The Quiet Worshipper

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Though a garrulous person in every day life when it comes to church services I am a quiet person. I do love to sing but I don’t feel any need to proclaim my devotions in any other way. I keep everything pretty low key. Quiet. To do anything else at this stage would feel so false.

In a similar way, I mentioned to Ex once that I was going to a baptism  “You’re getting baptised?” he asked, incredulous.
“No, of course not. I’m going to see a friend be baptised,” I added.

As I discussed with male friend, B, some months ago, you don’t just go and get baptised like it’s some fashion statement. B said it was akin to getting married; you do it if or when you feel it is right – if ever.

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Moving Towards Life for Lent

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ingleborough

A Christian who lives on my street, asked me what I was giving up for Lent.

As I have a restricted life – no chocolate, no alcohol, no drugs, no gooey cakes, no eggs (allergic!) and am celibate – I thought that during Lent that I would instead go towards life rather than away from it. Giving up more things is going to worsen my already on and off joylessness.

And after all, the end of Lent is Easter, a time of renewal and resurrection. New life.

Therefore I shall be trying one new thing a day. At least one thing. It may only be a small thing – talking to a new person, buying a new food, reading a new book – but as long as it’s new and life affirming that qualifies. I guess that the sacrifice of shunning a pleasure is a small way of showing gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice.

PIC: New view towards North Yorkshire. 

‘Celebrate Recovery’ is Not Just for Addicts

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Speaking of things that don't quite deliver on their promises...

I went to my first ever session of Celebrate Recovery this week. It’s a Christ-centred 12 step programme for anyone with ‘hurts, hang-ups or habits’ that are holding them back in life.

I’d been thinking about going for a while and a guy from my divorce group suggested that I give it a go. A lot of people think it’s just for addicts and alcoholics but that’s not the case. Anyone who’s battling with various issues (and who isn’t?) is welcome. Some examples would be: perfectionism, debt, guilt, divorce, anger, abuse, insecurity, gambling, anxiety, emotional abuse and other abuses, overspending, coming form a dysfunctional family, grief – plus lots of other things.

I realised that I do suffer from some low self-esteem issues emanating from childhood, my long-term illness and the divorce. Also, I think I have a tendency to co-dependency. Not like I used to but it could still be an issue. I know I am not experiencing as much joy in my life as I used to and these things are barriers to joy or freedom.

Not sure how much I can commit to the course (it runs for a year and some people go for many years) but I’ve at least made a start.

 

Baptism of Fire

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King Guthorm is baptised.

King Guthorm is baptised. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a query about baptism – adult baptism – and approached one of the pastors. I wrote:

“Okay,” I said, “these baptism services – is one baptised as a Christian or as a member of [our church denomination]?

I don’t have any problem with our church denomination and read the handbook quite regularly – but I’m not sure about standing up in front of the people at our church and declaring myself – at this moment anyway. Also I see getting baptised as serious as getting married. I want to be sure I am in this for the long haul before doing it. (and to do it for me and God not to please the pastor or impress my church friends, y’know.) I’ve been through such a lot of changes these last few years I want to know I am on solid ground before I do much these days!

There are things I encounter at our church that make me want to throw up my hands in a sort of laughing frustration. I could tell you some of these things (maybe I will some time) but for now, the question is ‘Who am I obeying?’ when I am baptised with our church – God or people?”

Read the next post for the answer I received.

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.

But You Don’t Need to Be a Christian…

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… to interest me. Don’t gasp! Some of my Christian friends are holding out for a Christian man. Some have held out for decades and the man never came along. But another friend, who like me has come to the church in later years, is more realistic. Of course, it would be great to have a Christian mate: you are starting off with certain values that are on the same page, well, one hopes that is the case… But some Christians can be pretty horrendous while some non-Christians can be, well, Christ-like in their behaviour, as Rob Bell points out in one of his books. [Sex God]. It all comes down to a few basic traits for me: emotional maturity, consistency and being willing to grow… 

 

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!”

All Night Long

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A collection of lit candles on ornate candlesticks

A collection of lit candles on ornate candlesticks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new experience came last night when I attended part of an All Night Prayer Meeting: 10pm start through to 8.30am with communion at 7.30am.

You could go for the whole night or just for a while, praying for community, healing, breakthrough etc. I made it for a couple of hours (due to my health issues). It was nice. The little church was lit by candles and there was music and singing and prayers, then chatting and snacking. A little tent had been erected too, in the church, with pillows and books, for peaceful retreat!

Most of the prayer warriors there are experienced Christians so I felt like a novice but that’s okay. I did not do much ‘out loud’ praying but I did write out a prayer and pin it to the cross and added names to various prayer sheets.

I’ve also started helping out with a pastoral team project. I can’t afford to tithe so thought that offering to ‘serve’ was a good measure.

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Firing Up My Faith

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English: Delirious? in concert at the HMV Pict...

English: Delirious? in concert at the HMV Picture House in Edinburgh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another great night at church. I never thought I’d be as fired up about going to church as I used to be about going to gigs!

Plenty to think on. As we were singing I was aware, partly through doing this blog and those who follow it, of all the Christian people across the country (and the world) coming together to pray and sing and worship at 6.30pm (UK time) – when most UK services seem to take place. A powerful, uplifting feeling.

The pastor spoke about repentance this evening – a subject I have just blogged on.

I received my copy of World Service by Delirious? yesterday. My Christian mentor had lent me the original copy and I had had to return it – along with the Touched By an Angel DVD set and various other resources. I absolutely flippin’ love this album. I love its sheer musicality combined with the uplifting, expansive music and lyrics totally do it for me.

Pastor 3 has commented on his blog about “Jesus as boyfriend” devotional songs. I guess that idea ties in with luscious pictures/paintings of Jesus that render him as some sort rock star or romantic love object. And I suppose my number one song of the moment – ‘Inside Outside‘ – is a little on those lines in that it can read as a love song for a person or ‘Love Song for a Saviour’, as Jars of Clay would have it. But I simply adore it. In fact, I am listening to it now, like the repetitious lunatic I am…

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Hilarity – Songs for the Doubting Prayerwalker

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I just came across these jokey, pseudo-song titles on one of my my pastor’s blogs. I think they are hilarious but as an Exploring Christian I did wince somewhat – some of these titles kind of ring true for me sometimes!

Above Average is Thy Faithfulness
Be Thou My Hobby
I’m Fairly Certain That My Redeemer Lives
Joyful, Joyful, We Kinda Like Thee
My Hope is Built on Nothing Much
What an Acquaintance We Have in Jesus
When Peace, Like a Trickle. . .
When the Saints Go Sneaking In
Where He Leads Me, I Will Consider Following

Songs We Sing

Songs We Sing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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John Cooper Clark on Dali’s Crucifixion Painting

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Christ of Saint John of the Cross

Christ of Saint John of the Cross (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Cooper Clark, punk poet, was the guest on Great Lives today (BBC Radio Four).  Catholicism was discussed (both Dali and Clark were brought up thus). Also much focus on Christ of Saint John of the Cross, Dali’s crucifixion painting. As host Matthew Parris pointed out, nowhere else has there been a depiction of the crucifixion from such an unusual angle.

Says the BBC: “Dali’s surrealist peers were critical of his interest in religion. He took his inspiration for the painting from a drawing of the Crucifixion made by St John of the Cross, a 16th Century Spanish saint who had a vision in which he saw himself looking down on Christ on the cross from above.

Dali had a similar dream in which he saw Christ on the cross above the landscape of his home, in Port Lligat in Catalonia, northern Spain. After a second dream, he was inspired to paint his Christ without nails through his hands or a crown of thorns on his head. He wanted him to be beautiful.”

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Les Bon Mots from Tonight’s Service

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Franciscan Allegories: Allegory of Obedience

Franciscan Allegories: Allegory of Obedience (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The subject was discipleship, and linked to that, obedience.

Quotes:  “Maturity is what you do with what you know.”

Us: “God, why did you not guide me?” God: “Well, I did, you just did not do what I asked you to do.”

Motivators for obedience include the ‘not good’ ones: 

  1. Pastor said so. “I must obey” (robot voice.)
  2. Guilt. I really should try to be a good person. I can’t stand X but if I am a good Christian I should be nice to them. Cue gritted teeth.
  3. Self-satisfaction. I’m such a great person ‘cos I go to prayer meetings. The pastor saw me at that church do so I’ll earn some points.
  4. Fear. If I don’t obey I’ll be punished/bad stuff will happen to me/ I’m too scared to not obey.
  5. The last reason is the reason to obey: ‘Cos Jesus himself obeyed when he really did not want to. The command from God was to die on the cross. He faltered. But he focused and submitted to his father’s will and thus fulfilled the ‘mission’.
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Choices Notes for Life Group

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TITLE & PASSAGE: 
Joseph: “A Fruitful Life” – Choices – Genesis 50

REFLECTION: remembering the main points

  • Joseph chose Commitment over Comfort: 1-14 > How committed are you?
  • Joseph chose Surrender over Self: 15-19 > Who is on the throne in your life?
  • Joseph chose Faith over Fear: 20-26 > How much do you trust Him?


DISCUSSION: helpful questions

  • Do you enjoy taking decisions or not?
  • What are some of the important decisions we take in life?
  • If you were to highlight what you learned from this sermon series, what would it be?
  • Could Joseph have chosen a different way? How would it have looked?
  • In what areas of our lives is our commitment challenged by comfort?
  • How do we cultivate a life of faith?
  • What are the signs that my life is surrendered | not surrendered?
  • What does ‘Jesus is the better Joseph’ mean?


APPLICATION: ideas that work

Which of the 3 areas do you struggle most: faith, surrender, commitment? Take time to share in 2-3′s as you pray for one another to make smart choices.

More Questions…

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Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit (Photo credit: Glass.Mouse)

Last night’s talk at church on the Holy Spirit… We must let the Holy Spirit do its work in our lives and try not to control our lives or others. But does this mean we have to be passive? I don’t think it means this at all but it is surely a fine line we must walk between being proactive and responsible citizens and letting go and trusting in a higher power to work things out for us.

I’m facing frustration is so many areas of my life I hardly know where to start. I’m trying to let the HS do the work but I’ve also got to put some effort in too!

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MOT Due for Our Life Groups

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Holy Spirit painting

Holy Spirit painting (Photo credit: hickory hardscrabble)

This week we will be mostly focusing on the following:

Do I go to Life Group out of duty or desire?
Has our affection for Christ grown deeper?
Has my knowledge of God’s character been enriched through Scriptures?
Is my faith in God’s power for breakthroughs, stronger?
Has our love for one another increased?
Is that love practical enough?
Has our prayer increased?
Am I better equipped for suffering?
Are the gifts of the Holy Spirit being encouraged?
are we stirred for personal, missional lifestyle?
What is really good about our small group. Give God thanks!

How can we improve? Ask the Holy Spirit to refresh it!

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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).

Max Lucado on The Leper

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English: Christ cleansing a leper by Jean-Mari...

Christ cleansing a leper by Jean-Marie Melchior Doze, 1864.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More reading matter was dropped off for me today: The Knowledge of the Holy by A W Tozer and Just Like Jesus by Max Lucado. I have started reading the latter. The simple title detracts from a very well thought out book, I feel. I think it is terrific. It was first published in 1987 and some of the language does sound a little dated but there is no denying the man can write. Such a clear read yet moving and galvanising at the same time.

Lucado writes a scenario where he imagines the heartfelt thoughts of the leper that Jesus healed. In other words, he writes the story we don’t get to read in the Bible. Honestly, I was choked! He writes with such insight into what it must have been like to be a leper in New Testament times – yet he doesn’t become mawkish. It is hard for us to envisage just how much of an outcast the leper was. I mean, man, he was feared and reviled much as the AIDS sufferer was in the 1980s, before the advent of drugs to treat HIV. (Not saying that drugs are a cure-all and that the problem is not still extremely significant.)

By coincidence I was listening to Last Word on BBC Radio 4 today.Featured was the recently deceased HIV/AIDS counsellor and co-founder of the London Lighthouse, John Shine. A Google search led me to his website (where there is also an announcement of his death, Very moving.)

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A Quote from RT Kendall

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“If God puts his finger on you, it is enough to change you, your family, your church—even a nation and the world.  The highest compliment a man can ever have is to be tapped on the shoulder by God.  When that happens wonderful things are at hand.  Yet, when that happens it means that a time of preparation is also at hand.” RT Kendall.