Friday, December 19, 2008

Perfection - Part 2

Does God Expect Perfection?

Its interesting actually that the comments to the previous post follow the same train of thought I have been on. I want to start this post with the passage of scripture that first inspired it:

"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48

For my Christian Theology A level I had a piece of coursework based on this passage which asked whether Jesus' ethic of perfection fails the test of practical application. I need to try to dig this essay back out again to find out what I thought back then. Now, having a bit more of an understanding of myself and who I am, I have been really trying to work out how there can be any common ground between passages such as this, and the advice that people often give me reminding me that aiming for perfection will always lead to disappointment.

I remember that one of my conclusions was that perfection will never be reached while we remain on earth, but that should not stop us from keeping that aim as a backdrop to all we do in life. However, I now know that the desire for perfection can seriously be damaging to your self esteem and so it seems that passages such as the above should be considered carefully before staking your life on it.

Both of the comments made I have considered too. Could this mean 'be the best you can be' rather than 'be perfect'. The problem I have with that is that it is not what the scripture says, and also, who is to say what 'the best I can be' is? How can I or anyone else say whether I have reached that goal or not? I do agree that we need to define what Jesus might mean by perfection. I tend to think that perfection means being the best at everything, and always doing the right thing. But if to fulfil the above scripture I have to be good at art, or dancing, or directions, then I might as well give up now!

I like the idea of comparing today's (or at least my own) idea of perfection with holiness. Surely that is what Jesus is talking about; living totally surrendered to God's will and being pure and righteous, not being good at art! I read up on it a little bit and found the following quote:

"God’s perfection means that God completely possesses all excellent qualities and lacks no part of any qualities that would be desirable for him." Wayne Grudem

This brings us right back to Dawns comment about us being as perfect as we are meant to be. I guess that my concern about how to define what perfection means for me can be answered simply by 'look at Jesus'. Surely the answer to the whole question of what perfection means is 'look at Jesus'.

So, does this fail the test of practical application? Actually yes, it does. But more about that in the next post! I know! You can't wait right?!?!?!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Perfection - Part 1

Before writing this post I want to acknowledge two things:
  1. Its been ages since I updated my blog. I have neither posted any new thoughts, nor updated my 'friends wot blog' list. Glyn was most upset about this after his astounding success of blogging every day not too long ago, and so because of that, Glyn is now at the top of my list. I will endeavour to update this properly in January.
  2. The lack of recent posting means that this topic (perfection) could turn out to be be very long. My posts are always long anyway, let alone when I haven't blogged for a while; so to try to not bore everyone to death, I have decided to split this up into (at least) three blog entries. This one will talk about 'me and perfection' (not that I think the two belong together), the next will talk about whether God expects perfection, and the last will talk about the perfection to come.

Me and Perfection

I overheard a conversation the other day where someone said, 'its not about perfection is it!'. This comment was made in relation to a carol service for the community put on by our church. I, somewhat facetiously, said, 'oh yes it is, perfection is everything'. Actually, in all honesty, I probably didn't say that, I can't remember exactly what I said, but it was certainly a comment suggesting that we should always aim for perfection.

I DID mean that tongue-in-cheek. I don't really think that a church carol service has to be perfect - I was genuinely joking. However, it did raise the point that I do have a bit of a perfectionist streak in me. I think I have mentioned on here before that I hate being called, or especially calling myself, a 'perfectionist'. If I was asked to imagine what a 'perfectionist' was like, I would immediately think of someone who was nearly perfect, and hated that they weren't quite there. That is the image conjured up in my mind when people call me that, and yet I am so far from that. I don't in any way think of myself as anywhere near perfect. I am not a perectionist because everything I do is always perfect, but because I HATE that it isn't. I know it may seem trivial to make this distinction, but it is really important for my understanding of who I am.

WHy do I say all this? The next couple of posts will say more about this, but the point is largely this: I think being a 'perfectionist' can cause all sorts of problems, and I am often being reminded that no-body expects me to be perfect, but I really struggle with the idea of not striving for that. I do want to be perfect, and I am not sure that I agree that I should start to tell myself its ok to be less than that. Not that I think I am, or ever will be, anywhere near reaching that goal, but surely its not wrong to strive for it anyway; to strive to be the best we can rather than excusing ourselves for being less than that and therefore never reaching our potential?

Like I said, I will expand on this thought in a more spiritual context in the next post. I guess this might come across as defensive, but I don't mean it in that way; these are genuine ponderings of mine, and I am not trying to make statements, of right or wrong, merely trying to work out my own issues in this area.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Old Post 2 - Chance or Not?

Ok, second in my series of old-post re-visits. You can see the original here or you can read the context below:

The original post was basically asking the question, "how much of what 'happens' in the world is attributable to God - does chance exist? If not then how can we make sense of some of the things that happen in the world?"

The comments I received were extremely helpful. They pointed me to Job to see that God was sovereign in that situation. He had ultimate control. He didn't do those horrible things to Job, that was Satan, but God was in control of it.

I also made the following comment in my blog,

"I am toying with the thought that maybe, just maybe, this is supposed to be a bit ambiguous. Maybe we are supposed to not really know exactly how much control God chooses to exert over the world in which we live. Would us knowing actually make any difference to the way we live? Surely, even if God does leave some things to chance, we can still pray about it, and trust that God knows which situations to take control of and which not to? It would help to know, (and maybe some people think that they do know the answer to this - maybe I am just a bit thick!), but I guess that its part of our responsibility to just trust despite the fact that things seems confusing. Its a case of choosing to trust despite the ambiguity"

My current thoughts about all this are that chance does not exist, in the sense that God ultimately does have control over everything. However, the reasons why He allows some things to happen, the reasons why he chooses to heal one person and not another, the reasons why He can let someone die without them being saved and so on and so on......... are still a bit ambiguous. Most people will know that I HATE Christian cliches. You all probably know as well as I do that the answer to why God chooses the things he does allow or not allow are 'always for our own good' or 'will strengthen us' or are 'because we have free will'. The reason why one person gets an answer to their prayer while the other one is waiting and waiting and waiting, is often answered with - 'God answers all prayers sometimes He says no or wait'. That makes me cross though, because it leaves out the way if makes people feel. It's putting a reasoned out conclusion to a person who is often severely hurting, and just wants to be able to cry and be cross about it. I think my final conclusion to this is that I would agree with my own statement - "Its a case of choosing to trust despite the ambiguity". Not necessarily trying to answer the 'why' question because that will almost always leave you unsatisfied, but instead choosing to cry, scream, shout, and then finally, to simply trust. Hard, but probably true! Interestingly, I believe this is what you people have been telling me all along! Ha ha!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What were you doing when...

Thanks Dawn for tagging me on this one!

Five events and the opportunity to record the impact they had on you:

Princess Diana's death - 31 August 1997
I had stayed at my friend Dom's house the previous night. Dom was getting ready for Church, I was in the lounge watching the T.V. I didn't really understand what was happening but I heard she had died. I mentioned the news to Dom and her Dad when they came back into the lounge and I remember Dom's Dad saying to me, 'Princess Diana, dead? don't be silly.' I doubted myself! But it was true! I think it was unbelievable because I didn't really understand the significance of it. (I never took an interest in the news so I didn't know how popular she really was!) so I just mentioned it in a blase tone - like 'Oh yeah and by the way, Princess Di is dead', so its no wonder it needed confimation!

Margaret Thatcher's resignation - 22 November 1990 It passed me by too!

Attack on the twin towers - 11 September 2001
Well, firstly it was my 19th Birthday! I was working for the summer at the Salvation Army's Territorial Headquarters - opening post! Previously in the day I had been annoyed that I had to turn 19. Somehow, that paled into insignificance...

England's World Cup semi final v Germany - 4 July 1990
I have no memory of this happening. However, it was my brother's (Lee's) 10th birthday (wow, my family have famous birthday's!) so I am sure we were partying for other reasons. Surely Dad must have been watching...?

President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963
What? When?

Umm, I tag Sarah, Becky Hills and Claire (maybe it means Claire will FINALLY blog again!!!)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Holiday

So, I have had my holiday I thought I would give a brief outline of my few days away, so here goes:

Friday 15th
I went to my friend Rachel's pretty much straight from work. We stayed up late chatting (we had a lot to catch up on)

Saturday 16th

I think the picture sums it up!!! Yes, Rachel and I went shopping, and this was one of my purchases! Expect to see it over the next few months!!! Then I went home in the evening.

Sunday 17th
Church. After church, I packed and made my way to Bournemouth to visit my friend Mel. I had a long drive, then we spent the evening catching up.
Monday 18th

Mel was introduced to my gorgeous nephew, as we said a quick hello in passing to my brother and sister in law when they were about to travel back to Essex after visitng my grandparents in Bournemouth.




We then went ice skating, and I am proud to say I fell over twice. I have the bruises on my knees to prove it. Ice skating is actually good exercise. My legs took ages to recover! We then wondered around Bornemouth town centre for a while before going to the pub on the river; where I am also sporting my new jacket! After this we had a girly-DVD night. We watched PS I love you, 27 dresses and Step-up 2. Very relaxing!

Tuesday 19th

We went to my grandparents in the morning and watched some of the Olympics. Then we went to Poole and wondered around the shopping centre for a while. We went to the cinema to see Wall-e. We then went to visit another friend Dr Phil who now lives in Poole and spent the evening chatting and watching Evan Almighty. (I watched a LOT of films!!!)
Wednesday 20th


We went to Brownsea Island on a ferry: We went on a suggested walk, but there wre a number of different 'walks' we could choose from. We accidently kept swapping tracks and so we seemed to do a combination of different routes! We think that we must have walked about 3 miles. That was enough for us! It was a holiday after all. It all adds to the exercise though!!! We didn't spot any red squirrels which Brownsea Island is apparently famous for, but we did enounter a number of wasps!

After Brownsea Island we went for a walk around Sandbanks (The 'Hollywood' of Bournemouth!) and came across the house of my dreams. I LOVE IT! This is going to be my next house - when I marry a millionaire that is! It is amazing: This picture does NOT do it justice!




Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I will try to fix you

This is a new topic – not based on a previously discussed issue. I will come back to those, I just couldn’t help myself but blog about this: Beware – its personal!

I have always loved this song (see title) by Coldplay. However, I realised today that maybe we have got ourselves into the habit of needing to fix things, and people. I have mentioned a few of my personal but not particularly serious struggles to some of my colleagues recently and all the time, I get suggestions for how I might be able to help myself to fix them. I notice that I always seem able to find reasons why that ‘cure’ wont work. This then makes me come across as really negative and ungrateful (maybe I am), but most of the time it’s simply because I don’t place much priority on the need for the issue to be fixed. I will give an example: I don’t often take much holiday from work, mainly because I don’t like not having anything to do, I don’t like doing things on my own, and I don’t want to spend money on a proper holiday. Today someone made the suggestion that I try to use more of my leave, and I gave my reasons for not doing so. When people find out that those are my reasons, they always try to find ways to help. Well maybe if you…how about if…you could just… The truth is, they are all very good suggestions, and I would do well to listen to their advice. However, I just don’t really care enough about the issue to bother going to the hassle of ‘fixing’ it. Does it really matter that much if I don’t want a proper holiday? Does it really matter that much that I don’t like doing things on my own. Who says that I should try to change that?

Don’t get me wrong; I love that people are interested enough and caring enough to try to find solutions on my behalf. I love that they want to be involved in my life and want to play a part in shaping my journey. I am incredibly lucky to have some wonderful people in my life who care enough to find out about ‘me’. Because of all of this, I desperately don’t want to shove it back in their faces. I want to show I am grateful, and that I value their advice, but to be honest, I am quite happy with not taking that much leave from work. I know it’s not the norm, and people will say you need to have a break etc, but actually, I don’t feel that this is a problem that particularly needs fixing. I always respond to people suggestions negatively because I prefer things the way they are, but then I end up feeling guilty for not being excited or encouraged by their suggestions and not putting all my energy in to putting the suggestion into practice. Sometimes I think I get tired of trying to become the person other people think I should, or rather can, be.

Does anyone else ever get this?

I know I sound like a brat, and its probably a bit lazy too – but I can’t be bothered to do anything about some of the things that other people think I should fix in my life. There are things I recognise that I need to change. There are some very close friends who are currently doing their best to help me with those, and I am probably just as ungrateful to them too. I know I am in the wrong for that – these things really genuinely do need to change, and I know I need to try harder. But with other things, I just don’t care enough! I guess it’s considered ‘better’ to take a proper break and to be more independent, I just don’t want to make the effort to do that! Do you think I am becoming lazy about discipline?

Why do we always feel like we have to come up with a solution to other peoples so called ‘problems’. What if they don’t want them fixed? I think I can learn a lot of lessons from this in my dealings with other people too. It takes a lot of grace to sit and listen to someone complain about something when you know that they are choosing to stay in that position rather than make the effort to fix it – even for the simplest of things. I guess a lot of judgement is needing in deciding whether its something they should really be encouraged to change or whether its just ok for them to stay like that.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!

There is a real blog underneath this one. Please read it! It is more important! But I got so cross by this link! For some it might make you laugh - for others like me it will simply infuriate you! You need to have the sound on your computer.

click here to be made cross!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Post 101 - back to the beginning!

It's interesting that the first post I ever wrote on this blog is the one I remember the most. It contains a discussion about one of the issues that has defined my journey over the last two years. I wrote it on July 28 2006 - Now, more than two years on, I still do not have the answers to all these questions, although the questions have altered, and they still form the basis of many other concerns and struggles in my faith journey. The questions of individuality vs community. (Wow, that could be a good title for a series couldn't it???!)

I have often been told my blogs are too long! I have tried, (and failed) to cut them down in length but still keep the granularity of discussion. My failure has convinced me to try a new format. For those who don't have the time or inclination to read further, I have summarised the final question and added some snippets of the original post to help you see where I am coming from. The ultimate questions are: "If the things that make me delight in God are different and opposite to the things that make someone else delight in Him, how can I still claim that faith is not something we can craft individually? I guess it suggests that the 'truth' in itself, will always be delightful. If some people find it's not, is that because we don't understand it properly or because there isn't really just one truth?" and "I know what I think about this, I would stubbornly argue for the existence of absolute truth, and that faith is not about what I want it to be...it is about what it is...and that is determined by God, not my own desires or wishes as if I was in control of my own faith and my own eternity. I guess I just struggle that people I love, and trust and respect don't believe the same things that I do...how does that figure, and how dare I suggest that I know better than them...?"

For those that have the time to read the original (long) post, you can find it here, and you may also want to skip to the 'New Thoughts' section on this post which desribes how I arrived at my final question. (How very structured!!!!) Otherwise, the following snippets should remind you...

Blog Snippets

"Is God involved with our lives on an individual basis? - is he interested in the decisions, choices, and questions that we face as individuals or is he interested more on a sort of community level?"
"It wasn't just about blessing Abraham. These promises served a greater purpose - that of the establishment of the nation Israel - The Children of God...My point is simply that God's dealings with Abraham were not simply for the sake of Abraham."
"Deep down I know that God is a God that gets involved in the lives of us as individuals...and yet...I don't really get why He seems to answer some prayers and not others, whether I am allowed to ask Him for the things I want, or whether I should instead be striving to not care about them any more. I know that I can have an impact on His Kingdom and He does have a plan for my life. I know that - but I know it in my heart, not my head."

Comment Snippets

"In some ways God shows himself to the world and has a relationship with the community of his people the church universal, but in other ways, it is through his people as individuals who have a responsibility to endeavour to grow more like we were intended to be (fruit of the Spirit), so that we can truly demonstrate God and his love and reconciliation to the world at large."
"I also believe that God is, and wants to be, involved in all parts of our INDIVIDUAL lives because each of us contribute to the kingdom of God in our own ways"
"We only praise something that we delight in, that we enjoy, and for us, that delight comes from that personal relationship that we have with God."

New Thoughts

A lot of my thoughts will link to some other posts I am going to re-consider, so for now I will stick to the individual vs community question.

I wonder sometimes whether we have become a bit too easily caught up in ourselves, and have turned our faith into something that we can each craft to our own design. I have been having a few brief conversations recently with people about the existence of absolute truth which I wont get into, but it has stunned me how many Christians would claim that their faith is a very individual thing that may not be 'truth' for other people. I have wondered whether the country's recent obsession with individualism (ipod, i-phone, i-google... need I go on?) has pushed us to thinking that we can design our own lives, our own faith, our own future and our own eternity. I mentioned about Abraham, and the fact that God's promises to him were not given solely for the benefit of Abraham. His descendents became the holy nation, the Children of God, God's chosen people. His relationship with God was not about him and him alone...it wasn't disconected from other people. It happened to him but did not only affect him.

I don't belive that I can design my own reality. I don't believe that I can make my own faith and someone else can think something opposite, and that we can both be right. I don't believe that the things I believe or the things I say or do, exist only within my own reality.

Why am I talking about all this stuff? Because I think it impacts my view of how God works. If my reality is interconnected with other people's, then how God deals with me is not simply about or for me. When I pray, I need to remind myself that there is more to this than just me, more to it than how my life pans out, what my needs and desires are. God is interested in the world, not just in me. However, the comment, relating to the fact that we will praise the things that we delight in, rings so true. I want to distance myself from individualism. I want to stop thinking of 'me' and start thinking of 'us', whilst still remembering that God enjoys hearing my praise, He enjoys my joy and delight in Him, and I shouldn't just make this world about a task to be accomplished. I am also here to find joy in God - corporately and individually. A difficult balance? Yes I think so, because all I said about individualism I still believe. If the things that make me delight in God are different and opposite to the things that make someone else delight in Him, how can I still claim that faith is not something we can craft individually? I guess it suggests that the 'truth' in itself, will always be delightful. If its not, is that because we don't understand it properly or because there isn't really just one truth?

(On reflection, I know what I think about this, I would stubbornly argue for the existence of absolute truth, and that faith is not about what I want it to be...it is about what it is...and that is determined by God, not my own desires or wishes as if I was in control of my own faith and my own eternity. I guess I just struggle that people I love, and trust and respect don't believe the same things that I do...how does that figure, and how dare I suggest that I know better than them...?)

Friday, August 01, 2008

The 100th!
















It's my 100th blog post! Better make it a good one! Hmm...what to write about...


Actually, I thought that the 100th showed that it might be time to go back over some of my old posts and see how things have moved on. It would be interesting to see what lessons I have learnt and what lessons I have yet to learn. I am sure this exercise will highlight to me some issues that I have not yet got sorted in my faith. I hope there will be some I have. I think a lot of them I wont have sorted but I will have been able to put to bed.


Since I have already taken up a lot of space by putting lots of pictures in this blog, I am going to start easy by adding more...


Yes...first blog problem solved...

I HAVE SOME NEW STRAIGHTNERS! Another reason to celebrate!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

OH NO!





My hair straightners refused to turn on this morning! Oh my gosh! What do I do?

I was hoping it was the fuse in the plug so I took them to work with me (I hate to say it, but I had to get the men to tell me what to do to change the fuse!) It turns out it wasn't the fuse. THey are just simply broken.

I guess it shows that I am addicted to my hair straightners!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What a weekend part 1

I have had a great weekend (which I am classing as starting on Thursday evening for the sake of this exercise)! I have been driving a lot but have had a great time, and in the process learnt a lot of lessons. I will share some with you now.

  • A bunch of 20-something girls, really can put the world to rights with a bit of chocolate and diet coke! - and can talk ALL NIGHT without running out of things to say!
  • Its easier to talk to people than I think it is!
  • I am not alone in my insecurities and its ok to talk about them.
  • The older generation might have many opinions and attitudes I don't agree with, but they have a lot to teach me and often the frustration is there partly because I don't take time to understand.
  • Planning usually pays off.
  • You can go back home without having to go back.
  • The Salvation Army, for all its faults, is an amazing community to be a part of, and, in general, the heart of the movement is in the right place.
  • Christians can be really cool people.
  • The M25 is surely one of the most stress-inducing places in the world!
  • You can't control everything - and sometimes you have to just shrug your shoulders and say - "Oh well!" Even if it means missing your friend getting married because the traffic will not move!
  • People who I find quite intimidating are often the people that I can have the best conversations with when I get past worrying about what they think of me.
  • I should embrace how weird my faith seems to people who don't know God.
  • I love seeing my friends happy.
  • Maybe I don't need to prove to people that I think or feel certain things - maybe its ok to actually believe myself without other people verifying it first.
  • You can improve your life by putting lots of effort into a number of exercises, but that actually God's peace comes through rest - just knowing and loving Him.
  • God works in mysterious ways!
  • God works!
  • Frinds are one of the best thing in the world.

"I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid." John 14:27

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Performance or Worship part 3

I just had some musings today. Usually when I write a blog it is because something has been weighing heavily on my mind and I need to splurge! Today, this blog is not like that. I had a few random thoughts and thought why not blog them. So I don't know how this post is going to end up! Scary!

My series on perfomance and worship (if you can call it that since there have only been two previous posts and they happen, like, once every 6 months or something) has created a fair bit of discussion in the past and so I recognise that its not necessarily that simple an issue. In the past, my thoughts have centred mostly around worship through music. Today they are about love. Loving people, I know, is a subject that is so fundamental and which a lot of people feel very strongly about, and I don't intend to squash its importance, or to suggest that I know anything about it really. I am very weak in this area generally, and I need to develop my love for others. In fact, it is because of this that I write this blog. I realise my weakness, and want to love other people more than I do, but the thought of that has sparked questions in my mind (as per usual).

How can we ensure that loving others becomes an act of worship, not a perfomance? We are always being reminded in church (rightly so) of the need to love each other. When this doesn't come naturally, what is the best thing to do? If you choose to try hard to love people, practically speaking, do you not run the risk of putting on a performance. Making it look like you love other people when you really don't?

I was on facebook today nd noticed that I had 11 notifications I hadn't checked. Most of them are rubbish I don't need to know, but today I had a notification telling me I had sent two people some 'Luv'. In all honesty, I don't recall doing that, and without meaning to be cruel, if I had intended to, there would have been others I would have sent it to fisrt (except for one of the people, who though I don't speak to that much actually is a really nice guy and I haven't spoken to for ages and it reminded me of him and I thought, 'yeah, I do want to send him some Luv; to all those out there who have tried in the past to matchmake me - I do not mean this in a romantic way - stop getting your hopes up!). So apart from being concerned that facebook was sending out 'Luv' on my behalf, it made me think - when I send out 'Love' as a Christian, mostly I should be sending it out without realising it - shouldn't I? Showing people I love them by my actions and my way of living, without first making a conscious choice to, surely shows them that the love is real.

Rob Bell once made a comment on one of his Nooma DVD's - 'Sunday' (which by the way, whoever's it is, I still have - make me give it back!) which was that if a husband bought his wife some flowers, she would be so happy and so chuffed that he had thought of her. If he then turned round and said, 'well, it was my duty', it kind of takes the romance out of it. She didn't want his duty, she probably didn't even care that much about the flowers, what she wanted was his heart.

So when loving others doesn't come naturally, what do you do. How do you love them without it becoming a duty. How do you turn it into worship and not performance. I have thought about this a little, and the best answer I have come up with so far is that the more time we spend with God, reading the Bible, praying, and falling in love with Him personally, the more we are likely to naturally love other people, thereby avoiding this whole issue. But what about in the meantime. Is there a difference between 'choice' and 'performance' as in choosing to love someone as opposed to not loving them but making it look like you do. Can you tell your heart to do something? I know you can change your mind, can you change your heart?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Spoken in our time?

I think you are all going to groan. I am seriously back on the, 'yeah, but...' wagon again. So what has triggered it this time?

We sing a really lovely song in songsters called 'Lights on a Hill'. I love the song, its gorgeous, but it has some really intesnse words. I think I have mentioned before that we are blessed to have a leader who makes us think about the words we are singing. I always think about the words I sing. I can't help it, its the analytical part of me, but sometimes I find myself wondering whether other people do. And if they do, why does nobody stuggle to sing them like I do? Why does no-one question their validity as often as I do? I have got myself all worried about it today - worried that my experience as a Christian is not strong enough to be able to justify what I sing about. Don't worry - its not me doubting my faith - in fact, that feels quite solid right now - its more about me having an answer for the things I sing. Since working in a non-Christian environment I have started noticing 'Christian language' a lot more and have become so aware of the need to be able to have reason behind the things I say I believe.

It was the following words that have inspired these thoughts today:
'You said that freedom was found in the truth.
You promised captives would find their release,
And chains are broken now, lives liberated now.
Your living word has spoken in our time,

You promised peace the world cannot know,
Commanded stillness to conquer the storm,
And hurtung hearts are healed, painful wounds are sealed.
Your living word has spoken in our time.

You said your love was a gift to the world,
A love so great you were willing to die
And guilt and fear have ceased, love and grace increased.
Your living word has spoken in our time.

So we will carry the truth, the truth in our lives,
And honour that truth in our lives
And we'll be lights on a hill for you, salt of the earth for you,
We'll stand and be strong and be bold for you.'

For me when I sing, I want to sing stuff I can really mean, and really feel. I sing the words, 'chains are broken now, lives liberated now, hurting hearts are healed, painful wounds are sealed, Your living word has spoken in our time' but I have to be honest and say that I can't sing these with a heart full of passion, and emotion. I can't give these words my all, or the emphasis they deserve, not because I don't believe them, but because I haven't had that kind of raw experience. Some people say they have had their lives turned upside down by the Christian faith, but for me, its something I grew up with. I connect more with the words, 'Lord you've been good to me all my life'. I don't know anyone who was right on the edge when Jesus came to save them - not someone I have a long-standing emotional connection with, where I can really see the difference in their lives. I hate reducing words like this to the small petty things I experience - God is bigger than that, much bigger and if I am going to sing these words, I want them to be honest and real.

I think the point that I am trying to make is that I feel like I am wasting some incredibly powerful words. I don't like saying things I don't mean, and when I do mean something, I am desperate for people to understand the depth of feeling that goes along with my statements, but with this - they feel like just words. They aren't empty because I know God does heal hearts and seal wounds and break chains, but they are not full of authenticity either because I don't feel it strongly enough for that. For the most part I am OK with singing these things when I feel like this because I believe that they are true...I just worry sometimes, how do I know we are not all doing that. How do I know for sure that God really really really is doing these things. How can I be sure His living word has spoken in our time. How can I know that it is not just generations of Christian language which gets us all hyped up and filled with emotion, but has no real basis?

I guess I am just sighing over the fact that once again, I have never been in an environment where people really need God because they have literally nothing else left. Where God is absolutely everything to them. Here, in this Country, people live their whole lives without ackowledging God and don't in general look or act that different from me.

For me the key word in the song that gives me trouble is that word, 'so'. 'So we will carry the truth'. Why? Because he has healed our hurts, our pain and broken our chains? I think it has to be more than that. If thats the only reason I carry the truth in my life, then I wont be carrying it that enthusiastically, because I haven't had so much pain that I am literally bouncing off the walls for joy at the healing I have received. I carry the truth because of the things I believe about who God is. Not just because of what He has done in this world, or this life. I believe in an eternal God - not one shaped by my experiences, but one who just is.

I don't want evangelism or sharing God's truth to be reduced to the point where we are just offering another option. Something that will make your life easier to bear, or more enjoyable. Thats a materialistic 'advert style' evangelism. God is more than that. Its not like we are selling something. God's truth goes way beyond this world. That's the main reason I have joy in it, because it is about that which is beyond this world. Otherwise how can we make sense out of suffering or harm or evil in the world?

I guess it stems from guilt (as probably most of my questionning does). I feel guilty that I don't sing those words with tears running down my cheeks at the sheer incredibleness of what God has done for me - the wounds he has healed or the chains he has broken. He has done soooooooo much for me - I don't deny that - He gave me hope - eternal hope, because He has saved me from my sin. He has opened up the way of eternity with God for me when I just simply don't deserve it. That I can sing about with tears running down my cheeks because it means something. Its real, its honest, and I mean it with all my heart. But healing my hurts? Not so much. I guess that feeling guilty that I haven't had enough hurts to be healed from in order to be able to sing that song with meaning is a bit backwards. Am I weird?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wow!

What a Sunday! I feel like I came away having experienced every emotion under the sun! Well not quite but you know what I mean. It was such a joy to share with Ruth and Chris as they publicly declared their faith and their commitment to God and to our Church by becomming Salvation Army soldiers.

Every time I witness a new enrolment, I come away feeling challenged. The articles of war Salvation Army soldiers commit to are big and tough to live by. Richard got it right today when he said its about being sold out for God. Literally, if I took those articles of war as seriously as I should, would my life look the same? I will let them speak for themselves:

Having accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, and desiring to fulfil my membership of His Church on earth as a soldier of The Salvation Army, I now by God's grace enter into a sacred covenant.

I believe and will live by the truths of the word of God expressed in The Salvation Army's eleven articles of faith.

I will be responsive to the Holy Spirit's work and obedient to His leading in my life, growing in grace through worship, prayer, service and the reading of the Bible.

I will make the values of the Kingdom of God and not the values of the world the standard for my life.

I will uphold Christian integrity in every area of my life, allowing nothing in thought, word or deed that is unworthy, unclean, untrue, profane, dishonest or immoral.

I will maintain Christian ideals in all my relationships with others; my family and neighbours, my colleagues and fellow salvationists, those to whom and for whom I am responsible, and the wider community.

I will uphold the sanctity of marriage and of family life.

I will be a faithful steward of my time and gifts, my money and possessions, my body, my mind and my spirit, knowing that I am accountable to God.

I will abstain from alcoholic drink, tobacco, the non-medical use of addictive drugs, gambling, pornography, the occult and all else that could enslave the body or spirit.

I will be faithful to the purposes for which God raised up The Salvation Army, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, endeavouring to win others to Him, and in His name caring for the needy and the disadvantaged.

I will be actively involved, as I am able, in the life, work, worship and witness of the corps, giving as large a proportion of my income as possible to support its ministries and the worldwide work of the Army.

I will be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army, loyal to its leaders, and I will show the spirit of salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution.
I now call upon all present to witness that I enter into this covenant and sign these articles of war of my own free will, convinced that the love of Christ, who died and now lives to save me, requires from me this devotion of my life to His service for the salvation of the whole world; and therefore do here declare my full determination, by God's help, to be a true soldier of The Salvation Army.

Its very easy to read these through and think yep, yep, and yep to them all. But when I really read them and think about my own life as supposedly mirroring these standards, I have to question my commitment as a Salvation Army soldier. In all honesty, I don't do all these things. I don't try hard enough to live a sold out life for God. Whats more, I don't often see that as a big problem - why? Because they are hard to live by so its ok if I fail a bit. Take for instance, 'I will make the values of the Kingdom of God and not the values of the world the standard for my life.' What a bold statement that is. Another; 'I will be a faithful steward of my time and gifts, my money and possessions, my body, my mind and my spirit, knowing that I am accountable to God.' I find it so easy to think of some of these things as almost seperate to my faith. I can have God, and still do the things I want to do with my time, or let my mind wander away from God or treat my body however I want and not consider God, or let my spirit become focussed more on what the world thinks than what God thinks. It so easy to make excuses for these things because we live in that sort of culture. But we were also reminded ... 'So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.' Romans 12: 1-2

The point is, have I really been keeping my commitment to soldiership in the Salvation Army? I may be in the minority, but I actually like the military terminology we have in the Army. Why? Because the term 'soldier' suggests a battle - a war - a fight. That is what we are part of, like it or not. When I think of myself as a soldier, it reminds me that I am part of a mission, that there is a purpose to my life beyond that which is right in front of me. But that mission needs me to be committed, to not let other stuff crowd it out. It needs me to take these articles of war seriously. Actually take them seriously - like making it my mission to live them out. I am convinced that if I did this - the passion and motivation in my life would show other people that I am serious about my faith. That my faith is worth being serious about. That it is more than just something I choose to do, or an added extra - it is all my life and it is purposeful.

The response I should have to all this is to repent and start to purposefully make it my mission to live out the articles of war. It would be so easy for me to say I want to and I try to live these out, its just hard, and then I could get away with it. But in all honesty, sometimes I don't try to, or even want to. I feel disappointed in myself that when I go to the enrolment of some good friends, I can't stand with them and say - yes I am fully commited to this too. I feel like a hypocrite - I am a soldier, and yet I am shocked by the articles of war - I have forgotten what they say and what I am meant to be trying to live up to.

I want to say this is a turning point - that I will now be purposeful about living out these articles of war - but will I? I don't want to just say it and then not do it. I want to mean it - but I know that tomorrow I am going to wake up and want something different. That I am going to want to live by the standards of the world. That I am going to want to become all that they ask me to be - and that it is likely that I will be more scared of not meeting the worlds standards that I am of not meeting God's.

Um - to post this or not to post this...that is the question. I guess it looks like I need some lovely friends to pray for me. Sorry for the bleeuurrgghh! I just needed to be honest and get it out. Thanks for reading. Love you all.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What a disappointment!

Don't you hate it when you watch a brilliant advert, and then are disappointed with the product being advertised, or when the product being advertised doesn't quite seem to match the advert itself! Well I just found a new frustrating one!...

There was this great advert - which showed a scene of a woman walking around her bedroom at night holding a baby, whilst a man was asleep in the bed. A man's voice stated "I promise not to pretend I'm asleep when our baby wakes up at 3am or 4am or 5am. I promise never to say 'My Mum thinks you're holding the baby wrong'. I promise not to mention that sometimes when I kiss your beautiful neck it smells of perfume and baby sick. I promise not to join in if my mates sing the theme tune from the Omen, although it is quite funny. I promise to do at least my fair share of nappy changing and night feeding. I promise to tell you often how proud I am of you and how you've made me the happiest dad on the planet. All this I pledge without any pressure from you, my lovely, lovely missus".... Then a voice-over stated "Understanding parents, understanding babies. For infant nutrition trust the experts. SMA, we know."

...And there was me waiting for them to tell me where to find a man like that!!!!!!!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I am asking you as a friend!

I went to Shirley Salvation Army today in Southampton to visit my little bro and some old friends. The young people led the meeting in the morning, and the theme was about Jesus calling us friends - based on the passage of scripture John 15:13-15 which says:

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."

That small phrase, "You are my friends if you do what I command" really caught my attention today. In the past I have read this and almost sucked in my breath whilst reading it because it sounds very much like it is saying, I will call you my friend IF you do what I command. For the first time today I heard this completely differently. Nobody re-parahrased it for me, it wasn't read from a different version, nothing was different, except what I heard. Today I heard, "When I ask you to do things, I ask you as a friend." I know that's not what the passage says, and I don't claim that that is what it means either. Usually I would dismiss these thoughts straight away because they are not accurately reflecting what was written. However, today I couldn't stop thinking about it.

It turned my mind to that phrase that people often use when they want something from someone or if they are desperate for something from someone, and when they are refused they say, 'please, I am asking you as a friend.' The addition of that little phrase (correct me if I'm wrong) sometimes softens peoples hearts to the request being made of them - because it turns it into something more than just a simple 'cold' request. It becomes a matter of friendship and need - it adds 'warmth' to the request.

I wondered if sometimes we can treat things that God asks us to do as cold commands. I wonder if sometimes He asks us things 'as a friend' that we treat as commands and therefore feel less willing to do. It made me contemplate the difference between a command God gives and a request a friend makes. Usually if a friend makes a request of us using that phrase, it would be because there is something we can give to them or do for them that they don't have or can't do for themselves. With God - this is not the case. God does not need us like a friend might. If we say no it won't mean that God goes without, or is left at a loss or is left broken in any way. In fact, is it not often the case that the requests God makes of us, end up being for us, or at least for the world, rather than for Him? Therefore, can we really consider Him 'a friend'? Is friendship not a mixture of give and take? But what can we truly give to God? I know we say we can give Him our worship, our praise, our lives and so on, but not doing so doesn't make Him a lesser being. Basically He doesn't need us in the same way that we need him or we need our friends because, simply, God is God. Can we call Him friend - or is it just that He is a friend to us, though we aren't friends to Him?

I know this seems complicated, and unnecessary, and I guess I just need to let it go and not worry about the detail (Liz), but this cropped up because there is something I know God is asking of me, and I am having a really hard time obeying. I wondered if thinking about it in the sense of God saying, "look Kirsty, I am asking as a friend, please would you..." would make a difference. Would I find it easier to do it if I felt that it meant something to God, rather than it just being a command. But I don't want to assume that is how it is being said if its not, and I just don't get it. God is The Almighty. How dare I assume my obedience means something to Him personally - other than that He is God and therefore I should obey.

I don't really know how to finish this post off - Umm, the post is now over?!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Do you ever feel like someone is trying to tell you something?

Seriously, this is the fourth time in less than a week that I have heard some sort of message based around Esther. Has the world suddenly gone Esther crazy? Has anyone else noticed an increase in Esther phenomenon recently?

I've been Esthered! And I am still not sure why!

Ok, in honesty, I do know why..."God has called each of us to a purpose greater than ourselves. Know that it will require death before life can be given to this purpose. It must be His life that lives, not ours."

But its SOOOO HARD!!!!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Quiet Reassurance

I absolutely love it when this happens: I have been praying for something for a while, (not like every day, but occasionally over the course of almost a year) which I found out last night had been answered very very specifically about two months ago without me even knowing it. I love it when God works stuff out behind the scenes - when He answers a prayer almost exactly in the way you asked it - except it was quietly - and I didn't even need to do anything. God just took care of it. (I especially love it when that happens!)

Something I find amazing about God is the little surprises he throws in every now and then that kind of keep you going. In all honsety the 'faith thing' is kind of tough sometimes - not just within myself - but I find it difficult when I see other people struggling with their faith too. I love these little confirmations that we get every now and then that are quietly reassuring. God is in control.

Thanks God.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I'm gonna skip-it

In a moment of 80's nostalgia, My friend Amy and I found, for sale in Romford, wait for it...

...

A SKIP-IT!!!!!

Apparently they are now called 'hoppers', but clearly they are skip-it's.



It turns out I haven't forgotten how to skip-it!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

Building 'My' House

I was listening to a song on my pink ipod (did I mention that I have one of them?) this morning on the way into work, and realised that I really really wanted to blog it. However, I got frustrated with myself, because I realise that I seem to use song lyrics far too much to define my feelings, so I very nearly didn't. But, then I thought about how grateful I was that when I don't know how to express my thoughts and feelings, I often find other peoples words do that for me. So I decided to blog it anyway, and not feel guilty about it.

I used this song at prayer meeting the other day because I thought about how relevant it was for our church right now, and it is my honest deepest prayer for our church. (And I don't just mean the actual physical building). But as I was listening today, I made it my prayer for my own life too. So, here is my most recent prayer - for both me and my church.

All I am and all I have is yours
There's nothing that I have on earth
that doesn't come from you
I lay aside my pride and worldly wealth
To serve You is the greatest thing
that I could ever do

For unless you build this house
I am building it in vain
Unless the work is yours
There is nothing to be gained
I want something that will stand
When your Holy fire comes
Something that will last
And to hear you say well done
Giving glory to you Lord
Glory to you Lord

So easy to desire what others have
Instead of seeing all the gifts that
You have given me
So help me fan the flame
which you began
And burn in me a love for you
that all will clearly see

(c) 2005 Thankyou Music/The Livingstone Collective

Monday, May 12, 2008

If We Are The Body...

Yes! Kirsty is blogging again! Well, for now anyway - I seem to have had some thoughts while I was walking to work this morning (had to add that bit in there!). As I was walking, I was listening to a familiar song on my new pink ipod (and that bit!). I was introduced to this song at summer school one year when we used it as part of the drama presentation. Today, as I listened, I realised how pertinent a question it is for my church right now. Here are the lyrics:

Its crowded in worship today as she slips in,
And quietly fades into the faces.
The girls teasing laughter is carrying further than they know.

The travler is far away from home,
he sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row.
The weight of their judgement or glances
Tell him that his chances are better out on the road.

But if we are the body,
Why aren't his arms reaching?
Why aren't his hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body,

Why aren't his feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?

Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come.
And we are the body of Christ.

To be honest, our Church is often commended for how welcoming we are. These words are not directly applicable to us in that respect, however, I do wonder how welcoming we truly are in our hearts. Are we prepared to really make friends with people who aren't like us. Are we prepared to really invest time in people who need a bit of looking after? Are we prepared to open up our hearts to the potential of being hurt when people take and take and take and don't appear to be getting the message at all? Are we prepared to care so much that it hurts?

I think its worth questioning - Are His arms reaching, His hands healing? His words teaching? His feet going? His love showing the way? If not, then since we are the body, its our arms, hands, words, feet and love that are not doing these things.

I am not trying to be negative, like I say, I do think our Church has a very good starting point for practicing these things because we are welcoming, and for the first few weeks, people often feel very at home with us - but we need to make sure it doesn't just last a few weeks, but that we really let them into our hearts, and treat them as part of the family.

We had a great prayer meeting last night. There were 14 of us who stayed, and I do believe God was speaking last night. I am so excited about the heart some of the people in our church have been given for mission. I am so excited. And I am sooooo excited about the prayer that is surrounding that. I believe this could really happen - if we really commit to making an effort to making this work, I believe we can start to impact the community - but we HAVE to be prepared to love them, if we are going to try to get them interested in God. They will only see God's love through ours.

I am a very practical minded person, and this post has been very generalised so far, so I want to delve into the difficult task of questionning how we actually put that into practice. In all honesty, I don't know, but what I do know is that I am praying that God will teach me how to love. If we can truly love them, actually feel something for them (which does open us up to hurt - lets not pretend it doesn't) then I think a lot of the other stuff will flow from that. I am going to try to befriend some people if I see people looking lonely or a bit out of it in our church. But befriend them in such a way that I actually invite them to dinner, and want to hear about their lives. Its a massive commitment to say that, and clearly there is a limited amount of people anyone can do that for because it means investing time - and time for Salvationists is often precious. But it will be time well spent, and the more of us that do that the more people will start to feel like part of the family of God.

I realise I have got on my soapbox. I am prepared to be challenged on this view if anyone thinks I have got this wrong in any way. What do you think? How can we prepare ourselves for this?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

My Testimony

Living on my own, thinking for myself,
Castles in the sand, temporary wealth
Walls are falling down, storms are closing in,
Tears have filled my eyes, here I am again.

And I've held out as long as I can,
Now I'm letting go and holding out my hand.

Daddy, here I am again,
Will You take me back tonight?
I went and made the world my friend,
And it left me high and dry.
I drag Your name back through the mud
That You first found me in.
Not worthy to be called Your son,
Is this to be my end?

Daddy, here I am -
Here I am again


Curse this morning sun, drags me in to one more day,
Of reaping what I've sown, of living with my shame.
Welcome to my world and the life that I have made
Where one day you're a prince; the next day you're a slave.

And I've held out as long as I can,
Now I'm letting go and holding out my hand.

Daddy, here I am again,
Will You take me back tonight?
I went and made the world my friend,
And it left me high and dry.
I drag Your name back through the mud
That You first found me in.
Not worthy to be called your son,
Is this to be my end?

Daddy, here I am -
Here I am again.

Lyrics by Casting Crowns

Ok, maybe it seems a bit intense and dramatic, but its my testimony nonetheless.

Friday, March 07, 2008

How English are we!

I was just in a lift and another person got in wanting who didn't want to go quite as far as me. When he left the lift he said 'thanks'. Why?

Monday, February 11, 2008

A rather unsavoury image!

Ok, so its unusual for me to put anything unsavoury on my blog - I don't even like thinking about it, but this has really wound me up today so I felt burdened enough to need to share it!!!

I have discovered a new pet hate! When people think its a good idea to talk on their mobile phones whilst in the ladies toilets! WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THIS?!?!?!?!

Seriously, as if I am going to be able to feel free to 'go' when someone is on the phone in the next cubilcle! Its completely 100% wrong!

Sorry for the image!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Trust Your Instinct???

I have a question...

Do you invariably go back to the first way of doing something?

I am trying to write a technical document for work. I am not massively exerienced in this. I have written many couresworks in my time about mathematical things, so one would think I should be quite good at it. It appears I am not! I think its because this is actually about something real, not something contrived for the sake of a grade!

Anyway, the point is this: When I first started putting anything down on paper, I made a good start at describing what I had been investigating. After about 2.5 hours of working on it, I re-read it and decided I didn't think the structure was particularly helpful. So the next day I started again using a different approach. I liked this appraoch but it became a bit too detailed so I tried again, this time starting top-level. It wasn't long before I realised that this method was inadequate as well so I gave up on it for a while to do other things. Today, after about a weeks break, I have had to pick it up again and, re-reading all three attempts, I realised that the first one was the most useful.

Isn't this just so often how it works out? Is this a lesson in trusting my instincts?