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The end of the line : christian beliefs that my child doesn’t needApril 5, 2018

Every generation has it’s foibles, it fanatic fights, it’s earnest beliefs that we can choose to let live, feed and grow, or allow to fade on our watch. I look at the innocence that runs about this house and realise I am his starting blueprint. I am the influence that will start his conversation, form his prejudices and set his values.

This Easter I struggled but as I explained the story of what happened to my 3 year old he drank it all in, he wanted more, and it’s a journey I’m really excited about taking with him. He redeemed my Easter celebrations with his curiosity, trust and faith. As we journeyed I found myself opening supporting materials and closing them rapidly. I’ve realised there are things I was taught as key parts of my early christian identity that I’m not going to pass on. These are my top 5:

1. Overly sin-centric approaches

So many explanations of Christianity start with sin. I’ve been through phases of being very aware of being sin-soaked and never quite knowing if this was positive or negative. I do believe a lot has to do with the churches obsession with what’s called penal substitution. My every sin piled on the already wounded shoulders of my saviour, adding to Jesus’ agony and need to separate the father from himself. Forgiveness came with a heavy guilt price tag. But I’ve come to reject that theology, separation of God is impossible. Your ledger isn’t heavy or light, you have none, there are no accounts or records, only acceptance and forgiveness. Sin has been dealt with, end of story. Jesus has died and our sinful selves with him, the new life is there for the taking. You can either take the grace on offer or ignore it, but you can’t do anything to change it. I want to introduce my child to God’s great world and how he saved mankind again and again and again until Jesus came along and dealt with the underlying problem forever.

2. Purity culture

Purity culture has one huge flaw, it make sexual sin greater than any other. I was a late bloomer, by the time I finally got the hormonal kick up the backside I’d already been to countless things that discussed how to ‘keep pure’ and ‘how far was too far’. Honestly speaking, “True love” waits is kinda insulting to relationship that don’t. The sex thing was a thorn in my side. It made my faith a faith of barriers not liberation and frankly that’s really quite sad. This great litmus test pushed many youngsters away. Sex shouldn’t be a weapon, a tool, a hormonal frenzy or a legal contract. It should be a beautiful equal next step in the love shared between two of God’s beloved children. I’d still advocate a wedding as part of that journey.

3. God hates.

Did you read the title and nod? Perhaps not visibly. I saw a post about a kids lesson entitled the six things God hates and recoiled from the screen. Many of the things that upset God in scripture are quite reasonable, the proverbs 6 list this lesson uses, the unforgivable sin of Mark 3, or the wicked heart of Hebrews 3. If you look hard enough you can make God sound black and whites, angry and unapproachable. For the absolute mind of a younger child the nuances of God being apposing things isn’t helpful. The lion of Judah is indeed fierce and demands respect but even when he appears in a burning bush he still tenderly draws us close to his love. Talk about what makes God sad, what disappoints him, but the divine parent doesn’t hate his children.

4. Declaring something wrong

As a child I read my Good News Bible and it stated – “Don’t you know that God’s people will judge the world?” It’s easy to replace that ‘will‘ with ‘can‘ or ‘should‘ or even ‘need to‘! The same passage in 1 Corinthians 6 condemns homosexuality. Who was I to question the scripture? I was taught that other religions were simply wrong, misguided at best. Sadly they topped a long list. Somehow this feels very far from the God man who doodled in the dirt and challenged someone to throw the first stone. I want to raise a child who recognises God is not limited to our perspective. Just because we don’t see, or we think that it’s not compatible, it doesn’t mean God isn’t in the midst of it. Ahem, astrology and the Magi?

5. Friendships with an agenda

The instructions echo in my memory – We should be sharing the gospel with our school friends. We should be getting them to join the ‘God club’. Go befriend her and introduce her to the best friend ever – Jesus! I squirmed so much at the talk of evangelism targeted at kids, I still do. Friends should be important allies as kids, not pet projects. Faith sharing for kids should be something they feel free to talk about but not pressured to do. Kids can serve God in so many ways, they can share the gospel in so many actions, they can build his church, I know this as absolute fact. There is a reason people close their door to cold call evangelists, youngsters don’t always have that option and peer pressure is powerful. Frankly, most parents would also prefer their religious choices not hijacked either.

So there are my 5 things I’m sure I missed some biggies – What would you add?

DescendingFebruary 7, 2018

Humility teaches us that we don’t have to obey our emotions because the only version of reality that matters is God’s.

(H Anderson. Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul)

I’ve been on an unwitting journey. As January unravelled into the new year I’ve felt myself unravelling too. Much of the latter part of 2017 felt like hurdles spread over a marathon. I kept up a long slow jog from one event to the next, never quite relaxing into the steady rhythm as I prepared always to lift both feet before the next journeys leg.

In the last 2 weeks I’ve seen hubby find his grove again, he’s working amazingly well, in contrast I’m the picture of lethargy. The energy and strive to find routines that excited only a month ago seems to have drained away living little residue. I can pinpoint only vague causes, quantify the hours doing things that don’t energise me, see the general shift as I struggle to rise from the covers later and later into the morning. I can see the eczema grow it’s way across my pinkie finger, and frustratingly around my eye. And yet as the grey shroud descends I’m not in the least bit worried.

Partly it’s because I’ve spent this slow drift downwards dwelling in books like the one quoted above. Partly because what was holding my head above the water for that long marathon was the expectations and perceived essential tasks that left me sleepless at night and feeling guilty about failing. by letting them fall with everything else I’ve been released from a burden.

This is a time of deconstructing, it’s a time of redefining and refining the accumulated stuff that I’ve horded after all the years here. This is a crucial stage of really hearing ‘the call’ and to do it you have to stop walking ahead and honestly look at where you are and where your heart truly lays.

What are your gifts?
What are your passions?
What call is encoded into your very DNA?

Twee though it sounds, I always wanted to be like my Mum – someone who gave her whole heart to serve, who followed where-ever called, and poured love out on her family. A woman who created a refuge inside our front door, to give beyond what was comfortable, to accumulate wealth in ways no bank account would accept.

Equally I always wanted to create, to craft and share, to make for joy and beauty but for a purpose too. I wanted to stand back and say ‘that is good‘ and if at all possible ‘that is something I give back to the God who gave me all‘.

Those are my passions and those are the building bricks that I’m praying God will choose to use as we, my Lord and I, rebuild out of the rubble in the present dust cloud. During which I hope I, as ‘Humble Roots’ put’s it, “ learn a kind of humility that makes us fearless and productive.

Photo by Rucksack Magazine on Unsplash

The CallJanuary 3, 2018

I lay aside my years word of ‘invest’ with a heavy heart. I’ve not done with it yet, I’m not ready to move on, I’ve not mined it’s depth enough. Yet the year keeps moving and the date changes yet again and somehow I find looking back it’s message seeped into my marrow in a way I’d never expected. ‘Invest’ has lead me to dream of possibilities bigger, risk planting myself firmer, try laying some shaky foundation stones.

Often when we move on we are reluctant to let go because our hands feel empty. In our rush we fill fingers with things that so easily slipped out of grasp. My desk testifies to many a plan embarked upon hardheartedly whose remains litter hopes that one day they will be rescued. As a new year was about to dawn I had yet to choose a word that meant something deeper. Life felt routed but unproductive, I was struggling with the realisation that my language classes where slipping away, my site rarely updated, our nap-times gone I didn’t know how I’d get back into the work I felt drawn to complete. Evening drew and new years plans began around up when I received a donation to my site with an attached note:

Out of no coincidence, I found your site this morning. Praying this allows you to follow God’s call.

It came like a sledgehammer, had I risked losing the plot. I’d been so busy investing my time and energy and hopes in what life had thrown at me had let The Call that first drew me here fade. Yes, yes yes, it was still there, I was still ticking the boxes and striving to serve but not always as the primary drive. I’d disconnected from the whisper that had meandered through the stones of the old fortress as I felt my heart yearn for the city I surveyed, or the roar in the trains and planes and busy motorways that had deposited me onto the soil. My memory was dim to the music of an open heart as gathering after gathering had gently confirmed the heaven sent seed that I’d begun to nurture. Was it time and familiarity or had I placed so much weight upon continuing the journey I’d stopped listening for new directions.

This year I hope that God can rekindle the fire that I once felt so strong. This year I’m going to have my ‘phrase of the year’ be ‘the call‘. It’s not about going or doing or even speaking but a call to actively listen and dare to respond to what you hear. The call is simply something you hear, something you can’t control or direct or even anticipate. I didn’t think I wanted to change my focus from the inward investing but I’ll admit I’m getting rather excited. I’m no longer being called as someone who is in any way temporary, we are praying we have enough resources for a permanent visa, I’m a part of the fabric here now even if my pattern is somewhat unusual I’m bound by time and love and family.

They said, “We will call the girl, and ask her.” And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.”

Genesis 24:57-58