Tuesday, 20 November 2012

'IN' the world...but not 'OF' it!

Looking at my bookshelves on the stairs this morning, I was amused to see the higgledy-piggledy order they were in. I nearly went back into library-assistant mode (my previous occupation) to sort them into fiction and non-fiction, then subsequently to sort out the non-fiction into their categories - sport, craft, Christian....

That's when I remembered that it's important not to have a great sacred/secular divide in our everyday lives. We are called to be 'in the world but not of it' and though we find ourselves living in a very secular-minded reality we are called not to conform to it's ways.

Yet, totally drawing aside from secularism and refusing to be 'Mammon's plaything' means we could be failing in Christ's command to 'go into all the world and preach the gospel'. To NOT interact with those around us condemns others to be denied the right of hearing the Good News - in other words, there is no place for 'holy huddles' or Christian 'ghettos'.

Sadly, this has recently been an issue for someone I know of; only 'valued' if he spent his time doing Christian 'stuff'; socialising in the 'real world' was a 'no-no'! How sad. How judgemental. It's something that's been directed at some of our family - 'You shouldn't be watching that film / listening to that band if you're a Christian'. (shock horror!)

If we cannot 'live' in this world and spend time among its people then we have no chance of meeting them where they are; do we expecting them to all have a 'Damascus Road' experience and then join a church?

I've heard the term 'so heavenly minded he/she is of no earthly use' - I hope and pray I will never be accused of being like that!

Sharing a pint with a non-Christian friend in a pub can be evangelism; meeting them where they are, sharing experiences but reacting in a different way; not swearing or losing our temper when things don't work out as we'd hoped; facing the life crises that affect us all at some point or another (e.g threats of unemployment, financial and social issues, death of loved ones) in a way that reflects Jesus' principals can say more than a month of sermons or big church 'events' - it shows the person in question they are valued for who they are, not what they do. After all, Jesus himself chose to meet up with the tax-collectors and sinners - so why shouldn't we?

Of course, the 'world's' pull is enticing - it is easy to be tripped up, unawares - but sitting snug in our sanctuaries, set apart from the sinful world, is not an option for us.  Jesus did not ransom us from sin so that we could sit on the sidelines of life, clutching our 'ticket' into heaven.We are not called to be 'safe' - we are called to be obedient!

So, I'll leave my bookshelf as it is, I think; a reminder to take my 'Christianity' out into the world wherever I might be, not keep it closeted away; not preaching or judging but just trying to make a difference to those around me. If all I do is smash the sometimes negative stereotype of how the world views 'Christians' then I'd be happy with that - all else is a bonus!


.....and from my bookshelf - a couple of treasures!

'God's Smuggler' by Brother Andrew tells of his call to faith and then putting that faith on the line as he tried to get Bibles across the (then) Iron Curtain; some hair-raising accounts and a wonderful read because he brings home the point that he's just an ordinary guy who took God at His word! (It's also the book that brought me back to God after a half-hearted earlier 'conversion' and subsequent falling-away!)

Another jewel is 'The Hiding Place' by Corrie ten Boom

This tells the story of how she, and her family helped Jews escaping from the Nazi regime in WW2 Holland. The family were eventually betrayed, arrested and sent to different POW camps, most never to return. Despite the odds, Corrie and her sister, Bestsie, found themselves in Ravensbruck and the book tells how even in that dark place God's word was shared. To my mind, Corrie ten Boom sets a  template for us - it was as natural for her to talk with God as it was to converse with those around her (frequently she did that concurrently!); yet, still, she had the same human failings that we all have, the same doubts and fears, but her faith in God helped her overcome those -  in just the same we we can, too!


(part of the 'library' on the turn of the stairs!)

Thursday, 11 October 2012


Ever since Eve bit into the fruit, her sisters throughout history have been paying the penalty!

First off, I'm not a raging feminist, but I cannot for the life of me see why genitalia should determine a person’s ability (or not) to have authority in church circles – surely an anointing of God is in His gift to bestow, regardless of gender?

That thought was uppermost in my mind when this issue was raised at a church meeting last night and I'm afraid it’s really got to me!

The (predominantly) male cry of ‘biblical’ evidence as the excuse for denying women authority in the church needs to be shown for the deceit it is, whether that deceit is borne from knowledge or ignorance, or merely misinterpretation.

OK – so let’s get to it, what DOES the Bible say? Apart from the old chestnuts that are frequently raked up by those intent on proving women are forbidden to have authority, (e.g. in Paul’s letters in the New Testament, concerning women being silent or having their hair covered) there are a number of occasions in Scripture where women are the dominant gender.

Consider Deborah. It was left to her to advise Barak to attack Sisera’s army and even then he was virtually cowering behind her skirts; accordingly, she told him that because he had little confidence in the authority of what she was saying then his adversary, Sisera, would die at the hand of a woman. ( Judges Ch.4 )

Deborah was a married woman, yet many preachers/scholars tell us that the status of women in Biblical times was somewhere down amongst the goats and sheep, in the ‘chattel’ department! If our learned brethren think this, then why does Deborah’s husband, Lappidoth, not pull her into line?

Consider also, who the first people were to proclaim the risen Christ – the women, who got up early on the third day to attend to their Lord’s body, while His 'brave' band of disciples cowered behind closed doors in fear!

And so, to the (so called) defining verses of 1 Timothy 2:9-12, which are often produced to defend the male exclusivity to church authority:

‘I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.’

This has been attributed to just one particular church community in Ephesus, where a few women had been getting out of hand and  J. Lee Grady explains it so much better in his comments in Ten Lies The Church Tells Women (essential reading for those who want to get at the truth, especially in Lie #8!) In various parts of the New Testament, women are attributed as church leaders and even apostles! (see Romans 16:7!)

As a woman, I feel denigrated by men in the church who treat my gender as 'inferior' and have the arrogance and audacity to disclaim a woman's calling and anointing - this is a bit rich, from the 'prototype' of creation! ('Woman' was made after man and was God's final creation - I've often joked that He perfected his 'prototype' and having thus created 'perfection', He rested! ;-p)

As for gender dominance, in the beginning, according the writer of Genesis, Man and Woman were created equal; Eve was to be a companion and ‘helpmeet’ – not a footstool! However, the ‘Fall’ knocked all creation off-kilter and relationships have been damaged as a result.

Now, after millennia, we have a church ordained as the Bride of Christ, filled with believers who are equal before God – but some seem often to be, in the words of George Orwell, ‘more equal than others’! The infallibility of (some) men and the possible bruising of their egos, is evident when they try to hide behind 2Tim. 2:14  –

And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” 

True, Eve was the one who listened to the serpent and was deceived – but equally Adam could have said ‘No’ when the fruit was offered to him! Instead he ate it – and then blamed Eve!  And for far too long, Eve’s daughters have been tarred with the same brush!

I wonder what would have happened if the serpent had found Adam first that day……!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

BIG is not always beautiful!

Before I start, I'm aware that some people may not like what they read in this post; however, these are my personal views - you may not agree but you are most welcome to comment!

For some time now I've been wrestling with the issues of mega-churches (and would-be ones!) and having read some disturbing accounts regarding Willow Creek church  and Saddleback Community Church and their respective leaders ( Bill Hybels  and Rick Warren ) I am a little concerned about the church communities that are being modelled on them.

The leader of Willow Creek, Bill Hybels, apparently has a notice outside his office that states:

"What is our Business? Who is our Customer? What does our customer consider is Value?

Does that not strike you as something the large economic institutions would use? Are we now being told to model 'Church' on 'mammon's' principles?

There is a seeming trend towards big, shiny, performance 'worship' - and rather too much introspective navel gazing! As far as my experience of it goes, it seems to be all about teaching programmes and sermon-series and getting bums on seats! It may be wonderful to be 'lost in rapture' but you can still be alone in a crowd. And what happens if you, yourself, don't quite want to just follow the 'herd' - how do your questions get answered? With some of these larger churches there seems to be an attitude that if you make waves you are shown the door - what's that all about?

Aside from that, it seems too many are interested in being busy in church but not actually using that experience in the real world. If you want to swim it doesn't matter how many courses and training programmes you do, it's worth nothing unless you actually get in the water! Same with church, I feel!

Since reading a book called "The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne I have begun to look at things a different way. His book centres on the opposite of BIG church - where small acts of serving the local community are faithfully carried out, without fuss and without razamatazz. It's very attractive, because it's 'do-able'! And I kind of think it's more the way Jesus would have gone about things.

Now, don't get me wrong - for some people BIG churches give them a place of safety; but it is also very easy to hide, or go unnoticed! What worries me is that unless there are smaller groups meeting regularly with each other, it is impossible to get to know the needs of others, to minister to (and BE ministered to!). It is also way too easy for the leadership to be put on a pedestal and become 'untouchable' - an ideal way for 'discrepancies' to worm their way in!

Could this perhaps be what Christ, Himself, says in Matthew 24:24 - "False Messiahs and false prophets will come and work great miracles and signs. They will even try to fool God's chosen ones."

That last sentence scares the wits out of me!

I think it is rather more healthy to question than to sleepwalk to oblivion - this is no time for an 'Emperor's New Clothes'-mentality! And any church and its leadership does well to examine its' own motives and willingly answer the questions of those who are not meekly following on!

And, my final note - having done a brief search via the internet, it seems that many of these mega-churches do not have any visible representation of the cross at their services (although I believe one may be suddenly installed for Baptismal services!). What worries me, is that my own (possibly/would-be mega-church?) has recently been (extravagantly) refurbished - but now lacks a cross....... Is this the beginning of the end?

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


Here in the UK, this last four days have seen a lot of excitement with Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. After the  inclement weather during the water pageant on Sunday (which may have dampened the spectators but not their spirits!) and Monday evening's pop-concert outside Buckingham Palace, today came a solemn occasion, indeed, in a service at St Paul's cathedral.

Now, when I say 'solemn' I do not mean sad and mournful - there was 'pomp and circumstance' and with Her Majesty being the head of the Anglican Church there was due deference to her status. I'm not normally one for 'high church' ritual ('bells, smells and very up-candle!' as someone once said) and usually I find it hard to worship when surrounded by the beauty and grandeur of large places of worship that have become monuments of history.

However, this morning's service, watched via the BBC, had part of my soul hankering for something which I feel has been sadly lacking in  my current church-experience : MAJESTY

No, not the Queen herself, but the majesty and mystery of God.

It seems the polarity of Christianity stretches from the highly ritualised, steeped in tradition, 'hands-off' approach; down to the other end of the scale where it's very laid-back and 'buddy Jesus' with no barriers.

I think each has it's place, as a facet of responsive worship; but equally, when taken to extremes, each also slightly misses the mark.

In my own circumstance, attending a Free Church (that is, not the established church) the familiar traditions of my former Anglicanism (albeit, a very lower-stated version!) are sadly missing and sometimes I think we are so laid-back and 'free' in our worship that it is possible to lose the MAJESTY and awe of worshipping God in all His magnificence.

Watching today's service, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, articulated a wonderful sermon based on Romans Ch.12  (this, taken from a modern translation, 'The Message') - talking of service and using the skills and talents we have each been blessed with and spoke of putting the needs of others first, regardless of our own personal status. This is something our Queen has done for 60 years already. Some detractors point to her privileged lifestyle but they ignore the duty and service she undertakes on behalf of the nation when, quite frankly, she'd probably rather not attend yet another function or listen to another boring speech. What she does is give of herself, displacing her own wishes at times and making others the focus of her attention. And that is precisely what our duty and homage to God should be!

Graham Kendrick wrote the worship song 'Meekness and Majesty' and the words speak of the manhood and Deity contained within Christ. The words continue.... "In perfect harmony, the Man who is God".

I think the harmony of our worship and service of God is somehow off-kilter when we either focus so much on MAJESTY that we get lost in the ritual; or, in the looseness of our approach to Him, that we are apt to forget we walk on Holy ground!

I love the way C.S.Lewis describes Aslan (representing Christ in his allegorical work, 'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe') seen in this clip from the movie of the book:

We need to remember the MAJESTY  in the midst of our worship - God's not tame!

Saturday, 7 January 2012


Too many times I think about adding to this blog - then the world gets in the way....! I realise that however much I think I've accomplished I am still a WIP - Work In Progress!

This first month of a new year, I've decided I need to spend more time 'listening to' than 'talking at' God; more time sitting at His feet rather than watching what others are doing; being less preoccupied with deciding where I 'fit' and just taking each day as it comes - wherever He chooses to take me.

With the upheaval of our church building being revamped, the congregations are meeting in temporary accommodation. Together with our small weekly group changing and some members moving into different ministries (it actually feels like we've been ripped apart!) it all leads me to feel very much out of the loop. I often feel like I'm on the outside looking in, towards people who seem to have everything mapped out and know exactly what they're doing and what their purpose is - alas, not me!

I STILL am not sure what He has in mind for me - nothing really seems to spring to mind, and perhaps that's just as well because in the last six months or so my life has not really been my own, anyway!

My daughter has had to have a number of eye operations after suffering a detached retina - her 'independent' living has meant me virtually running two homes, as I tend to her chores and help look after her cat as well as being chauffeur and general cheerleader in times of low spirits.

My son has been laid off from work and had to return home (along with all his furniture :-/) so I'm trying to keep up his spirits, too, in these financially-challenged times, whilst endeavouring not to sound like I'm nagging as he plugs away trying to get back into work.

What a good job I 'retired' last year, or who else would have been available to be the back-stop for all this?!

So, I face a new year with many hopes and dreams, not to say a few fears, but also thinking how good to remember that in a world of constant change, God is unchangingly constant! And I cling to that and all His promises......and perhaps the passions and gifts I believe He has blessed me with will one day dovetail into exactly what HE has in mind!

And this just about sums it all up - I liked the original version but the Skit Guys have re-mastered their "God's Chisel" sketch and now it hits the mark even more: