the votes are in

love joy peace

I vividly remember my first ever vote. Walking in to the Polling Station with my Dad, who took me to the desk and proudly announced to everyone and anyone that it was my first time to vote. We registered, went to the booth to cast our vote, posted it into the black box and went home! I don’t know who felt more proud, Dad or me – I certainly remember the feeling of the sheer privilege of it, and the weightiness of the process of reading up, carefully considering, praying & voting.

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can [all] be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live. (1 Tim 2: 1-4 MSG)

We grew up discussing together. Questioning, discovering and finding out for ourselves. Matters of faith, ethics, the big questions of life were mulled over. Sermons were discussed at Sunday lunch. Politics was also a significant part of family conversation. We knew (or at least I’m fairly sure we knew) how Mum & Dad probably voted, but they modeled a way of weighing up policies from different parties, holding them up against the Bible and our experience and knowledge of our faith, questioning them and ourselves. They modeled a sense of responsibility to take each opportunity to vote seriously, showed us in their attitudes and actions the ways that policies were not simply academic but affected people. We were not told which party we should vote for, we were shown how to vote. I’m so grateful for their lives of faith and the example they gave us. I’m thankful too that over the years they have made room for our questions, our doubts, our naivety, our simplistic thinking. That they did not belittle but encouraged.

So today I have thought a lot about that first experience of voting, and how my parents made space for us to grow and discover for ourselves – and how that spurs me on to keep intentionally making that same safe space for mine as they grow. I have, as usual, missed my Dad’s voice and encouragement in the run up to today. We have definitely not stopped the big discussions, not stopped asking the difficult questions whenever we get the chance to all be together – and the older ones in the next generation are getting into the swing of it very ably too now – but it is one of those parts of life where it still feels very stark that his voice and his wisdom is not in the mix anymore since he died!

What would he be reminding us of now that the votes are in, and the counting begins? Whatever tomorrow brings I think Dad would be reminding me of my calling to Christ-likeness, in my loving and living, in my choices and my thinking. So I am reminding myself of Jesus’ ‘manifesto’ – and praying for more grace! (so much more needed as always!)

When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,

God’s Spirit is on me;
    he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
    recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
    to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”

 

He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent.  (Lk 4:17-19 MSG)

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I don’t understand

So, what have Jack the Ripper, weight, mass, velocity, aboriginal art, tadpoles, trellis, soft furnishings, origins of the word ‘Blazer’, peonies and politics got in common??? Not sure, except that I’ve had to have discussions and try to answer questions about all of them so far this week, and more. We have children who ‘need to know’ all sorts of things, they want to understand, sometimes it feels as though they have never grown through the ‘why?’ phase.

Some of the questions spark from homework – I’m extremely thankful for the balance brought by Jack the Ripper alongside aboriginal art this week! But most simply come from things seen, heard, encountered. Nurturing an environment at home where faith is part of everyday life means of course that the questions and discussions are also about that too, which in a way is really encouraging – it means they are seeing, hearing and encountering it. My week began with a real humdinger of a question – ‘how can I make sense of God when I read the stories about wiping out whole people groups in God’s name in the Old Testament Mum?’. To make a change it came in the midst of the rush to get ready for school rather than last thing at night before bed, but even so – a real tough one – thanks A!

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Image from ‘The Graphic Bible’ J Anderson & M Maddox

In that moment I think I remember expressing what a tough and real question it was, and how many other questions it gives us. I think I remember suggesting it’s not the only picture of God that we have even in the Old Testament – Jericho and the peaceful walking around the walls (though admittedly still a story of conquest which becomes less peaceful quite rapidly), Gideon and how God asked him to keep reducing his army, the story of the broken jars and the lights causing panic (Judges 8), Jonah being so disgruntled when God forgave rather than punished. And I definitely finished that short moment of discussion by introducing the idea that Jesus is the lens to understanding God – how Jesus himself said ‘If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father’ (Jn 14:9), that we can’t separate the two. We both agreed that Jesus’ life showed us things in a different light.

We’ve not found a moment to pick it up again yet, but it will come. And in the meantime I’ve been pondering and wrestling (probably much like A has) what do I think? How can I explore that with A? What’s the best approach?

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Despite the years of theological study it’s a tough one, there isn’t one clear answer that a majority of scholars agree with and the approaches that they take are varied. Some explore and discuss from a social history perspective, how what we know of ancient cultures contemporary to early Israel lived, helps us interpret the biblical accounts. For some this gets done in the light of archaeological evidence from sites of the cities in 20170519_134922Canaan for example. Others take a literary perspective wanting to explore which bits of which biblical book probably have a similar source, how the accounts may have been passed down and then written and how that process might shape our understanding of the events behind the accounts. Different literary approaches might focus on the ‘why’ of the writing, and in the comparison between Israel’s way of recording it’s history and other cultures or people groups’ recorded history to see what defines it and shapes it, what makes it different? Some focus really closely in on the linguistic analysis of particular key words or phrases, asking how they have been translated, was there a cultural nuance in the original language that’s missed in translation, and how could we know that? Some in contrast focus on the ‘Big Picture’, asking what do these accounts mean if we see them in the context of the whole sweeping story of salvation – the story of God and his people? and of course there are different perceptions of what that story itself is, and different aspects of it that can be focused in on… and each of these approaches and questions can lead to different conclusions of course.

Was the history written down as it happened, very humanly, but with people justifying their actions by couching it with ‘God says…’? Did God say these events had to be this way to show us something about ourselves or him without which we would not be ready for Jesus? Are they there to teach us about purity, justice, holiness, God’s jealous love for us because there was no other way for us to learn those things?? Do these accounts of war and killing show us human imperfection in the midst of a story which has a focus on love and self-sacrifice?

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When I pick up the conversation with A again, I probably won’t keep the complexity from him. He’s a deep thinker, and we try as parents not to gloss over or ignore the big questions however hard they are, and however daunted we feel going into those conversations. Equally I probably won’t go through each different school of thought in huge amounts of detail unless he shows an interest and a million other questions follow on! I’m imagining I will ask him as many questions as he asks me… what does he know about God that these stories seem difficult to match up with? what is it that’s a puzzle? where else could we look in the bible that might help us understand, or see it differently? what have we experienced of God, what do we know him to be like because of that? Do we always understand everything about him? If not I wonder why not?

Whenever these tough questions come up I remind myself that my kids are not content with superficial, smoothed over answers, and neither am I probably – though I’m tempted sometimes. Which leaves us in that uncomfortable place of unknowing and the difficult task of learning to live in that without clear cut, definitive answers for everything. But I hope that in creating a safe space for these questions to be asked & heard, and to be wrestled with that we draw ourselves and our kids to the heart of that safe space that we pray into our family life, we draw them into God’s presence, into the presence of the one who does understand all things and still loves us. I hope that by giving space for the wrestling rather than telling A my opinion as if it’s the only one will also model a pattern of growing in faith through the tough questions without being afraid of them.

Blossom songs

Sometimes life just has to pause while we praise in the moment…

My littlest has this down to a T (yes I know!), always has- I on the other hand am a work in progress.

What’s your praise song been this week? I often hold a song during the week, or maybe the words of a song hold onto me. This week it’s been ‘What a beautiful name it is!’:

What a beautiful name, a wonder-full name, a powerful name! It has led me to praise in the mundane moments. It has stilled me at times when my head and my heart was full. It has enabled me to look ahead and trust when anxieties have come. It has coaxed me to pray. It has reminded me whose I am.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9-11 NIV)

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Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name…(from ‘It is well’, Kristene DiMarco)

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just a phrase

‘It frightened the life out of them’

Don’t worry Mummy, it’s just a phrase that means it frightened them a LOT.

Just one of the many phrases we have encountered this week that just have to be learnt!

‘He was at a loose end’ – we came upon this one in a Paddington story. When I asked T what she thought it could mean she explained that he was balancing carefully on the scrumply, tatty end of an unrolled piece of paper. I love the image. Like someone getting to the end of the to-do-list and not sure where to put their foot next as it peters out beneath them.

‘Bob’s your Uncle’ – don’t you mean Rob Mummy, and he’s not till Aunty Em & Rob get married… (that made me smile, she’s quite right! And what a silly phrase ‘Bob’s your Uncle’ is!)

‘In the wars’ heard at school. ‘It’s when you bump into something about 3 times in the same day. You say it like that because when people were in the war they were hurt.’- T.

‘In a minute’ – ‘No, not in a minute Mummy, NOW! Your counting makes a minute really really long.’ – T. It’s a longstanding cause of annoyance this one, I try really hard to say ‘as soon as I can’ or something more accurate like that but, especially in the mornings when I’m still half asleep I still find myself saying ‘In a minute T’!!

I’ve got the eye of a tiger’ – from a song, and sung frequently in our house translating the line as ‘I’ve got a tiger in my eye’ – sounds painful! This one’s socially accepted meaning is yet to be learnt by T!

‘proud as a peacock’

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We drove into town this afternoon, and on the way go passed a cattle market. Today there were sheep to look at as we waited in traffic. We had a long discussion about whether they were lambs (since Daddy commented on lamb chops!). As we got moving again the worship song we were listening to talked about the Lamb on the throne… ‘even the song is talking about lambs Mummy’ – T. ‘Oh yes, but it’s not chatting about lambs like that, it’s talking about one person who was described like a lamb’, me, ‘You mean Jesus?’, T. ‘People wrote about Jesus being like the Passover lamb..’, Andrew. ‘Ooh I love the Passover meal, when is it Daddy?’… and the conversation moved on!

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Given more time, (and if the interest is there of course) this is such a rich theme in the Bible. So many layers of meaning that come together when we hear  Jesus described this way. Of course yes the Passover Lamb – he is our promise of rescue and mercy. His blood (his life given) marks and covers us in the same protective way as the lamb’s blood covered the door ways on the night of the final plague. The houses of the faithful were passed over as the plague came, killing the firstborn.

The sacrificial lamb. Within the sacrificial system, given to God’s people, animal sacrifices were made as peace offerings, guilt offerings, for atonement, forgiveness of sins, as a sign and renewal of covenant with God. Animals chosen had to be pure and perfect, their blood sprinkled on the altar to make a way for God’s people to come near to God having been purified and made holy, acceptable, right to be in God’s presence. The book of Hebrews reminds us that these sacrifices had to  keep on being made to keep a right relationship with God. But Jesus’ sacrifice when he died to bring us to God, to make us holy, forgiven, pure, is the ultimate sacrifice, the once for all, no need to be repeated sacrifice, he is THE perfect, spotless lamb. We are forgiven, our guilt is taken away, we can be at peace with God.

It is also interesting that throughout the Bible we are described as sheep, the people of God in need of a shepherd. And here is Jesus being described as the perfect lamb. One of us, fully human just like us but perfectly human as we were always intended to be! He stands in our place, offering back to God what we can never manage to bring in all our brokeness and imperfections. He takes us into God’s presence.

‘Mind blowing’- (dictionary definitions) astounding, staggering, you would expect it to be the results of a hallucinogenic drug, too much for the brain to handle or process, affecting the emotions intensely.

 

 

 

 

 

best laid plans

I had high hopes for yesterday – knowing our need for structure I try to have a list of things to work through. Here’s how that list looked in reality yesterday:

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  • Have a relaxed get up & breakfast

Now this does take some planning, for a while we were in the habit of having breakfast-on-the-go choices & cartons of juice on a tray in the hall for people to come and fetch when they woke up and take back to their own bedrooms. Since T’s arrival that has petered out, and it’s too complicated expecting all three to be content & safe in their own rooms at the same time for even a few minutes. Needless to say one of us now gets up and takes T down for breakfast! Andrew is great at being first up with her on Saturdays, so I got a lie-in and got up at 8am.

Into the mix yesterday A had made croissants from scratch the night before, and they were out of the freezer and rising, ready to be in the oven at 9:30am. By the time they were heading into the oven I was up to my elbows cleaning out guinea-pigs and supervising T holding Bourbon. So the following 20 mins were a little complicated juggling between finishing that job and helping A get hot croissants on the table with steaming cups of hot choc for everyone!! We managed, with a fair amount of hand-washing and constant checking up the stairs when down, and down when up! Sitting down with hot choc and homemade croissants was lovely (that moment ticked the first thing on my list for the day) – as soon as I had put B’s back in the oven to ‘make sure they’re cooked’ (always essential if you are B), got them back out & cooled!

  • Get dressed

Now this is always an achievement! Actually we got dressed more smoothly than I expected, and without meltdown which doesn’t always happen at the weekends when there’s no uniform. There are times when supporting this activity will be all we get done in a morning. Those days it can be such an exhausting activity for all of us that we also need a quiet afternoon with few demands just to recover.

  • Hair brushed, teeth brushed

The least said about this part of my list the better I think…

  • Take T to the library, if time pop in to the Minster to see the Roman mosaics we were talking about this week

This shouldn’t really be just one entry on a to-do list, it’s like facing a mountain climb! First step shoes & coat for T & for me; T refuses to let me help her get her coat down off the peg. Fishing it down through jumping at it with an umbrella took a while, so I hovered nearby to keep an eye on her at the same time as trying to negotiate with A & B whether they were joining us or staying at home. B decided to join us if we could go into a couple of shops too, but wasn’t dressed yet. Next, negotiate with T about waiting for B to come down – gave us time to agree on shoes, and have another attempt at hair & teeth. A decided to stay & finish homework/read in peace…

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B still not downstairs so I persuade T to check that the library books are in their bag – a job done the day before but an instant time filler. She gets busy with the books quickly, counts them a number of times in and out of the bag, then we agree they’re there safe & sound.

B is down, putting shoes on. Then I do hair, and we are ready to go… a quick check in on A & we set off. It’s only a short-ish walk but is long for T. Even at the end of our little road she is in need of distraction. We have a number of go-to distractions at the moment for when we are walking; ‘I spy’ (colours or letters or sounds like); ‘First to spot…’ (if you’re first to spot you get to choose the next thing); counting colours; going on a bear hunt; pretending we’re mountain climbers; finding one…then 2 of something different, then a group of three somethings etc up to ten. T wanted ‘first to spot’, “first to spot the library!” she says …  it felt like a walk that lasted forever!

Library books were chosen and exchanged, two shops were looked in and whinged through, and then to the Minster to see the mosaic tiles. We didn’t stay long. We’re here on a mission, and once we’ve seen them we’re done.

Time to walk the long walk home.

  • lunch 

Everyone wants something different so in the end B takes over, taking orders, putting orders together on trays and delivering trays to ‘hotel rooms’. In the meantime I make a start on the mountain range of washing and some gets hung out, more goes into the machine. Quick check with social media. Lunch over.

  • Tidy the stair baskets/play/homework/plant the next lot of veg seeds

Now I’m not expecting these to be done in order, but they are my hopes for the afternoon, and I have already shared the news with them at breakfast.

As I take lunch trays to the kitchen I remind them each about needing to take their basket upstairs and put things away, T is already lost planning  a wedding with her dolls, A is reading – will do it later, B says homework. Fair enough.

20170311_154937I take a moment to fetch seeds to be planted and get out in the garden to plant. Kale & lettuces in. T calls me in, toilet. Boots & gloves back on. Weeding the next bed ready for carrots & cabbages. T calls me in, wedding invites MUST be written NOW. In again, fetch pens she can’t find. Help with spellings, and tying knots around each scroll like invite. T helps me with the string to mend the trellis for the peas that I brought in & got started with while helping with spelling. Quickly out to do carrots & cabbages while T takes invites to B & A.

“you are welcome to come if you want, you are welcome to not come if you don’t want – yes or no”

20170313_090516T calls me to fetch my invite. B has said no, A will come but only for a bit. We put the pea trellis back in, plant 5 pea seeds. Time for the wedding… I’m in charge of music, A has the ring… painstakingly perfected scenario done and we can go while T gets her babies ready for bed.

  • Tea

Andrew rings, he’s on his way home from a church alpha day. “Can you have B ready when I get in, I spoke to her this morning, we’re taking the trousers back.” B needs walking trousers for Duke of Edinburgh silver award, these are attempt 2, but aren’t right so need to go back. Shop is quite a drive away. This is obviously on Andrew’s to-do-list. I go up to remind, I ask about homework… of course it’s been far too smooth an afternoon for homework to have been a part of it! I wasn’t surprised, but am now mentally calculating how much there still is for us to pack into the evening.

Meat goes in the oven. T needs help doing buttons on babies clothes, and finding the one thing she’s set her heart on one of them wearing but can’t find. Her room is more of a tumble than usual! It takes a huge amount of energy and wisdom to help her describe the dress she ‘needs’ for Annie, and then to help her think about where she had it last. Eventually after lots of distress it is found in the dolls house. Potatoes need peeling, veg out of the freezer.20170301_085411

Washing is ready to be sorted, some in, some out… T is by me, the babies need a babysitter: “Ring the bell, they NEED you NOW, upstairs, I’ve made tea, Annie needs you to put her into bed, Lucy needs to be rocked to sleep. I have chosen stories. Mummy NOW” – “please?” I join them for ‘tea’, and help settle them into bed.

Check in on the potatoes & veg. Cauliflower cheese to the microwave. The phone rings, Andrew & B will be 15 mins. Is tea ready? B is hungry. A comes to see when tea will be, “not too long now”.

Once everyone is back, downstairs & willing to negotiate what they will eat and off what plate, in what chair, with what channel on TV we eat ‘together’.

  • bedtimes/homework

Dishwasher loaded, whilst distract-dancing with T – she is harassing siblings. Then T upstairs, the usual struggles with teeth, toilet, hair – and also tonight the clean pj’s are not right – so that takes us a while. We read stories from the library book bag, and then begin the settling down.

But there’s a spider on B’s sofa!!

Everything becomes ‘spider’ for the next couple of hours. Fear-filled meltdowns, Andrew on the phone unable to come and help; hand held hoover it up, remove from the room; A in with T for comfort; spider crawls out of hoover (aghhh!!!), B beside herself but has to look; spider back in hoover, tissue paper stuff the end – it is a big spider, how can it have survived being hoovered up twice?? – T too upset to settle, comes to join us, wants me but I’m guarding the hoover (needed for B) & she won’t come near; notes are written to Daddy to come quickly & take the hoover outside. Eventually he comes off the phone, and the hoover goes away. But T is nowhere near sleep, A is shattered, B still has homework to finish and needs support to get back into her room to fetch it…..

I could go on! The best laid plans! On paper the day was a simple one, but as usual I head to bed after midnight rather dazed to get as much sleep as I can before I’m called again!

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