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Where is your hope?

My hope comes from the hills – Psalm 121 (image taken by myself at Gwytherin April 2019)

I’ve been thinking a lot about hope and what it means, especially after sending a text to a friend talking of hope.

She had said that two unexpected things had happened – one that their neighbour had, out of the blue, decided to cut back his trees which would mean they could regain their lovely view, and then that someone had managed, what had seemed the impossible, and had found somewhere to rent. I had responded with Psalm 121 and that the trees being cut back were so that they could see their hope again. She messaged back to say she had shared this with someone else who had responded back to her that they has lost all hope because of not receiving an answer to prayer. I’ve also heard from an older person I know how she has lost hope and wants to die because of all this lockdown stuff. So what is that hope that the Bible talks about?

When my father-in-law died my husband read Habakkuk 3:17-18 at his funeral. His death had come during a long period that my husband and I had endure of unanswered prayer and of searching for God in the midst of it.

Though the fig tree does not bud

    and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

    and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

    and no cattle in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

It made me wonder how often we are taught in churches, or take on board ourselves, that belief that God answers prayer the way we want it. And that we hitch our hope to getting what we want. We are taught, and teach ourselves, that God is the truly loving father, full of unconditional love. Does unconditional mean that we always get what we want or even need? Is this why we lose faith when things don’t happen as we would like?

One of the big moans of the older generation towards “children of today” is that they are unruly and rude and have no respect for their elders. Some of that reason is that they get everything they want – the best trainers, phones, trips to exciting places on holidays etc. And because of that many of them come with a sense of entitlement – which I think is a lot of what we are seeing with all generations during this season, with not being able to do as they want when they want. We think we’re entitle to things, but are we?

Can we really be joyful in God if we don’t get what we want; our world is gripped by a pandemic, by weak leadership, by selfish world leaders in many fields, by global warming? Can we really rejoice when those we love don’t get healed, don’t get what they want, aren’t fulfilled? (and by rejoice I don’t mean Pollyanna attitude of pretending nothing is wrong, of smiling in adversity but I mean that deep rejoicing in God) How do we do that?

I think we can and I think we should and I think this is what is being asked of us during this period.

Sometimes we can’t see that hope, like my friend with the trees blocking her view of the hills, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Tom Sine talks in 2020 Foresight about how we need to be praying in Psalm 121 as we look towards the changes we need to make in our churches for the future. So let us lift our eyes and remember where our help and hope and support really does come from. As Oscar Wilde said “We’re all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars“. So let’s look up, remember, take hold and have hope even if nothing turns out as we would like it.

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night
.

7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

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It is Unconditional

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

Yesterday I finished “Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas” by Maya Angelou. I’d also just done another QEC session which involved forgiving myself for misinterpreting church teachings and working too hard to earn God’s love and acceptance, whilst at the same time teaching and sharing about that self-same unconditional love and acceptance!!! Goes to show how often we can teach and share on things that we know to be truth but haven’t accepted into our hearts!

In the last few pages of the book, Maya goes to see her vocal coach to unload about how awful she feels she has been to her son, and lots of other issues, and he says “God forgives you, that’s a given. But you now need to forgive yourself”. Wow! How often do we browbeat ourselves about not being forgiven when in fact God who’s totally forgiven us but we are not forgiving ourselves? If God really loves us unconditionally, which I do truly believe God does, then like Maya’s vocal coach we need to believe that it is a given that God has forgiven us. As my OEC coach told me, and she isn’t a Christian in the ‘purest sense’, “From what I gather God loves everyone unconditionally, even the murder and rapists, and wants to heal them too, and so will forgive them so they can be healed.” We need to forgive ourselves so we can be healed.

Maya ends with this book with a story about her and her son in Hawaii. He was only about 9 years old and had gone off on his own, leaving her asleep, for a swim. She was really worried about where he was because he hadn’t eaten breakfast in the hotel. When the police finally find him he says he ate breakfast in place down the street. He had told the proprietor of the place where he ate “See that name?” pointing to the sign above the hotel with Maya Angelou’s name in lights, “She’s my mother and she’s a great singer.” It made me think that I don’t often enough say “There’s my God and it will be cover by our relationship”.

I should be able to know that I can go wherever I want and do things knowing that the “payment” is covered by God because I am God’s child and am totally loved and looked after and will always be fed. Surely this is the message of the Cross – Jesus made the payment for us and we don’t need to have too any more! Now that is exciting! But to believe that I needed to forgive myself for all the times I’d not quite got it.

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Why I’m still a Christian

I’ve written around this theme before but can’t find the posts to tag them. I am writing this now because I have been given an journaling exercise that is post-heroic. And I’m doing it without pictures for a change

I “became a Christian”, as the phrase was then, because I met something that amazed and astonished me. Yes I was lonely. I had just had my son and was living with someone who wasn’t his father in a house with other people. It was not a safe time. But something inside me was urging me to change. Some well-meaning Christians came along and knocked on my door. I went to their coffee morning and then I went to their church. I experienced an amazing spiritual encounter where I know that I met with the God who made the universe who told me He loved me and felt like I was being covered in a viscose glittery substance. I have since been told that was a Holy Spirit encounter. To me, at that time, it was like meeting the entity that made me, made my world, looked deep into who I was and how I was living and said “you may not being doing it all right but I like you. Come on let’s walk together.”
Since that time I read the Bible loads, studied Christian doctrine, theology, right ways to be a Christian, been on mission, led prayer journeys and set up prayer groups, done all that stuff and in doing it totally agreed with the U2 song “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” I’ve blogged on this and pondered this. I’ve tried to tame the mystery even though I know in my head “he is not a tame lion.”
I have reached a point in my Christian life where I am no longer wanting to be heroic, no longer wanting to tame the lion, understand the mystery. I have seen God let me down by letting people I know and love die with horrendous timing so that anniversaries of untimely deaths come at a time when we are trying to celebrate birthdays. I have seen God not come through on some dream that I believed He had promised me we would fulfil together. I have been angry and hurt and let down when it felt as if the mystery of God had turned out to be hollow.
Today I turn a corner. No that’s way too dramatic. Today I have decided to let the mystery out of the box and fly. I may never experience the viscous covering again, may never have a request answered as I like, but I know I have reached a point where I want to just hang out with the mystery, where I just want to be with whatever it is that I have tried to box as God.
So I’m still a Christian because I have decided that just as I don’t need all the answers neither does God need to tell them all to me; just as I don’t need to get it right all the time neither does God have to do what I think is right. I might even stop doing but learn to start practising and start just being. Not in that cheesy “oh I’m a human being not a human doing” but in that way that says it’s ok to just be me and for God to just be God, and for other people to just be who they are.
So I am still a Christian because there are no answers, no right ways, no clear paths but I do know that even through those dark paths the mystery that I call God is more than happy to walk with me and all my whinging and moaning and He still says “you may not being doing it all right but I like you. Come on let’s walk together.”

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On THIS Rock I Will Build My Church

deganwy-north-beach-2I was walking the dog on Conwy Beach this morning looking toward Deganwy and felt God speak to me as I was looking at the basalt column that rises above the down. He felt Him say “on this rock I will build my church” so I asked for a bit of explanation as it’s a verse we all know well and have often been told it means the confession of Peter that Jesus was the Messiah.

As I was walking I kept thinking and chewing this over. Basalt columns pushed themselves up during a time of great volcanic upheaval, not a peaceful time. The rise above the surrounding area because erosion has stripped away all that may have surrounded them. This is how my faith feels. My faith came up during a time of upheaval

snaefellsnes_hiticeland_1140
I love this one standing alone

for me – single mum leading a lifestyle that focused around drinking, drugs and random people staying at my house. When it started it was surrounded by loads of supports, theologies, rules, etc but all those have been eroded away.

I went to the funeral of a dear friend last week who’d died at 43. A lovely, crazy, opinionated friend who sometimes drove me to distraction who had argued through her Christian faith. Gone way too soon. At her funeral the vicar read I Corinthians 13, the love chapter as it is often known. Whilst listening to it I could feel something stirring in me but wasn’t sure what. The walk today revealed what it was. Everything has been stripped away. I no longer care about whether it makes you a “proper” Christian if you speak in tongues or prophecy or say the right prayers at the right time or whatever silly ideas I had. I’ve been watching Gunpowder [and have studies this period too] and it amazes me how people were willing to die or to take the life of another for a believe which I’m not sure God even cares about. I may not have been that bad when I first came to faith but I know I lost friends because of my dogmatism. That has all been stripped away. Now very little remains but I stand – not so much tall but I stand like the basalt column.

tumblr_mhhsu9ys701qawir9o1_500What is left? Faith – A faith that God is bigger than anything I ever hoped or believed and that He is always there for me whatever I walk through and that I will stay with Him forever. Hope – that God is bigger and that those who’ve died before me will be with Him, that those who don’t profess to knowing Him on this earth will be with Him at the end [see I can’t believe that if we are all made in the image of God – and that we don’t just become made in that image when we “pray the prayer” – that God will take what He has made to be with Him . But that’s another thought entirely ] Love – that God loves me, loves those I love, loves those I don’t love too, and that I must learn to love too.

Faith and Hope and Love that is all that remains but I feel that God said to me today that this is what He’s building His Church on and I need to stand on that no matter what more the storms have to throw at me.

faith-hope-love
This says it all so well

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What we going to do to wake up?

(Apologises if I’ve miss quoted lyrics or missed the point. These are my thoughts and how I heard this)

Last night I watch Kate Tempest at Glastonbury. In fact I watched her the night before p056s313too. I don’t do the “watching music” normally – in fact I don’t often listen to music. In the car maybe but not just to sit down and listen to. I have to be doing something else. But someone from one of the writing groups that I run suggested we watch her. I have not been able to get her out of my head since. Then, as things generally do, I met with a friend for coffee and she was talking about similar things to the things Kate was singing about. Last night when I watched I also took notes of the things that had stood out to me the night before. The title of this blog is one of the lines and it is the line that fits in most with what my friend and I were talking about – “what we going to do to wake up?

She starts with a knock out song about the present government and really does take down Theresa May using actual words that May has said. And this is where the media stops in their reporting but Kate Tempest does not stop there. She takes things onward. I think that is what made me listen twice. Yes it is great to hear someone speaking out against the mess our world is in but it is even more awesome to hear someone talk about what “WE” can do. Not them but us. I did a lot of journalling around that afterwards.

Her main song tells the story of 7 very different people being awake at 4.18 and I challenge anyone to listen to it and not see bits of themselves and bits of those they love in it but she challenges each of us to look for the “gods” out there; that each person is born to greatness – “Gods rise in the most unassuming and human way“. Each of us has the power to act. What I felt Kate was challenging each one of us to live out was; justice, kate_tempest_-_let_them_eat_chaosrecompense, humility and most importantly to realise that we are connected and to live with unconditional love for each other.

One bit that has stayed with me is when she says to realise that the oppressed and the oppressor are connected. I felt, and feel too that it is reflected in the medias response to her set, that we blame the government, blame “them” when in fact each of us holds others back, holds ourselves back, turns a blind eye to things, when in fact we need to realise that we do get what we either vote for or can’t be bothered to vote for.

I loved how she finished – that there is nothing new, nothing set in stone, we have it all in us and there is peace in face of people, but that things will not change until we all realise that they have to and are all willing to rise up and change things. We need to stop consuming and start looking to each other, encouraging each other, releasing each other, helping each other to dream our dreams.

What are we going to do wake up?” Before the US elections I read of a prophet (I’ve lost the piece so can’t quote fully) that I remember saying that Trump was in the running because we all needed a “trumpet call to wake up“, and that things were going to come into the light. I believe instead of reacting and fearing we need to ask what caused that boy to want to blow himself and lots of young girls as well after a concert in Manchester, aaeaaqaaaaaaaaesaaaajdc5yty5ytlmltfkyjmtngfjoc1imze4lwq4y2vlzjuyyzhmzgwhat caused those young men to drive a van into people they didn’t know and then go on a killing rampage, what causes the person in the town next to me to want to stab his wife, what causes builders to put cheap inflammable materials into a building and authority figures to turn a blind eye, what causes suicides, murders, the need to buy sweatshop made clothes, to drink, etc etc.

We all need to have that wake up call to find out what makes us happy to moan but do nothing. How much more needs to go on before we all take responsibility?

One of the things I journalled last night was “have I ever spoken to a potential terrorist, rapist, murderer? I don’t know. But maybe I have. Maybe something I have said has awoken a dream in them for something more than destruction. Or maybe because of things I do and say then those thoughts never cross their minds. It is time we all got out forgivenessfearlessness-unconditional-love-tmu702there, stopped blaming them and started seeing how we can LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY. Perhaps we can only do that when we realise we are all connected, all loved and all have something to contribute?