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!

 

 

We can’t go to church tomorrow: Being church differently during Coronavirus

Andrew and I, like most of us, have had a week trying to get our heads around the impact government advice about Coronavirus and covid-19 is going to have on everything. From the food in our cupboards, access to education, concern for the vulnerable it is going to affect the whole of life for at least the next weeks and months. As I write this T & B are finally asleep, it has been an anxious evening with repeated checking of temperatures being needed for reassurance, and many many questions. Andrew & I are self isolating until Tuesday having been in close contact with someone who has been told they have the virus. It has brought it all into sharp focus.

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Church is going to have to look and feel a bit different as we follow the ever changing advice, and as Andrew particularly works on those adaptations it is even harder knowing we cannot be there tomorrow to be in community and to give and receive reassurance of God’s presence with us and his love & peace for us.

How painful, at a time where anxiety is high not to be able to go into the heart of the family, the community where we find support. How odd to have to do so many things differently at a time when for so many of us the familiarity of routine would be so comforting.

In Andrew’s letter to our church family he has reminded us of the connections we can have through phone and social media, through care for each other – even if it can only be food or a message left on the doorstep. He also reminded us that there are resources on the church website – sermons to listen to, and online devotions.

As we go through these next few weeks I will also be linking to resources that we find useful as we seek to be church differently.

Do follow on Facebook, Twitter and here where I will post resources and printables that we can use at home to help create opportunities for worship, reflection serving others and finding peace in God’s presence together in our homes. 

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

changing seasons, yet God stays the same

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There is a season (a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven… (Eccl 3:1 AMP)

And so the seasons have most definitely changed, no longer summer afternoon teas but now collecting colourful falling leaves, wrapping up in soft scarves and hats, jam making and open fires! Each season has its own delights, yet some things stay the same – I remembered this particular robin sharing our cream tea as A pointed out our garden robin had come to join in the hedge trimming just the other day. Totally different season, yet that robin reminded me of the constants we have in life in the midst of the relentless transitions.

Autumn brings birthdays to our family, and this year we have our first 18th – quite a milestone. A huge load of transitions heading our way over the next season in B’s life. There is a lot of pressure to make decisions about the next season in life – what university, what course, for what career?? Or should it be apprenticeship, and if so what and where?? Our very nearly 16 yr old also faces big choices, A-levels? If so which? If not, then what?? The pressure to somehow anticipate what’s going to be best in the next season of life is really tough I think. For most of us, looking back reveals just how nuanced and twisty-turny each season actually turns out to be in reality. Yet the decisions are presented as if everything hangs on them, as if this is the only time to have these opportunities. The fact that it seems as though everyone else is managing, and following the ‘system’ doesn’t relieve the pressure either. It feels impossible to step out for a bit, to pause and simply breathe. But for many I suspect, some in our family included, that’s exactly what’s needed to be able to face the next transition, the next season with intention and confidence. Not everyone’s going to fit into the standard timeline.

Andrew & I don’t want to be yet another source of pressure either through unspoken expectations, real or perceived, or by our unintended bias towards one path through life. But that’s not easy is it. We all come with an idea of what that path might (or even should) look like – whether we assume university or expect our kids to go out & get a ‘decent job’. It’s got to be a deliberate decision to pause alongside and see other possibilities, other ways of doing things and to value what each can bring, and to stay alongside as those incredibly difficult decisions are tentatively reached at the right time – not necessarily the time everyone else tells us.

I also hope that as parents we can point to the constants as so many things begin to change. We can offer our very best, praying and promising to be there no matter what. To always be home for our kids. But we have something, someone, even better to offer who we know will be able to fulfill his promise to be there and to always be home for our kids. Our Father God, through the presence of the Holy Spirit because of Jesus will be constant no matter what, no matter which path, no matter how many transitions, no matter which season of life. I pray that we can live in this reality ourselves in such a way that our kids are without doubt where we find our grounding and security in all the changes of life, and that they too in their own relationship with God will be being grounded deep and strong into that secure presence in their lives.

I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too— your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful— I can’t take it all in! (Psalm 139:5 MSG)

 

 

Tired

When people ask ‘how are you?’ what do you reply?

‘Fine’

‘Good’

‘yep, how are you?’

One of my go-to replies is ‘head above water!’ But in the midst of the relentless, coming-at-me, complicated, tiring, purposeful, joyful, infuriating, beautiful life of ours there are times when I add in my head – ‘just’. You know that kind of tired when you’ve been treading water for so long the weary ache sets in, or you’ve been carrying something just slightly too heavy or awkward and suddenly you just have to put it down for a minute, when you’re running to catch up with someone and you’re nearly there – but not quite. That tired.

That tired that opens the door to the insecurities – ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘what’s the point in trying’, ‘it won’t work’, ‘I’m failing’, ‘I always fail’, ‘I’m a failure, rubbish, why bother’, ‘nobody, invisible…’ – and a tiny voice in the midst of the clamor ‘ ‘help!’. Elijah tired.

When Elijah saw how things were, he ran for dear life to Beersheba, far in the south of Judah. He left his young servant there and then went on into the desert another day’s journey. He came to a lone broom bush and collapsed in its shade, wanting in the worst way to be done with it all—to just die: “Enough of this, God! Take my life—I’m ready to join my ancestors in the grave!” Exhausted, he fell asleep under the lone broom bush.

Suddenly an angel shook him awake and said, “Get up and eat!”

He looked around and, to his surprise, right by his head were a loaf of bread baked on some coals and a jug of water. He ate the meal and went back to sleep.

The angel of God came back, shook him awake again, and said, “Get up and eat some more—you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.”

8-9 He got up, ate and drank his fill, and set out. Nourished by that meal, he walked forty days and nights, all the way to the mountain of God, to Horeb. When he got there, he crawled into a cave and went to sleep.

Then the word of God came to him: “So Elijah, what are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:3-9 MSG)

I come back to this passage over and over again. So human. So real. And God, our Father so gentle and purposeful. ‘There’s still a journey to make, eat, sleep, come on keep following – I’m here with you – one thing at a time Elijah’. We are seen, known by name, loved and sent with purpose & company. Time to catch a breath, eat & sleep the best I can and keep on stepping out with God.

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