Faced a Dilemma

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I did not enjoy Life Group last week. Yes, it was a shock to me too! The reason is simple: the church I am in is more fundamental in its beliefs than I am. I don’t mind people’s differing beliefs but sometimes it seems like some church members are not living in the real world.

Because I have not grown up as a Christian I have seen and experienced things that they may not have done. I am not saying that makes me better than them – no, but maybe I have a more rounded view of life in some ways.

It made me rethink moving to the town where my church is based. I am still keen – it’s a neat little town surrounded by beautiful countryside – but I need to keep an open mind and continue to get to know the other places on my list and keep my options open.

I did think about going to St Egremont’s (not its real name, of course.) This is a more liberal church, with around 600 members, and one of the divorce group ladies has been going there for 22 years, She is a bit of a hippy type like me and I like her a lot.

I also talked it over with two of my church friends, who are UK-based missionaries. They were helpful. They agreed that they were fundamental but are sympathetic to my concerns. They suggested I talk to one of the pastors so Pastor 2, the youngest pastor, has willingly agreed to be there for me.

I have decided to stick with my church as my ‘base’. The people are great, it is a thriving church, I like going to this other town, and I do broadly agree with much of what they believe – but not all

Steeple

Steeple (Photo credit: dmushrush)

of it. Meanwhile, I will check out St Egremont’s at some point, and possibly the branch of ‘my church’ that is in my city too.

My ex suggested the Quakers. I said, “no.” Nothing against them but I think they are quite a middle class bunch in my city. I want a church that is thriving, with Life Groups and all sorts of projects. My life is quite a secluded one as it is so more of that would be counterproductive.

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The Real World

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Not forgotten my readers. Been preoccupied with things in the non virtual world. Also been getting to bed earlier and previously have blogged late at night.
More posts to come in due course.

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Big Yourself Up?

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Read great blog post from a new follower (mar mar thunder) and he said do not write your blog for yourself but for your readers.
Tricky. The whole point of my blog is that it is mainly for me. A kind of escape. An entertainment.
I wonder if you can really make money from blogging. Several good looking guys appear to follow my blog and claim that they live off the proceeds of blogging. Bet they are all models. Or fantasists 😉

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Religio Medici

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Currently reading Religio Medici from 1642 by Sir Thomas Browne. Struggling a little with the antiquated language but I will persevere.
A stunning copy from 1906. Red Letter Library. Think Charles Rennie Mackintosh was involved in the design. The book is covered in CRM roses. Really lovely.

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Rustle Those Bible Pages

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The sound of rustling pages as people consult their Bibles during sermons makes me smile. I don’t know why. Maybe it is the eagerness to learn. Or maybe it is ‘cos I love books so much.

Pastor 3 has this to say about the iPad” and the Bible.
He says when preaching it is good to have a hard copy of the Bible with you as well as your iPad and Powerpoint, if you choose to use that too. He writes:
“Yes, you have Bible apps but there is something healthy in the rustling of the pages as well as the sight of God’s word for God’s people.”  Neat.

“Beware the Flattering Single Man,” Says Joshua Rogers

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I love, love , love this article from the Christian Connection blog.

Beware the flattering single man

Written by Joshua Rogers

It was my first (and only) date with Holly Bond. A smart, attractive, successful woman from my church. The date wasn’t meant to have a romantic overture, and I think we both knew that. Holly and I had been friends for a while, and we got along well, so it only seemed natural to go out to dinner at least once.

After dinner, we were talking and I asked her if she was afraid her career might get in the way of marriage and kids. She said she definitely wanted a family, but she was be content to wait for God to provide what was best for her life.

“It would be a shame if you didn’t get married, Holly.” I said, and then I proceeded to explain why; showering her with compliments about her integrity, intelligence, success, and beauty.

It was something I had done with single women before, but when I finished my complimentary diatribe, Holly didn’t blush, and she didn’t thank me like other women typically did.

“Why did you say all of that?” asked Holly, almost sounding annoyed.

“Um – I said it because it’s true.” I said.

“So are you interested in me?” she asked.

I was taken aback.

“Well, um – I mean – I don’t think you have to be interested in a woman to compliment her.” I said, and then I continued complimenting her.

“Don’t do that Joshua.”, she said gently but firmly. “If the only reason we’re spending time together is to hang out, then you don’t have any business going there with me.”

I was stunned. No woman had ever corrected me for showering her with compliments, and I could hardly believe Holly was giving me the smack-down for doing so. I quickly offered my best, halfhearted apology, changed the topic, and tried to move on, but Holly had rattled me.

I knew there was probably a valuable lesson to be learned, but I wasn’t about to let an ingrate like Holly teach it to me. Instead, in the weeks following the date, I went around to my friends and retold the story in a light most favorable to me. They patted me on the back, assuring me that she was the one with the problem, and I moved on, missing an opportunity to grow up.

It was probably two years into marriage before I appreciated Holly’s correction on our date.

My wife had a number of single female friends who would share the frustration of spending time with guys who buttered them up with compliments, appeared to be interested, and then suddenly flew off the radar. It left these women feeling insecure and wondering what they had done wrong.

As I listened to these stories, I reflected on my date with Holly and began to understand why she pushed back so firmly when I went on and on with my complimenting.

She wasn’t an ingrate – not at all. She was smart. Smart enough to understand that I hadn’t shown sufficient interest to be caressing her with my words. Smart enough to realize that much-needed compliments from a halfway-interested guy can lead to useless attachments. And smart enough to believe that one day, God would send her a genuinely-interested man who would sweep her off her feet with words that were utterly sincere (that did, in fact eventually happen to Holly).

With all that in mind, let me say this to the single ladies out there who read this post: words come terribly cheap, and they can end up costing you a lot of pointless emotional energy. Don’t surrender your heart to a man who has done nothing more than tickle your ears.

And to the single men, I’d ask you to consider whether you’re actually interested before you drown a woman in compliments. I understand that a woman is ultimately responsible for guarding her heart, but you could help out a lot by guarding your mouth.

Author’s note: Holly and I are still friends today, and in retrospect, she says she was a little too hard on me during that date. I obviously disagree with her.

The Out of Control Disciple – Leonard Sweet

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FutureChurch_Think_Tank_Advance2010_31

FutureChurch_Think_Tank_Advance2010_31 (Photo credit: George Fox Evangelical Seminary)

This was read to us at church last night. It’s almost like a rap/hip hop/rapturous prayer/declaration/poem. Fabulous.

A Magna Carta of Trust by an Out-of-Control Disciple from Leonard Sweet’s Soul Cafe (March 1996 Vol. 2, No. 1)

I am part of the Church of the Out-of-Control. I once was a control junkie, but now am an Out-of-Control Disciple. I’ve given up my control to God. I trust and obey the Spirit. I’ve jumped off the fence, I’ve stepped over the line, I’ve pulled out all the stops, I’m holding nothing back. There’s no turning back, looking around, slowing down, backing away, letting up, or shutting up. It’s life Against the Odds, Outside the Box, Over the Wall, the game of life played Without Goal Lines other than “Thy Will Be Done…”

I’m done lapdogging for the topdogs, the wonderdogs, the overdogs, or even the underdogs. I’m done playing According to the Rules, whether it’s Robert’s Rules Of Order or Miss Manner’s Rules of Etiquette or Martha Stewart’s Rules of Living or Louis Farrakhan’s Rules of America’s Least Wanted or Merrill Lynch’s Money-minding/Bottom-lining/Ladder-climbing Rules of America’s Most Wanted.

I am not here to please the dominant culture or to serve any all-show/no-go bureaucracies. I live to please my Lord and Savior. My spiritual taste-buds have graduated from fizz and froth to Fire and Ice.
Sometimes I’m called to sharpen the cutting edge, and sometimes to blunt the cutting edge. Don’t give me that old-time religion. Don’t give me that new-time religion. Give me that all-time religion that’s as hard as rock and as soft as snow.
I’ve stopped trying to make life work, and started trying to make life sing. I’m finished with second-hand sensations, third-rate dreams, low-risk high-rise trades and goose-stepping, flag-waving crusades. I no longer live by and for anything but everything God-breathed. I can’t be bought by any personalities or perks, positions or prizes. I won’t give up, though I will give in… to openness of mind, humbleness of heart, and generosity of spirit. When short-handed and hard-pressed, I will never again hang in there. I will stand in there, I will run in there, I will pray in there, I will sacrifice in there, I will endure in there– in fact I will do everything in there but hang. My face is upward, my feet are forward, my eyes are focused, my way is cloudy, my knees are worn, my seat uncreased, my heart burdened, my spirit light, my road narrow, my mission wide.
I won’t be seduced by popularity, traduced by criticism, by hypocrisy, or trivialized by mediocrity. I am organized religion’s best friend, and worst nightmare. I won’t back down, slow down, shut down, or let down until I’m preached out, teached out, healed out or hauled out of God’s mission in the world entrusted to members of the Church of the Out-of-Control… to unbind the confined, whether they’re the downtrodden or the upscale, the overlooked or the underrepresented. My fundamental identity is as a disciple of Jesus–but even more, as a disciple of Jesus who lives in Christ, who doesn’t walk through history simply “in his steps,” but seeks to travel more deeply IN HIS SPIRIT.
Until he comes again or calls me home, you can find me filling not killing time so that one day he will pick me out in the lineup of the ages as one of his own. And then… it will be worth it all… to hear these words, the most precious words I can ever hear:
“Well done, thou good and faithful… Out-of-Control Disciple.”

Sisters in Christ are Doing it For Themselves

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The Pointer Sisters at the "green carpet&...

The Pointer Sisters at the “green carpet” for the Save the World Awards 2009 . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is the single ladies in the church who do most of the ‘heavy lifting’ emotionally. (Some of the married ones do too, but mainly the singles.)

This lets the guys off the hook.

What do I mean? Well, it is the single women who are just…. there for you! They are the ones who text you last thing at night to make sure you are okay when you are going through a tough time or feeling vulnerable etc. They are the ones who cook the pastor a meal when there’s a crisis. They are the ones who comment and offer support and prayers on the church’s (private) Facebook page.They are the amazing ones!

It may be that the blokes support each other in this way too. They bond through football and other man stuff and attend the Men’s Breakfast. And there are some fabulous men in the church. But do you know what I think? Just as in the wider world it’s the women that take on the emotional work in a family (and church is a kind of family). That ticks me off!

To paraphrase The Pointer Sisters: “Sisters in Christ are doing it for themselves!”

Matt Wootton Search Over: Mixed Emotions

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Sea

Sea (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

The search for my missing round-the-world travelling chum/acquaintance and the other crew members aboard the yacht Nina was called off last week. I can’t believe how upset I’ve been about Matt’s disappearance/possible-probable death. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him and also about issues surrounding this kind of death.

Matt’s last three years were absolutely jam-packed with action and experiences that most of us only dream of. He knew what the risks were yet he faced his fears and got on with it. I guess I never expected him to go missing in somewhere that sounds as benign as the South Pacific, between New Zealand and Australia, when he had travelled through South America and other places with a riskier reputation.

But there were risks. He was aboard a 70-year-old wooden schooner, albeit with an experienced crew, and it is Winter in the southern hemisphere. And the sea is an immense foe when there’s a storm, as he knew and wrote about. The boat must have sunk some time after 4 June 2013. There has been no trace of it or its life rafts despite extensive searches.

I thought about all the photos of him I have viewed on Facebook. He shared them in a really none-vain way. There was nothing boastful about them, as far as I could see. Presuming the boat sank that means that everything pertaining to him on that trip went too – his camera, his phone, laptop, if he had one, passport, driving licence.

I first met Matt at a house just round the corner from where I live, probably around 2005/2006. He reminded me very much of someone else I knew, someone else who drowned, as it happens, albeit in the 1990s. I would see Matt on and off after that. He had a wicked laugh and a nice demeanour. He was very much part of the Green Party crowd. People I know but don’t mix with much.

Back in 2009 he was a pale, sweet-faced young man. By 2013 he was a bronzed, taut, adorable man with a Polynesian tattoo, clearly popular with the ladies! He seemed to have a girlfriend or girlfriends.  I watched him develop over those 2 1/2 years. When he would pop up with his photos I would always take a look, maybe comment, and I’d think, ‘My, how you’ve grown!’

To think that I’ll never have a chance to tell him much joy his pictures gave me, how seeing him blossom was a real lift for me during some very dark days, is vile.

And how his parents and siblings will cope, not only with his possible death but also with the fact his body may never be recovered, is horrendous.

Funnily enough, my growing faith has not been demolished by Matt’s death. I do believe that if he has gone from this world his very being has simply been transformed into some other kind of energy, somewhere out there in the universe. When my stepfather died last year we saw his body. It truly was as if the soul had left. My mother, a very down-to-earth woman, felt this too. The body was just a shell and the essence of who my step-dad was had gone elsewhere.

 

Issues, man

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“The divorce rate is high because people are marrying without resolving their individual issues first; they also haven’t learned skills like communication and negotiation that are needed to keep a marriage strong.”
Donna Marie Williams

The Smug Marrieds Versus The Singletons

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Cover of "Lost in the Middle: Midlife and...

Cover via Amazon

I hear that in My Church the young marrieds do not talk or mix much with the single people. I have no great experience of this phenomenon but I suspect it is true.

I used to be a Smug Married myself so I should not be one to cast stones. What I do hear is that there are many unhappy marriages in the church. The beaming pictures in the church directory may not tell the full story but that is hearsay.

Another friend thinks that all these couples should read Paul David Tripp’s book Lost in the Middle, which appears to be about midlife crises. The book’s blurb says: “As we grow older, we tend to look back on life and have regrets. We realize we’re not the person we once wanted to be. It’s easy to get discouraged and lose our way. But with Christ, you don’t have to be afraid of life. Don’t get lost in the middle of your own story.”

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Pizza, Pasta, Erm… Pastors

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I may not write about my developing faith much here. This is not because I am shallow nitwit material but

An illustration of John the Baptist preaching ...

An illustration of John the Baptist preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven, from the 1875 Young People’s Illustrated Bible History (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

it still feels private to me.

My ‘journey’ life is divided into two parts: the spiritual part and the church part, and it is mostly the latter I write about here.

Now I have been involved with My Church for some time I am fascinated by the interpersonal shenanigans.

I am watching the pastors! Who lives what he preaches? Who’s ‘in’? Who’s ‘out’. Yup, sad to say, the world of My Church is a microcosm of our wider world.

I suspect there is a Pastor 3 Fan Club going on. Am I in this fan club? I love his sermons, approach, wise words and so on. But I don’t kid myself that I know the man. Preaching is a performance and it’s easy to use the stage to connect with many but be alone/separate and self-protective afterwards, just as many rock stars and actors are…  Does Pastor 3 practise what he preaches? I don’t know. I DO feel very protective of Pastor 3 though. If someone teases him or is snide (men can be cruel) I feel annoyed. There was this new guy in church today, good looking, young, and he was making a few snide remarks. I felt like decking the dropkick! Why turn up if you’re just going to bitch throughout the service?

I have known Pastor 2 the longest. He is thoroughly nice bloke, sincere, humble. Just lovely.

Pastor 1, it turns out, has a reputation for being something of a mystery! He has worked at national and international level – a high flyer. A friendis a huge fan of his. She says he has transformed our church, made it more inclusive and that we would not have the divorce group if he had not come along. I think he must have seen and heard some harrowing things over the years so I suspect he does have enormous strength.

I’ll continue to observe.

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Thank God It’s Friday – Literally!

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Had a lovely time at a new feature in our church – a Life Group social. The idea to have LG socials (as well as attending the more serious Life Group sessions) came from one of our group members and I must say it’s a good one. I missed the first one because I was at my mum’s house for that weekend so I was keen to attend this one.

 

We had a Jacob’s Join (aka a ‘Pot Luck’ in the US) and the weather was glorious. Lovely views out towards the gentle, embracing limestone crags. And someone lit a chiminea once a slight chill set in. Magical. 

We also played some guessing games. One was biblically-based, which did make me giggle a bit. Certainly no sex, drugs and rock and roll with these kids. And it was great. (For the record, I chose to be Jonah…) 

Part of the Union

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Of course, growing up in a family of faith is not a good deal different from growing up in a family of trade unionists (when there were such things).

My ex grew up in a very leftist household. It would have been unthinkable to be anything other than left wing for the kids. One of the reasons I fell for my husband was because of his political passion. But really, he, like all of us, was a product of his upbringing.

Me, I am from a mixed background. My mum is a working-class Tory – how I abhor them – while my stepdad was a liberal from an authoritarian background. Pretty mixed up.

I arrived at university as a liberal but left as a socialist. I think I am trying to work out what I am now. Left wing, i guess, but not boxed in.

Children of Christians

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I do sometimes feel sorry for the children of Christians in our church. I am sure that they would be horrified to read this. What I mean is that they have not had a chance to discover Christianity by themselves. At least I am going to church because of my own free will and seeking.
When I first arrived at church I could not work out where all these groovy looking young dudes and dudettes were from.
It soon became clear: most of them have parents who are also in the church. Now these kids seem pretty nice, though some are worryingly right wing …
.. I just hope they don’t become boxed in by the beliefs of parents and that they get to explore their own thoughts and find their identities without fear of displeasing family.

Song sung blue

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Went to see a christian singer this evening in beautiful surroundings. Lovely venue. Lovely voice. Packed out. I was bored witless.

    Sounds cruel but was too MOR for me. Each set was 45 min long. I left at half time, partly cos was not feeling great. It would have been a waste of my time and limited energy to stay. I did love the sunny evening. That spoke to me more.

Cheap Sex Cheapens Us

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Rob Bell interviewing Peter Rollins

Rob Bell interviewing Peter Rollins (Photo credit: pablohart)

Can’t remember if this comes from Rob Bell or Carolyn Leutwiler. I think it is the latter. Apologies to either of them if I got that wrong but the quote stuck in my head.

Cheap sex is used like drink and drugs. It blocks out pain but the pain only resurfaces elsewhere, later on. You are worth more!

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