Saturday, 21 April 2012

"My first Mum, Bruce..."

Sometimes children are the greatest comedians.  My five year old son, is so interesting.  I love him to bits, he is a very effervescent personality. He comes up with the funniest things. At home, pottering around during the school holidays, he pulls this out as a conversation starter, "My first mum, Bruce, she use to buy me lots of toys."  My reply, "Did she?"  Then I realised my response to his statement.  Clearly I wasn't tuned in very well.  When 'one' is a introvert, having a talkative extrovert in the family can produce some semi-conscious replies to the chatter that fills every moment of the day. I mean I'm pretty sure I would know if my child had another Mother before me, especially a woman called Bruce. I'm confident I was the one pushing when he entered the world. The memory has faded, thank you Lord, but I remember the day he arrived.  What a blessed day that was.  Both of my children were relatively 'easy' births, no complications, no emergencies, not too late (3 days late for number 2) nor too early (a week early for number 1), so I call that easy.  

This is my boy when he was 2 and full of mischief.

Pregnancy wasn't easy for me.  I'll leave that's for another post (If you're super curious why, see here). But both pregnancy and birth were a walk in the park compared to parenting.  Parenting is like the marriage after the wedding.  It's the hard work called love.  

Parenting creative, energetic, bright, grubby, smelly, funny, tender, generous, excitable, boys is hard work.  Especially when there are 'spectrum's' involved.  I am at this moment figuratively taking my hat off to parents of children with disorders.  As most of us are aware, the medical system has names for nearly everything.  Back in my day - did I really just say that?  How old and fuddy duddy of me. Anyway, back in my day, children were children, as they were, if you got a label it was 'odd or backward' if anything.  As a parent of a child with a mild label, I want to celebrate and get to my feet and applaud those parents who have children with challenges. All children are gifts from God, disorders are not from God, and He can heal, as my friend Adele can testify, however, for those of us who hold hands with these children daily, they bring such joy, amidst the challenge is much joy.

So stand with me, applaud, tip your hat or even give one of these parents a call, and bless them with encouragement. Bless them any way you feel called to, but bless them.  The sacrifices they give are deeply known and felt.  Yet sometimes, it is wearying and feels lonely.

Our strength is in the Lord, he sustains us in the challenge.  He gives us hope to carry on. He delights in our love and growth in our own character. In the challenging times with my child I would often remember this beautiful song; 

The road is long, 
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

If I'm laden at all
I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another

It's a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we're on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

He's my brother
He ain't heavy, he's my brother...

Friday, 13 April 2012

Bear Grylls talks about faith, family and Alpha Courses

My two boys find Bear Grylls shows to be the ultimate in entertainment.  They have become so much more adventurous and their play has become all about snares, shelters, collecting water, and killing things to eat. At dinner time, I've often found myself challenging a moment of picky eating with "Bear Grylls would eat it".  This guy is loved by many and loved to be loathed by many.  Some find him annoying, Me?  I'd prefer my kids were watching Bear Grylls than Ben 10. A modern day adventurer, with faith in God. Sounds good to me. But that's just my opinion.  

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Borrowed Blessing that I'm saying for you

"May God keep your heart set on pilgrimage.  May He keep your eyes upon the destination and never let you forget that your Goal is a person, Jesus Christ, and He is waiting for you - in person - at your finish line.  May you always remember what a great cloud of witnesses cheers you on in your journey to Mount Zion and bids you to "Be Brave!"  The race is not long, Beloved, so run hard!  May your eyes be open to snares your enemy sets in your path and should you tumble in the muddy ditch, may your troubled heart be disallowed to condemn you.  Jump in the air, twirl around buck with repentance before your God until not a single speck of mud is left on your feet. Let God wash them in the water of His Word and place them back on your path.  When you feel heavy-laden in your journeys, may you check first to see if it's the burden of a swollen ego or the load of taking on a role that only belongs to God.  May you lay down what has no place in your packs and crawl on your hands and knees, sowing the Word of God and watering it with your tears.  May you never forget that you are inconceivably loved and that God will prove infinitely faithful.  And, on your way to the great feast in the heavenly Jerusalem, may you glace often to your right and to your left and offer a fellow pilgrim a helping hand.  May the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth, bless you."

(Stepping Up - by Beth Moore, slightly adapted by me to make sense to those who haven't done the study)

Monday, 2 April 2012

1 Kg of Peas

How is it that there are so many people within church communities who would describe themselves as lonely?  

Do you have an answer for that one?  Me neither, but I think I have a solution.  That might sound a bit conceited and maybe it is, but I think I’m on to something so bear with me!! 

Do you  include yourself as one of the many lonely people within our church communities? Surrounded by sometimes hundreds of people, you can feel so utterly alone and unseen? Encircled by other Christians you can still feel so isolated? So here’s my solution…

A number of years ago I worked for a Catholic organisation that was under the “order of hospitality”.  I learnt many good things from working there. Being a Catholic organisation I learnt to light a candle when more than two people meet. Still to this day I’m not sure why exactly, but it was cosy, and created a nice space that felt comfortable and welcoming. The other thing I learnt was that offering and accepting something and sharing it together was priceless for building a relationship.  My employment was based around working with the homeless and marginalised and there were on certain occasions, times when I did not wish to be part of the hospitality I was being offered. To be given a cuppa in a filthy teacup with clear indications of the previous beverage still visible, lets just say it took fear factor courage to drink it. Yet to see their sense of acceptance as I showed appreciation rather than disgust went a long way to building the relationship, which probably shouldn’t be a surprise should it? 

Working for a Catholic order was not my first taste of hospitality. When I was growing up I remember we often had other families over for meals. There’s a joke in our family that whenever my Mum is cooking for people, she will put on a 1kg of peas.  It may not surprise you that there are always peas left over. Any family event, birthday, Christmas, whatever the occasion, on goes the 1kg of peas.  What that 1kg of peas taught me is that when visitors are coming, food makes them feel welcome.  The Bible is full of food stories; manna from heaven, feasts, feeding the multitudes, the last supper and on the list goes. I’m sure you could think of more. Sharing together is important, not just culturally, but spiritually as well.

How is your church doing in the area of hospitality?  Hard to answer for all those around you, so I’m going to zoom in a little more; how are you going with hospitality?  Instantly you’ve got a number of reasons jump into your mind as to why you can’t?  Here’s one very good reason why you can.

 “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace”.  1 Peter 4:8-10

Welcoming someone in to share your time and company doesn’t require you to have a nice house that’s presented in pristine condition. People won’t be bothered by that, anything like as much as you are, but if it’s a stress, you could invite them to meet you at the park or beach.  Welcoming people doesn’t require you to cook dinner parties, with 7 courses.  There is nothing wrong with a barbecued sausage in a piece of bread, or even a cup of tea. 

What about the biggest excuse of all. “I’m so busy and I haven’t got time”!  Palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware wrote of the top 5 regrets of the dying and number 2 was; “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard”.  As mothers we may not have a place to ‘clock in’, but we can certainly get ourselves working overtime in a hurry without any benefits. Do you know what I mean? Being involved in this and that, booking our children in to do sport, dance, and hobbies – and who drives them there and back?  Are we as mothers going to look back and wish we hadn’t worked so hard too?

What other excuses pop into your mind. “I’m not really a people person”. Well coming from a family of introverts, bar one very clear extrovert, I can understand where you are coming from, but what better way to get to know small groups of people is there, than by sharing a meal and some time with them. It sounds sensible to me. Obviously because we are all different you will need to create something that works for you and your family.

In our house we write lists of people we would love to share our time and home with and then we sit down together and work out dates that work for us and then send out an invitation. Sometimes we work these out months in advance. I’ll be honest with you and say this is a new thing for us.  We moved countries a number of years ago and quickly noticed that the best way to be involved socially was to be proactive and do the asking.  I feel quite sad as I write this, because there is so much we enjoy about our faith family, but the kind of hospitality I’m talking about just doesn’t seem to be its forte.  Other needs are met through practical acts of kindness and yet somehow we don’t seem to place enough value on the expressions of love that come with hospitality. I wonder if you're faith family is the same.

Has this got you defensive or convicted?  To the defensive, I simply want to love you enough for you to know you don’t have to defend yourself. Be honest before God, because this is just between the two of you. If the Holy Spirit is convicting you, then I challenge you to make change.  If you are generous with sharing your time and fridge, then keep going because you are showing love in a very special way.

I’ll leave you with this to chew on. Those excuses that popped into your head just now; are they actually as important as you first thought?  Hospitality is all about people. Sharing what you have, even if it’s not a lot. There are many things in the world that we can do very little about, but loving our family in Christ is not one of those things. Hospitability can ease the ache of loneliness in people’s hearts and in doing this you make a significant difference in people’s lives. By loving those in our faith family, we show those who are not believers that we honour Christ with what He has blessed us with, time, food, homes, family and love.

People don’t want gourmet, they want to be considered, to be seen, to have company.  All of which can be achieved with an invitation and simply sharing together. So get your diary out, and put the peas on.