Single-parent families

Last week I told a story about how speaking out saved a duckling and potentially saved other accidents… the previous week I spoke about violence, especially violence against women. There is a theme on my heart that I seem to be skirting around, but it could be expressed as concern for the ‘orphans and widows’ – often the weak, the vulnerable, those who have nobody else to speak up on their behalf. There are many vulnerable groups, but I want to focus on these.

Orphans and widows, according to Scripture, are very much a priority on God’s heart and God exhorts us over and again to look after them… God says He hears their cries. They are still real and visible in our society and yet for whatever reasons, we often do not see them. In many ways in modern Europe, aside from actual widows and orphans, single-parent families can also be placed in the category of orphans and widows – for whilst the other parent may still be living (and therefore those left behind are not orphans and widows in the strictest sense), they share the same burdens of societal shame and of practical and financial stress. As with orphans and widows, there is a sense of the woman and children being left without protection, without emotional, practical and financial support, etc.; often without respite from caring, or time at all for oneself, partly because living as extended families is no longer the norm. Often they are also heart-broken and suffering a sense of bereavement and loss too. I say woman, because it is most often the single mum, though increasingly it is the father, who takes custody of the children and sometimes it is a grandparent… In many Western countries there is some financial support for single-parent families, but the rest of their needs often remain invisible to society. I also know that there are many couples who struggle in their lives together, those with children and those without. I’m not saying that couples who stay together with their children have no needs, because I know that they do. I myself, as a child, often wished that my father would leave my mother, or vice-versa, but he never did and she never did. But in this piece of writing, I want to focus on the needs of single parents, who are most often, but not always, mums.

I would like us to draw our attention to these unseen, and frequently therefore, unmet needs. I think of this because I get it. I have been there for many years. And I see both sides. For the single parent, one of the unseen needs is for adult company, friendship and emotional support. In many ways, single unmarried women also share many of the challenges that I highlight here. There is nobody to come home to and to share ones joys, delights, burdens and stresses. Nobody. Nobody for whom you are that one special person. Nobody who shares that love and concern you have for your children. I particularly want to point out one phenomenon that may never have occurred to someone who has never experienced being single, but is very real to those that are – and that is that one is very rarely invited out – even by friends or by church family.

We have arranged an evening dinner for friends – for him and her, Mr and Mrs, this couple and that couple, but what do we do about you as a single parent? There are obvious reasons of course – you’d probably have to arrange a babysitter for the children or some other childcare? Or maybe you’d feel like a gooseberry, if everyone else is in couples? Or maybe you are always tired by 8pm, having had the children since 6am? Or maybe it’s awkward when everyone else is in couples – who would you be seated with? Would we have to do some ‘match-making’? And we wouldn’t want the children to come, it’s not suitable…. And we’ve never been invited to dinner at yours! Perhaps there are also deeper issues that we are not prepared to address? Maybe there’s a fear that there’s something wrong with you – after all, one of you in the couple walked out? Who’s fault was it really? It takes two to tango! Do you have commitment issues? Can you be trusted? You may have emotional needs and other needs we are not prepared or equipped to meet? What if you break-down and talk all night about your problems? Or maybe you want to steal one of our husbands? Of course we don’t really think that… not out loud, anyway!

When I lived in London, as a single mother for my two young boys, I was introduced to a ministry called ‘CHEER’ set up by a wonderful single mum, Cherie Coleman, who gets it. Once a month on a Saturday, me and the boys travelled across London to what they looked forward to as their “Party Church”, where they were greeted enthusiastically by a fabulous group of people who gave them an amazing few hours of fun, food, toys and love. Us single mums were taken for a fantastic breakfast, were treated like special, trusted friends, were led in a time of worship, with freedom and time to pray for one another. There was usually a speaker to inspire us on some issues that one encounters when raising children as a single parent , but often we also just told our own stories – and people listened, they cared, they didn’t judge… because they get it! They had empathy, most of them, but others were there to help and to serve, because they had compassion and the cause of modern-day orphans and widows had been placed on their hearts. One of the single mums back then now also is a married woman and a pastor and runs a similar group in North London – Fresh Start Single Parents Ministry. She picked up the baton and has gone on to serve the needs of other single parents in her neighbourhood.

Are we aware of the single parents in our neighbourhood and in our church – even in our own families? Do we pray for them? Are we aware of their needs, but also of their talents, giftings and passions. Do we trust them, accept them and make provision and allowance for them to join in, or do we sub-consciously discriminate against them? Do we step up on behalf of their children and be family, be healthy role models to them? Do we pray for all of our families, no matter what shape they are?

Bear them in mind.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

Rescue the ducklings?

There’s a theme going on for me at the moment and experience tells me therefore to listen to what wisdom is saying.

Have you ever had the experience of discovering something that you were not aware of before, but then suddenly, now you have noticed it, it pops up everywhere? Suddenly it’s in the shops, the books you read and comes up in conversations… It was always there of course, but the thing that has changed is your awareness of it.

I’m going to express some of the themes arising for me, through these blogs, as I did last week. Some of the thought processing is still a little jumbled.

First I need to tell you a little story:

About 5 weeks ago, I took my grandchildren for an afternoon in a large country park that I love. We were 2 adults and 2 infants – a two-year old and a four-year old. At one point, after already over 2 hours playing with sticks and rocks beside the lake as we meandered around it, we came across a small tributary to the lake, that feeds in from the marina; this part is called ‘the Sweetener’ and has a metal grill over the bit of water closest to the grass. I went with the four-year old to look at the algae and insects through the grill, noticing a gap of about a foot between the 2 grill coverings… suddenly my grandson jumped into the gap, thinking that the lush-green algae was grass! He disappeared under the water! Of course I fell to my knees, reached into the water and grabbed him and pulled him out and he was shaken and wet, but was fine, thanks be to God. Later the images began to haunt me of what could have happened if I had not been at his side and not seen where he had gone… I discovered that dogs and rabbits are frequently having to be rescued from that patch of water, also mistaking the algae for grass. I knew that I needed to speak up and say something to prevent further disasters, but to whom? Looking on websites and speaking to others I decided to contact the council – I did this, as directed, by email and by phone, but was not satisfied that it would get any further than an in-tray or locked away in a file. So I found a number for the park and eventually spoke to a person who managed the park and he told me all about what the Sweetener was for and said he would go right-away to assess the health and safety of the area in light of my report. This made me feel much better and like I had done all I could to prevent further accidents. Two weeks later I walked the park again, only to discover that nothing had been done at all – it was still exactly the same. Last week I returned to the park and saw a patrol car with a pair of community officers in it by the lake and it occurred to me to report the issue to them and ask them to look at it with me. They were from the Council, so I felt very foolish doing this and every part of me rose up to dissuade me from saying anything, but I marched over to the car and told them the story. They drove round to the spot and I walked over and spoke with them there. There was a little duckling trapped under the first grill nearest the grass… clearly he had bobbed under the water for a snack, popped up on the wrong side and was unable to get back to his mother, who was not far away and was watching intently. The poor little duckling was disturbed also by our presence and got his little head stuck through the grill and the officer was trying to poke his beak back through, but feared the duckling had snapped his neck, as he was very still… at this point a small crown had gathered and a lady had a ball-thrower for the dog, which served as a long-handled scoop-spoon and finally the officer freed the duckling’s beak from it’s prison, he popped back up alive, and they used the ball-thrower to scoop the duckling to the side, where the officer grabbed the frightened little thing and tossed him back into the other side to his mother. We all applauded! Then the officer fetched some bright yellow plastic and tied it across the two grills to alert others of the danger for those thinking the algae is grass. He also said he would report the whole thing and his intervention to the warden on his way out. Meanwhile another chap came over and asked “Is this cos of the kid that fell in last year and all the dogs that fall in?” I explained.

As I came away I felt much better. If I had not spoken up, the duckling would not have been rescued from his prison, but I knew that the duckling was a bonus! I have told this story to a few friends who it seems all know a similar story of children and animals mistaking algae for grass. Now I have my own story. Despite feeling stupid, I spoke up, not once, not twice, but until something was done. The rescue of the duckling was a bonus and a lesson to me and to the officer, I believe. I spoke up because I had had an experience that made me aware of the issue. I get it. It’s like that with many issues in life; when we are aware of it we can do something about it. If something had happened that only affected me, I would perhaps have not had the courage to report the incident, but when a loved one is endangered, somehow the courage to protect and speak up to meet the needs of others is found more easily.

It’s not true that other people don’t care about things that some of us struggle with, it’s just that they may not see the problem or solution, they haven’t experienced it and just don’t get it. I will continue this theme. Last week I wrote about violence against women mainly – because I get it – not because I’m not aware or don’t care as much about any other victims of violence, but because, as a girl and a woman, I’ve been there and I get it. I’m not alone in that experience.

I can speak for women who can’t speak. And if I speak, it gives permission for another eventually to say, “Can I tell you my story?”

This brings healing, relationship, compassion, community and hope for change. And it brings joyful surprises – remember the duckling. Look out for the ducklings – the little bonuses as you reach out and speak up for yourself and for others.

Speak up!

“We must speak up and do something”

It won’t come as a surprise to anybody that there is a great deal of injustice in the world. But I am frequently surprised at the extent of it and its insidious, all-pervasive nature. For example, I learned today that, according to United Nations statistics, over the last year, 9 million adolescent girls experienced forced sexual abuse1. That is 9 million girls whose names we don’t know – but what of all those who were too scared or too ashamed to tell? Throughout history, in different shapes and colours, in every corner and under every canopy around the globe, we hear of atrocities perpetrated against other human beings in the name of some exclusive cause or another and we are outraged and shrug; but the abuse and atrocities that occur within our own communities, our work-places, even our churches and our own families, these are the ones we somehow are ignorant of, or choose to remain silent about. Often we don’t really know what is happening. We don’t really want to know, because we don’t like violence, fear, abuse and obscenity and we don’t want to think about it or upset anybody. Also we are scared of the obligation to act if we do acknowledge an injustice and we don’t know what we can do. “We don’t want to get involved.”

Over this past year or so, better late than never, society took note and showed outrage at examples of such injustices. The murders of George Floyd and Sarah Everard were two named representations of the wider, collective experience for millions of women and millions of black people. These two have names that we have taken notice of.

There is so much abuse, discrimination and injustice in our ‘civilised’ society, but in this short article I just want to focus briefly on just some aspect of the domestic abuse. More uncomfortable statistics tell us that EVERY DAY 137 women are KILLED by male family members – husbands, fathers, brothers; but again, these are only those who dared to tell. When it happens in my house, I don’t report it because I am ashamed of my weakness and afraid of repercussions if I should tell. And I don’t tell because you keep telling me its my own fault, I brought it on myself; I’m not good enough and got what I deserved and if I tell, I’ll get what I do deserve. I am wrong and if I tell, nobody will believe me and they will also know how bad I am. We don’t tell, can’t tell; we can’t bring shame on family, can’t bring shame on the company, shame on the church, shame on the government… Can we? 1 in 4 women will be subject to domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime. Are you shocked?

Man, I’m sure you are not one of these abusers, but that woman could be your daughter, your wife, your mother? If so, what can we do for her now? Can we make sure that our churches, our homes and our communities are safe places and a refuge for those abused, lonely and scared for their lives? Are we prepared to help?

Woman, if it happened to you, I’m so sorry! And I understand the pain. Tell your story – first tell yourself and then tell somebody you trust. When we find our authentic voice we can speak up and others can listen, comfort and support; and maybe we can educate others, engage in dialogue and pave the way for others to speak out and make the issues visible, because we are not alone.

There are no simple solutions, but we can listen to one another’s experiences (and those that shock us) and we can listen with love and offer support where possible. We hope that an abused person can escape their abuser, but this is often impossible. Domestic abuse and work-place abuse, bullying, racism, sexism, all other ‘isms’ – these are areas that our churches and schools and councils could speak out against. If you want to find out what the church can to to speak into and change culture and you want to join a conversation addressing violence against women, go to eauk.org/bekahlegg

Do what you can, not what you can’t. If we don’t like the litter we can pick it up and teach our children not to drop it. If we see a danger, or issue, or injustice we can do our homework and research solutions to a problem, we can report it, or solve it, or ask for help. We can engage the media, sign petitions, write a letter, join a campaign, we can pray for victims and bullies, even for our enemies, and we can tell our story, tell another’s story, shout about it from the pulpits. Whilst you have a voice, use it for good – to speak out, to comfort, to encourage, to pray, to raise awareness… We can create a culture, create a church and a community that is safe and inclusive and that does not tolerate injustice, but does give second chances, does forgive and does reflect our God of love and mercy. Speak up about injustice happening to you and around you, tell a friend and start a small support team, pray about it and use whatever is in your hand to be an advocate, a voice and a safe refuge and support for someone who needs you.

I’m reminded of an oft-quoted gut-puncher, by Martin Niemoeller2, speaking of the cowardice of silence and of personal responsibility:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

‘First they came…’ 1946

1eauk.org/bekahlegg

2 Martin Niemöller

For the Glory of God

“I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask anything in my name and I will do it.” John 14:13-14

We are instructed as followers of Christ to ‘devote ourselves to praying for all the saints’, (Ephesians 6:18) and to ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:17). There are so many ways to pray. Richard Foster has written an excellent book, entitled ‘Prayer’ and describing 21 different types of prayer, most of which I’m sure you would be familiar with. In general, my thanksgiving posts such as this focus on just 2 types of prayer – Petitionary Prayer – asking for my own guidance and needs – and Intercessory Prayer – asking for the needs of others. Categories such as this can be helpful, but the truth is that reality is largely grey areas and thanksgiving, adoration, repentance, surrender, prayer of the heart are all part of these prayers too. As Jesus says in the Scripture quoted above, Jesus answers the prayers in His name, so that God the Father is glorified through Christ. Not every answer to prayer is the one we asked for, but we have to trust the outcome of our prayer to Him to whom we pray. It is all for the glory of God, who is good, all the time. I want to give thanks and glory to God for the answers to specific petitionary and intercessory prayers that I witnessed throughout June.

Thank you, Father:-

that M went rehab and joined AA;

that K back in AA and other new-comers made the step;

that A home and declared in remission;

that J had long-awaited operation and is now sitting up and recovering;

that S gone into remission and can now look towards a transplant;

that me able to share holy Spirit words of hope to S and O family;

that S able to share words of hope to E;

for giving me Isaiah 43:1-3;

that A now able to visit her parents and family and all well;

that B in great spirits and hair returning and physio booked and full of hope;

for the 2 poems You gave to me;

for submission of J’s dissertation on time and You acknowledged;

for grace, energy and providence to babysit;

for saving C out of the water;

for all the Christian MPs gathering publicly for the online prayer breakfast for ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.

I do not find it easy to make time for prayer. I realise that usually I am in a privileged position to be able to devote more time to prayer than most. This last week I was away on holiday with four others, including my beloved grandchildren (aged 2 and 4) and taking time out to pray was impossible for me! I do understand. As a friend often reminds me – we have to do what we can, not what we can’t. And so I had to make my acts of service and thoughts my prayer life. Another friend of mine often calls and asks me not to go away and pray for people, but to agree in prayer with her then and there, over the phone, and entrust people and situations to God like that. I write all the requests down, to remind me to pray and to follow up on how those prayers have been answered. Whatever you have time for and in whatever way you can, do what you can to bring the needs of those who come to your heart before our loving God and Father. Be faithful in prayer and see God glorified through the Son. Run the race and don’t give up praying until you see the prayers answered. Don’t give up on anyone you have been praying for, but renew your commitment to see healing, transformation and growth. Bring your requests in confidence in the name of Jesus, who intercedes constantly for those who believe in the name of the Son of God.

running the race for the duration

Do what you can. Bless you.

May Thanksgiving

1 Timothy 2:1:

I urge then first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made.”

Every day at 3pm Peter and John went to the temple to pray. Why? Because prayer changes situations and lives.

Prayer has changed my life too. Those who read my blog know that I began keeping a thanksgiving record of all answers to specific prayer requests I had made. This was to ensure that I remember to give thanks and praise to God. I find it is easy to forget problems as soon as the emergency has passed. So I have committed myself to bring specific requests to God and to give Him thanks and glory for all the answers each month.

Earlier this week I held my thanksgiving book to God and asked why there were only two entries for June? Then I felt distinctly embarrassed by the realisation that it had been weeks since I asked some people for an update on the progress of those for whom I have been praying. I learned a good lesson, as I then made contact and humbly received the wonderful news of great progress. Thanks and glory to God!!

For God’s intervention and answers to prayer in May, I give joyful thanks specifically for:

New medication and healing progress physically and emotionally for S.,

Ease of work stress and desired reduction of hours for L.,

Healing of infection, removal of tubes, steps taken and now G is finally home with his wife,

Approval and receipt of benefits, at last, for C and family,

Safe delivery of A’s granddaughter,

Ability to persevere and repay some debts for R.,

Provision of a mentor for S.,

Encouragement received and renewed relationship,

Invitation for me to go on a family holiday and for a wonderfully blessed week together,

Safe return of D’s £300 glasses,

Successful completion of courses, assignments and exams for J, C, Z and L.,

Preparing and painlessly calling C and L home,

Allowing us to bless and serve all the needy families over half-term.

And I thank God for His continued protection, healing power, salvation, comfort, guidance, grace, favour, displays of love, wisdom and blessings over all those we intercede and pray for.

God neither slumbers nor sleeps and He delights that we entrust to Him all those situations over which we are completely powerless. In our weakness, He is able to prove His mighty power and strength.

Thanks and praise to God.

Keep bringing all your prayers to your heavenly Father, who delights to give good gifts to His children.

Catholic with a small c or a big C?

I was asked to write an article about why I became a member of the Catholic Church. That happened 4th June 1988 – 33 years to the day – so I will now share the story briefly.

During my childhood, my parents were not Christian, but they encouraged me to join the Brownies-Guides, and so I had become familiar with the life within a lively Methodist Church throughout my junior and adolescent years. I had not known Jesus personally though, until I was ‘born again’ at 12 years and baptised at 19 years, in a Pentecostal-style church.

Even as a young Christian, one of the most beautiful parts of the Bible, to me, was Jesus’ prayer recorded in John 17. I fell in love with this Jesus, who prayed that His disciples would be one with Him and with each other, but also prayed for “all who would ever come to faith” in Jesus, that they too would be one with Jesus, the Father and the Spirit and one with each other. This prayer for unity has been my deepest prayer all my Christian life.

The Trinity is a perfect example of divine unity. And Jesus, the Son, prayed:

11 “Holy Father, I am about to leave this world to return and be with you, but my disciples will remain here. Holy Father, each one that you have given me, keep them in your name so that they will be united as one, even as we are one…

20 “And I ask not only for these disciples, but also for all those who will one day

believe in me through their message. I pray for them all to be joined together as one even as you and I, Father, are joined together as one. I pray for them to become one with us so that the world will recognize that you sent me. For the very glory you have given to me I have given them so that they will be joined together as one and experience the same unity that we enjoy.

You live fully in me and now I live fully in them so that they will experience perfect unity, and the world will be convinced that you have sent me, for they will see that you love each one of them with the same passionate love that you have for me.

John 17

I have always been upset to hear Christians speaking against other denominations – usually it is ‘happy-clappy’ versus ‘institutional’ types broadly – and I find myself often defending the ‘other side’ wherever I am. At the age of 20 I moved to Germany for a couple of years and felt challenged to find a church family where I would feel at home. I used the opportunity to learn and to become a member of four very different church communities. And I loved them all! There was the Evangelische church in the village and a ‘house-group’ belonging to them; the Katholische church in the village (the Evangelisch and Katholisch churches in Germany are roughly the equivalent of our C of E and Catholic churches in UK); I joined the ‘Free-Church’ in the city of Heidelberg and a ‘Taizé prayer and praise’ group. I loved the whole concept of Taizé and made several visits to the Taizé community in France – a beautifully multi-denominational and multi-national community of Christians.

I was seeking, asking questions, participating and learning… Three years later I was kneeling in a Holy Spirit-filled, Catholic seminary, in central London, and I had a vision-type experience: I saw a mighty oak tree, with a strong broad trunk, splitting into two wide branches, spreading out into ever smaller branches, carrying simultaneously both pretty, scented blossoms and wholesome fruit. I knew it was a lesson and the Holy Spirit showed me that the beautiful fruit and blossom on the tiny branches is only possible because they are part of and feeding from the whole tree. I was shown that the root of the tree was God’s chosen people from before Abraham and was shown how Jesus planted His church there, in that rich soil of the cross on Calvary, and it grew into a solid trunk through the early Church and has split and divided, through Orthodox, Roman, Protestant and hundreds of smaller communities, but continues to bear fruit and to flourish, because it has its roots in Jesus and the purpose of God.

To this end of unity and foundation, I became a part of the Catholic Church (with a big C!) on 4th June 1988. I later married in the Catholic Church and I spent over 15 years teaching in Catholic schools. I became a Catholic to fully embrace all of the Christian church. This was the path I was led to.

As Christians today, we are part of a rich heritage of faith in Christ, stemming back to those first disciples for which Jesus prayed. Personally, I will pray and worship God with any group of believers who follow the teachings of Jesus and believe that He is the Son of the living God. But I don’t want to spread myself too thinly and relationships take time to build, so in terms of daily life and time restraints today, the church I mainly serve is an active, more evangelical-type community. But I am glad to attend Mass and worship Jesus in that community whenever I can too.

I am very much catholic Christian – with a small c – in that I describe myself as Christian first and feel myself to be one with the whole universal church in my heart. The Catholic Church has many failings and shall be judged no less than the rest of the church, for the disrepute we have brought to the house of God. As for the atrocities perpetrated in the name of religion, which have actually had nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus, but are politics of power, hatred and greed, masquerading as ‘just causes’ – these will also be judged by God, who knows the heart of man. Those first disciples failed Jesus, even that very night that He prayed, but they repented, committed themselves to Him and He never left them. The church is always imperfect, as each member is imperfect, and will be that way until Jesus returns to take His Bride to Himself. As someone once quipped – if you ever find a perfect church, don’t join it, or else you will have spoiled it. But Jesus has built His church, He is preparing His Bride, and has promised that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

Jesus is still interceding for His church, for us, that we be one with Him and with each other, just as He is one with the Father and Holy Spirit. We cannot afford to be divided. People are watching us – when the unbelieving world sees how much we love one another, will they not see and believe? When people witness our unity, patience, peace, tolerance, humility, service and unconditional love for our brothers and sisters world over, won’t Jesus’ prayers for us be answered? Won’t His name be glorified when our lives thus reflect His love and won’t then His Kingdom come and His will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven?

May be be one. Amen.

Law and Grace

In the Beginning… and the Word became flesh and lived among us…

A fountain of life was in him, for his life is light for all humanity

Today I had a mini-revelation that has really blessed me through the day and I want to share it with you.

It came from reading from The Passion Translation (TPT) of the New Testament, in John’s gospel. I am reading it online where there is access to abundant notes peppered throughout the whole scriptures, enlightening my knowledge and understanding of both the linguistic meaning and the cultural/political meaning of words and phrases in the historical context. (It’s fascinating but also very slow going for me, as I’m too nosey to miss out any notes!)

The understanding is this:

1 – Moses brought the law to the people. Moses’ first miracle, as such, was turning water into blood… it was then also blood that spared the people from the angel of death. The people were released then from their slavery and bondage in Egypt…

but…

2 – Jesus brought Grace to the people. His first public miracle was turning water into wine – celebration of life and abundance – and it was Jesus’ own blood that freed us from slavery and bondage and spared us from eternal death.

Moses brought the Law and with the Law comes judgment; Jesus brings Grace and with Grace comes LIFE.

You can read it here, in John Chapter 1:

“15 John announced the truth about him when he taught the people,

“He’s the One! He’s the One I’ve been telling you would come after me, even though he ranks far above me, because he existed before I was even born.”

16 And from the overflow of his fullness we received grace heaped upon more grace! (Or “one gracious gift after another.”)

17 Moses gave us the Law, but Jesus, the Anointed One, unveils truth wrapped in tender mercy.”*

(1:17 Moses was the lawgiver, Jesus is the grace-giver. In the first miracle of Moses, he turned water into blood, resulting in death. In the first miracle of grace, Jesus turned water into wine, resulting in life and celebration.)

The Passion Translation (and TPT notes)

For anyone wanting to look at it in a Bible-reading plan online see – https://my.bible.com/en-GB

Train children in the right way…

English copy!

Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. Proverbs 22:6 (NRSV)

Jesus said, “Why do you break the command of God, for the sake of your own tradition?”… and He proceeded to quote from Isaiah 29:13 – ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me… their teachings are but rules taught by men’.

These verses remind me how much we need the fresh, daily manna directly from God, how we need the grace, wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit in all our affairs – especially in the way that we teach our children!

This week I was to teach our Sunday School class, following a prepared program thatinstructed me to teach the 2nd Commandment. Although the actual class would last no longer than 30 minutes, the lesson took me over six hours to prepare, plus many other hours praying over and discussing the questions I had myself. This may sound very inefficient (and perhaps would have to be different if I did it every week!), but the reality is that I learned so much myself during my preparations. I trust that the children also learned what they needed to learn too. But I want to share some of the questions and complexity with you.

Firstly, the 2nd Commandment, as found in Exodus 20 and in Deuteronomy 5:

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments.”

I had photos and toy animals to discuss the inanimate nature of such things, obviously drawing out the foolishness of worshipping the creature, rather than the Creator… and how even more foolish to create our own image of a creature and to worship that – given it can’t talk, act or anything! Everything in all creation is to worship the Creator, not the other way around! Of course, everything that God made is good and it is so natural and easy to look at ‘all things bright and beautiful’ and in awe and wonder for our hearts to be lifted in praise to God. It is in fact much easier to appreciate what we can see and touch, than to appreciate the God and Creator that we cannot see and touch. This was all straight-forward and fun. We then looked at kneeling in front of a cross, an icon, a bible – objects which perhaps take a little more explanation… Am I worshipping the lump of stone or wood? Or am I kneeling before Jesus, who is no longer on that cross, but is risen and alive?

Which is greater: the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred?” Matt 23:17.

These images and festivals and traditions can help us to worship God, as long as we don’t end up worshipping the image or the tradition… We must be careful not to create God in our own image! I know that when I cherry-pick the parts of Scripture that I like, I am in danger of doing this.

I know that you know this. I knew this. But I had to put it into words in order to teach it faithfully and clearly. The key was the verse – “you shall not bow down to them or worship them”. So we spent a while thinking through what worship is…

What is worship? What is love? If I spend no time, effort, thought, money on something or someone – can I honestly claim to love or worship them? We have many resources at our disposal and arguably time is the most precious, but how much of it do we spend doing God’s will. How do we spend our resources of time, money, energy, patience and effort? I ask myself these questions. If I look at how I use the hours in a day, what does that tell me about what is important in my life?

I would have more than happy to leave the lesson there – with the significance of an image and the meaning of worship, but the commandment had a further clause, which caused me many questions and prayerful study (actually, although I did prepare the rest of this, the lesson itself did not require it on the day, so this was the lesson that God was wanting to teach me instead). We cannot cherry-pick with the Scriptures! There were three aspects of this commandment and all connected, whether I wanted to look at it or not. This was the notion that God is jealous and ‘punishes the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation OF THOSE WHO HATE ME, BUT SHOWING LOVE TO THOUSANDS WHO LOVE ME AND KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS.’ The bit I capitalised is what I had not noticed as I first wanted to reject this statement. But that notwithstanding, still I took it in prayer, to Jesus who I knew had said,

Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19)

After asking God to explain this punishing the generations clause, later I picked up an old work-book, that I had begun to work through, taking me through the 12 Step Programme of AA, (hang on in, this is relevant) – and I had been instructed to draw a family-tree, to look at family issues of abuse, addiction, depression etc – through the family to my grand-parents – the third generation! And boy, they were a lot of issues that had been handed down… whether it was genetic or learned, nature or nurture, the patterns of issues (and sin) were very apparent. The people in Jesus time on earth understood this command literally and considered sickness and misfortune to be the punishment from God. It seems that part of Jesus’ ministry was to break that chain of inheritance. In John chapter 9, when Jesus meets the man ‘blind from birth’, the people asked whether it was because of his own sin or that of his parents? Jesus answered that it was neither, but that the people there may all learn of the power and glory of God. The reality is that there are consequences of sin and these we both inherit and learn – from our parents and teachers and from our institutions, traditions and from the structure of our society. We learn from what they do. We copy their example, for good and for bad. We mimic bad habits automatically. Often we are also injured, damaged, wounded by the behaviour of our elders, these are also consequences. This is why Jesus said.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach.” (Matthew 23:2)

We are to do what God instructs us to do, in His word and by His Holy Spirit. It is not my place to judge others. Jesus made this quite clear. God alone is the judge and the teacher. We are to forgive, over and over, as Jesus does. I am to forgive all those who hurt me and whose sins and issues had consequences in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. Often these others are powerless over their actions and behaviour and need our mercy and patience. Often the people who irritate me, hurt me and annoy me are the people who have been already hurt and damaged by another. Hurt people hurt people. This, I believe, is part of the generational consequences of sin. My children are still affected by the consequences of my sins and failings, though I thank God that He has broken the power of sin over my life and broken that generational curse over my children. I pray that they will know Him for themselves and walk with Him in abundant life and blessing.

I pray this for you too – that you may know the power of the risen Jesus to break the chains that may be in your own life; that you may love Him with your whole heart, mind and strength; that you may have the grace to forgive those who have hurt you; that you may live in abundant life, directed by the Holy Spirit and guided by the Word of God; that your children and children’s children will love God and keep His commandments and live in the blessings of His plans and purposes. Amen.

April Showers

refreshing showers of blessing

There’s huge resistance in me to write what I felt I should write – which is a post of praise and thanksgiving, for God’s faithfulness during another month (April) and of the peace that comes from casting all my cares upon Him. I said in March, that “God, in His mind-blowing love, not only takes these cares, concerns, fears and burdens upon Himself, but He exchanges them for His perfect PEACE!”

I have continued being very specific about prayer requests and petitions, for people in my life and community, and over and above every divine shower of blessing received, I can testify to the peace that I have from my heavenly Father who hears all the prayers that we bring to Him. His Word promises this peace. We are not imposing on Him with our needs and concerns, He commands us to come to Him. I want to thank God for His Presence, Provision, Power and Peace to those who come to Him, through Jesus.

Do not be anxious about anything,

but in EVERY situation, by prayer and petition,

with THANKSGIVING,

present your requests to God.

And the PEACE of GOD, which transcends all understanding,

will GUARD your HEART and MIND in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

I want to thank my God, that specifically, during the month of April:-

L’s tumours have all gone.

S’s knees were healed overnight so he could resume his exercises the following day.

R’s tests revealed she does not have DVT.

J and family all healed and recovered.

A was well enough to come home to spend family time before round 2 of treatments.

That G and I-M are both getting much stronger.

Thank You for providing perfect respite care and support for M and M.

Thank You that our church could provide about 175 lunches for those in need in our community over half-term.

Thank You that our toddler group has reopened after over a year in lock-down and

that AA has reopened and all the brave and beautiful souls there have remained strong.

Thank You for encouraging S and meeting her needs.

Thank You for providing me ALL my needs this month and more.

Thank You for courage to face new challenges and do things differently.

Thank You for encouragement, guidance and support in all my various writing projects this month.

I thank You heavenly Father that all the needs we bring before You are heard and that You are always working to bring to completion Your perfect plan and purposes for our lives. I thank You for the privilege of coming to You in prayer and for the promises and assurance of Your great love… for while we were still sinners, Christ died for us… and if You gave us Your very self, how much more will You not give us the Holy Spirit and all we need to live a blessed life of service. Amen

The Wrong Armour

What armour do you use and who is your enemy?

On an everyday level, do you find yourself sometimes aware of and struggling with conflict? Are you a sensitive soul? I am! But I want to be strong and I want to stand and be victorious. Nobody wants to lose even an argument, let alone a war! A few weeks ago I realised that I have, since childhood, learned a reaction to conflict that is not healthy. I have lost many battles, because I use the wrong armour and the wrong weapons. In fact most times I am also fighting the wrong enemy!

Some of these conflicts have actual substance, but some are even imaginations born of vulnerability and fear. I thought about the conflicts and battles in my life and observed myself in both my home-made armour and my fearful tactics. My ‘belt’ was my stubborn determination that I was right. My ‘breastplate’ was my people-pleasing conformity to a self-righteous standard of behaviour that I believed was expected of me. My ‘helmet’ was my denial of secrets and of my own responsibility. My ‘feet were fitted’ with a readiness to run and hide if punishment was coming close. I had a defensive ‘shield’ of my identity as a victim, and lastly, a sword pointing and attacking the blame at anyone I felt was attacking me…

There are some weary days when I could easily believe that everyone – or at least someone – is out to get me, attack me, argue, criticise or try to trip me up… some days when it all feels like a battle and a struggle to come through it alive, never mind unscathed! Whatever the cause of the conflict, it always demands a response – How do we stand strong? Do we fight or not? How and who do we fight? What weapons do we use? What armour do we use?

The apostle Paul urges the church in Ephesus to be prepared for battle and to put on the full armour of God. He also reminds us who the enemy is! It is not flesh and blood. It is not the boss who just sacked you, or the driver that knocked off my wing-mirror… it’s not even the relative that sent the nasty letter criticising our religious or political affiliations… our real enemy is the spiritual enemy of God.

Ephesians 6: 10 – 18.

The Armour of God (NIV)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is crucial for the helmet and the shield to stay in place and to keep the feet on the right path. The righteousness of Christ is His gift to us who are born again, and His truth I have to align with my own as I buckle my belt…

I have begun a practice of putting this armour on item by item, in my mind’s eye, every morning, and of praying for the grace to not fear, nor defend against, nor cast false blame, nor attack my fellow flesh and blood. I am praying for us foot soldiers throughout the world – for you, my brothers and sisters, who are fighting to stand strong. I am a work in progress. How about you? What is your armour?