A Lover’s Story: Crookes Valley Park, Sheffield, 1988.

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“Will you stay in our lover’s story?” Kooks, David Bowie.

Back in 1988 I saw our time in Sheffield as a sad and lonely period yet in retrospect I see it differently. We were young, not yet fully formed, and very much in love.

My job was hard, physically and mentally, and I felt pulled in many directions. At work, I was the ‘newbie’, before that word was invented, who had to make her mark, a graduate among school leavers, viewed with a little suspicion. I wasn’t part of any clique and was frequently homesick for my birth town and my parents. Gray was out-of-work and lonely too. As I had dragged him to this landlocked city I felt I had to make everything alright for him. Exhausted after my day at the office I felt obliged to go out at night, to pubs or to the cinema, when really I would have preferred to stay in and just talk or be.

Sundays became special though.

Mostly we walked in Weston Park, sometimes visiting the art gallery there, and often in Crookes Valley Park, which was often swathed in mist.  He would wear his Joe Orton-style leather jacket and I would be in my blue coat with its real fur collar, which I’d picked up in Oxfam in Broomhill. It looked like something straight out of a Tissot painting. I kept that coat for years.

Crookes Valley Park comprised sloping greens and a flat lake and was peaceful in a melancholic sort of way. Gray was often sad and we were frequently tired. What we talked about I can’t recall but conversation always flowed between us as the leaves came tumbling down around us. There was this utter sense of togetherness, of being with the right one. If I’d have known my Bible back then I would have identified with the verse from Song of Solomon:

“I have found the one whom my soul loves.”

Sometimes we would walk down to Hunter’s Bar and end up in Pizza Hut. Having been on the dole for a few months before I got this job this seemed to us quite decadent! I relished seeing the anticipation in his eyes and we’d laugh as the soft, doughy pizza would melt in our fingers – and then in our mouths. I loved to see him happy like that.

Sundays were doubly precious because I never looked forward to rejoining the world of office politics in a department that was sinking fast in an era of privatisation. Many people in the office were having affairs with each other as if it was the last few  days of pre-war Berlin. This was the very antithesis of my world of “pure love”, monogamous, hopeful and magical.

These memories can pierce my heart, as if they were happening right now. I wonder at this, bemused, that he, in his new life with new wife, doesn’t feel it too, at the very same moment as I do.

The subconscious mind, I read, doesn’t understand past and present, but sees everything as if it IS occurring right now. And it is happening.  I’m walking in Crookes Park, Sheffield, with the man I love.

I am loved, valued, wanted.

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The One Whom My Soul Loves – In Pursuit of Woman

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Pursuit of Equality

Pursuit of Equality (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Despite the fact I believe I am unmarriageable I have not been without male interest, even in my ‘celibate by choice’ life. Most of these men are not Christians but they are good men.

There’s SAL, who lives far away and is not safe emotionally but who seems to be fond of me. MAGS, who is the nearest I have to a soulmate, but who is not emotionally available and who does not want a relationship with me – and I probably don’t want one with him. WM seems to adore me but I am unsure about him for various reasons. Even SRP has been attracted to me at points, I believe, but he is unsafe. And TCG seems to like me too. Only WM has actively pursued me over many months.

Despite all this I feel I have not yet met “the one whom my soul loves.” Do you think I will know it when I do meet him or are we blinded by our own hang-ups, fears and prejudices?

Download: It’s Not Just a Festival

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It was the Download Festival this weekend in the UK, a rock festival attended by thousands. I wasn’t there. I’m completely immersed in stuff to do with the house and house selling. It sounds like fun from the outside but it is dull. And immensely tiring.

Yesterday my gardener guy came. He’s a Buddhist – and a dedicated one at that. He is very inspiring, not just because of what he says but because of how he is.

Anyway, I’ve had to miss church and Life Group this week and feel somewhat cast adrift with out those touchstones. Thank heavens for the DOWNLOADS though.

These are the downloads our church provides every week – each sermon (we call them ‘messages’) is uploaded on to the church website for our listening pleasure. I’ve just listened to Pastor 3. It’s not quite the same as being there but these downloads are extremely useful and help with your spiritual journey and keep you connected to the church itself.

We are lucky.

Thessalonians 2 – Our Life Group Notes

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Firm Foundations: Our Encouragement

REFLECTION: remembering the main points

  • Our Encouragement: 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12: how to persevere through adversity
  • Theological Encouragement: God’s Just, Powerful & Faithful: 5-10
  • Relational Encouragement: praise & prayer: 3-4; 11-12

DISCUSSION: choose one or more questions

  • What are some of the current pressures in your own life as a follower of Christ?
  • Do we share any cultural elements with the believers in 1st century Thessalonica?
  • Have you ever felt like your encouragement has changed someone else’s life?
  • How can you develop a deeper theological foundation for hope?
  • Are there practical ways of deepening the encouragement side of your prayer life?
  • Why do we squirm when we come across passages related to God’s judgement?

APPLICATION: things you/we can do

  • Watch this clip and talk about the power of encouragement: https://vimeo.com/102063076. Dream, think and talk together about 4 practical things you can start doing as a LIFE Group to support each other, weekly, as you face the daily pressures of living as a Christ-follower.
  • Using good resources from http://www.opendoorsuk.org – please spend some time praying for the persecuted Christians around the world.

The Prodigal Son in Modern Life by James Tissot

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tissot

This evening’s message (sermon) was on Praying for Prodigals, i.e., praying for those who have been Christians but abandoned a Christian life and who have gone AWOL. Quite a complex subject, especially for me as I don’t know any prodigals. I have either Christian friends or non-Christian friends, on account of coming to the church relatively late in life.

I’m sure my non-Christian friends would see this as an ethical matter, saying, we have free will and it’;s up to us what we do or believe whereas my Christian ones see it as a spiritual crisis that must be prayed for.

Not sure where I stand. I have non-Christian friends whose actions are Christ-like (they just don’t know it or know God) and I see some Christians who are judgemental and small-minded! But I also see some great Christians and some pretty awful non-Christians.

Forgiveness Sure ‘Ain’t Easy

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Forgive

Forgive (Photo credit: Celestine Chua)

Coming to the end of the 13 week Chained No More course. It’s been great. But tough at times. The day after each session I am totally whacked. Even though there are no tears shed in the group the sessions use a lot of emotional and mental energy.

I know I need to forgive my former caretakers. One in particular. But I am finding it hard and almost impossible. I don’t know what’s wrong with this person. Maybe I am diagnosing their crap behaviour into some sort of pathology. Maybe they were just a bit rubbish at caretaking. I suspect narcissism. Possibly lacking in the empathy chip. I remember when my STBX was going through a terrible ordeal this caretaker astounded him, his mum and me with the way they turned the situation into being all about them. I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past. My excuse is that I did not have the best examples when I was growing up.

Don’t know how I am going to forgive because I do attribute at least some of the development of my health problems to the caretakers’ neglect when I was a small child. I’ve no proof, but it seems likely.

 

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I Am the Walrus, I am the Blunderbuss

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Blunderbuss

Blunderbuss (Photo credit: Mike Miley)

 

“Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” James 1:19

 

I have many faults. Two of my main faults are tactlessness and an impetuous nature. My enthusiasm and openness can lead me away from my true goal of being “slow to speak”. Of course, when I realise (usually quite quickly, on account of the deafening silence that greets my blunder) that I have inadvertently caused hurt I am mortified. ‘What a jerk!’ I think. ‘Oops, I did it again…’ ‘Why, oh why, did I not think?’ I’m always quick to apologise but still…

I don’t know where this blunderbuss behaviour comes from. Is it nature or nurture? Maybe it’s because I grew up in a home where the boundaries were extremely blurred. Maybe it is written in the stars! Sagittarians are known for their tactlessness. I remember my step-dad saying that sometimes he could be walking down the street and suddenly recall some tactless or wrongheaded behaviour/action he’d executed and he would just feel hideously embarrassed. I know what he meant.

 

A few people at church – especially in Life Group – have said they admire my openness and honesty. But being too open can be a double-edged sword. At least the tactless numpte is not Machiavellian. I’m not a schemer, a plotter, a sociopath or a game player. But the plotters do better in life – or rather they attain positions that are viewed by society as desirable. The schemers are the lawyers, politicians, business giants. Maybe if I had treated life like a game of chess I wouldn’t be in the, well, disadvantaged position I am in.

 

 

 

 

 

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Postings from Peru

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Shipibo Ceramics

Shipibo Ceramics (Photo credit: Howard G Charing)

 

Over the hot Summer we aim to do different things in Life Group. We had a BBQ last month and tonight one of our group talked to us about her missionary work in Peru. Fascinating. Even more so, I think, because the speaker is one of the sweetest people you are ever likely to meet. Talk about not pushing yourself forward! Being an ever-curious character I asked her loads of questions to help draw her out (as did some of the others).

 

Hearing about the life of a missionary in Peru would be interesting on the radio but when it is someone you know, and they are in the room with you, it totally brings it to life.

 

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.

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…) 

Lay Preachers Should Be Valued Too

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The Great Day of His Wrath

The Great Day of His Wrath (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The speaker at church tonight was a lay person who is involved in sport and The Gospel. This guy is a hero of one of my male church friends. He did well, talking on Paul’s letter to Timothy.

I took my King James Bible with me. It’s illustrated with the most glorious art and that inspires me. Everything from John Martin to Graham Sutherland.

I was sad that not as many people were there tonight whereas it was packed out last week for Pastor 3. I am glad I went as it is important that the congregation shows support for the non-professional speakers as well as our regular pastors.

 

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Regret Versus Repentence

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English: Dictionary indents. Français : Marque...

English: Dictionary indents.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Was chatting to a friend tonight (who follows this blog) about regret and repentance.

There are things that I don’t entirely regret. We have all done or believed certain things about situations or people that felt right at the time. We simply did not know any better. Regret is a feeling.

The dictionary definition of repentance equates the word with regret. But repentance is an action.   Repentance is a radical turning away from former conduct that one now feels is wrong, possibly unhealthy or injurious to others or self.  My church handbook says repentance is “a personal sorrow at having sinned against God.” 

Repentance leads to moral renewal, “often evidenced by restitution – the effort to right one’s wrongs when possible.”

That should keep me going for a life time then!

 

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Dynamic AGM at Church

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US664A University Sound Dynamic Supercardioid ...

US664A University Sound Dynamic Supercardioid Microphone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night was our church’s annual general meeting. It was unlike other meetings I’ve been to elsewhere. Very dynamic. Some linking between the church’s aims and scripture. Lots of praying between each section. Very inclusive. All three pastors presented slots. I was urged to get up on the microphone and talk too! (Briefly.)

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Unfailing Love From a Person WILL Fail

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Cover of "Praying God's Word: Breaking Fr...

Cover via Amazon

Beth Moore, author of Praying God’s Word, is a little too rabid for my tastes and I don’t agree with some of her vierws but some stuff resonates.

“The fear of being unloved is probably our greatest source of insecurity.”

She says that we all crave unfailing love – a love that is unconditional, unwavering. ‘Unfailing love’ is mentioned 33 times in the Bible. She says that searching for this love in any living person is futile. Our husbands, friends, our families WILL let us down, some time, some day.

“We will lose the love of those who loved us to death… Their love moved. It died. It left wonderful memories… but it left a hole.”

The Christian believes that only God’s “love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:8. Do I believe that yet? Not sure. But Moore is right. No one person can fill you up, meet all your needs or provide unfailing love.

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Building Healthy Relationships

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James Dobson in 2007 in Washington, DC at the ...

James Dobson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week’s Life Group focuses on “Healthy Relationships” – Colossians 3:18-4:1.

Pertinent. Have read James Dobson‘s book Love Must Be Tough. Don’t agree with everything he writes but the basic premise is spot on. Perhaps I should give it another read.

REFLECTION: remembering the main points

  • Advice to Wives & Husbands. V18-19
  • Advice to Children & Parents. V20 -21
  • Advice to Slaves & Masters. V22 – 4:1
  • Paul’s advice for Healthy Relationships only works if we allow God into our relationships.

DISCUSSION: helpful questions

  • What is the relationship you admire most and why?
  • Why are relationships so challenging?
  • Do you think Paul’s advice about relationships in the first century AD is still applicable in the 21st century? Why or why not?
  • Wives & Husbands. What does Genesis 1:26 -28 tell us about God’s original plan for the relationship between men & women? What does Genesis 2:18-25 tell us about God’s plan for marriage? What does Genesis 3:16 tell us about how the relationship between men & women has become strained?
  • Children & Parents. What do you think about James Dobson’s advice that parents should “bend a child’s will without breaking a child’s spirit”? What do you think about the suggestion that the commandment to Honour our father & mother has different applications depending on our relative ages?
  • Employee & Employer. What difference would it make in the work place if employees & employers remembered that we will all ultimately give an account to one who sees all & is impartial?

APPLICATION: ideas that work

Look at your own relationships. Take time to reflect in quietness about what you’re grateful for. Consider ways in which God might encourage you to be a positive influence. Does something need to change in you? Respond to God in praying for one another in 2-3s.

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Life Group Notes – The Resurrection as the UltimateTwist

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English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Ultimate Twist – John 20:11-18

REFLECTION: remembering the main points
Jesus sees her: 11-14
 Jesus speaks to her: 14-17
 Jesus sends her: 17-18
 Accept | Believe | Commit

DISCUSSION:
What is the most significant twist in your life? How did you react?
 Finish this sentence: ‘If Jesus is not risen from the dead, then…’
 What would have been you reaction, as a disciple, then?
 How do you handle a crisis?
Have you felt like an invisible outsider?
 What are the questions you and your non-Christian friends would love an answer to?
 Take time to pray in 3-4s through issues raised above.
 Is there a link between the resurrection and worship? How does it affect your worship?
 How does the resurrection fuel mission?

APPLICATION:
Take time to evaluate your mentality, actions, passions and priorities by finishing this sentence ‘because He
lives, I…’ Fill in as many bullet points you can for t

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Maundy Thursday

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From one of the pastors at my church:

Maundy Thursday
Latin – ‘mandatum’; command or mandate. Jesus said:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).