace… which is not simply me embracing an abstract concept when it comes to God, but rather a real living, holy presence who is also actively invested in the embrace! I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal’s return and the Father who out ran the shame and disgrace to reach his child and clothe him with honour, and crown him with love. We are invited into an embrace full of love – love so abundantly given that there is enough to fill us to overflowing.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Col 3:12-14

We still ‘try, try, try again’ – but wrapping the clothes God gives us really close, fully embracing his loving grace-filled presence (yep – on a good day!!), allowing his love to embrace us – our thinking, our actions and words.

God’s not finished with me yet!

 

 

Need help to keep bedtime calm tonight? 5 hope filled Bible stories to listen to

 

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 You’re tired, they’re tired. Nothing is how it should be – we’ve had another day with many of us at home rather than school, college or work – anxieties are running high for everyone. You’re frazzled and yet you all need and want a calm snuggly, safe bedtime – don’t know about you but I’m not the best story teller on days like this!

 Here are some great places to find hope-filled stories told by other (calmer!) people to get you all ready for bedtime…..

Sally Lloyd Jones  – author of ‘The Jesus Storyteller Bible’ and many other books, is going to be reading some stories on Instagram while there are a lot of us stuck in at home.

The Bible Society has an animation ‘Super Cool Jesus’ which tells the story of why Jesus came, and how he loves us.

Saddleback Kids quirky animation of Matthew 6 is all about how much God cares for each of us – especially when there’s lots to worry about!

Bob Hartman has a wonderful story song all about God’s good world.

Bible App has loads to choose from, and activities to download and print that follow up on a story if you want to.

faith adventure bags

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It’s been too long! I’ve missed being able to write.

We’ve been dealing with active school refusal (wish it could be called something else, it’s not really a choice) since Christmas. It has been a low level, continual rumble since she began school but has reached a crisis point that we don’t want to let unravel any further – so I’ve been rather out of routine myself as we’ve taken all that involves on – all that will be a different post perhaps when its the right time.

In the meantime I feel the need to share a joy-filled thing with you! There has been a new addition to our accessible service, ‘Sense of Space’, adventure bag library.

‘Sense of Space’ happens once a month in church, we’re a small fellowship of families all shaped in some way by disability, either seen or unseen. We meet to explore faith and grow in faith, to pray and worship using all our senses and very much learning together and from each other. Our adventure bags are a take home discipleship & devotional resource. My best description of them? I suppose they are an inter-generational, sensory rich, faith-story sack to dip in and out of during the time between our services to keep on adventuring with God.

This newest one is based on the wise and foolish builders. It’s in a bright yellow, soft touch bag. Thanks to a gifted early years specialist in our church it includes a beautifully made storm cloud with rain, along with a smooth, cold flat stone, a patch of rough sandy ground (made in hessian) and wooden bricks to build a house.

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Along with that – as with all the adventure bags, there is a key-ring full of ideas for adventures using the resources in the bag. Also the other collected together resources:

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I’ve tried to photograph so you can clearly see the authors and websites these are from. The colouring page drawn by Mandy Grace is from ‘ministry to children’, and the ABC scripture memory verses are from ‘unOrigional Mom’. Other suggestions include playing ‘Simon Says’ (listening and doing of course); a challenge to find out what ‘foundations’ are in the world of building & why they’re important; finding and reading the story in the Bible; using the studies included in ‘Discover how to read the Bible’ by Jeff White; a website to find out about Brother Andrew for children as well as the book for young people and adults; and a pot of play sand to explore and experience what sand is like & why it isn’t a great foundation for building.

All the resources are there to invite playful exploration and discussion that will nurture faith.

When we met last Sunday, a bag was being brought back having been enjoyed so once we’d all gathered we all listened to what had been tried, found out and enjoyed with an encouragement to choose one to take home! Couldn’t have been better if I’d planned it, it was a real encouragement to me.

ready for voting

One of the things I am very grateful for in the way my parents brought me up is the way in which they were a safe space, wide open for discussing philosophy, ethical dilemmas, morality and our faith. We talked about news in relation to our faith, we pulled apart and put back together difficult decisions and concepts, we found out about big issues together. I’m grateful for the way that has given me permission and skills to be a thinker with faith as a seamless part of my worldview. And I hope and pray that in our parenting we are able to be that safe space for our children too. Teaching the skills and opportunities to use them, especially aware that learning will not necessarily simply happen by osmosis, by exposure, but will need intentional and supported experiences.

I’m very aware of it right now as we face a General Election and our wonderful B will be voting for the very first time. When my first opportunity to vote came along I went with my Dad who proudly announced to the whole polling station that I had arrived – and was ready to vote! Somehow I’m guessing the announcing would not go down well, but there will definitely be a huge amount of pride when we walk into the polling station together ready to cast our vote. I am certain B is aware of the privilege it is, and the importance of using it.

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So now the parenting job is to make sure we support and encourage the thinking and researching behind the using of the vote. To give her opportunities to find out and think for herself about the policies parties are standing for, through the eyes of faith. Not an easy task as a parent – perhaps even more especially as a parent with strong views! – but it is a task that doesn’t happen without context and I pray that the last 18 years of conversations and modelling; of asking the tough questions; listening to others; keeping our eyes as open as we can to the needs of others and wrestling with the difficult things together and with God – I pray that all of that will be a strong foundation out of which this next step will be taken.

Finding impartial information feels harder than ever these days, so we read more, and read and listen more widely actively working against finding ourselves in an echo chamber. And we read and listen with caution, questioningly. As parents we do this somewhat outloud, modelling the questioning and the wrestling. We also need to make space for questions, and to listen as our children begin to formulate their own opinions. The Bible urges us to invest in our community, and pray for it’s peace (it’s just-ness, and well being for all, and for its unity) to put roots down and live out our faith in ways that make a real difference to the community where we find ourselves and beyond. I am less concerned about how B decides to vote than I am that she steps up and joins in, seeing both the privilege of our democracy and the responsibility.  The vote itself is just one small moment in the ongoing active investing in community and beyond. Her voice and opinion matter, her faith-lived-out makes a difference not just here but far wider too as she steps up and joins in.

Ps 18v29

movie night: discussing difficult questions together

 

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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.

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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.

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