Tag Archives: christianity

Building up community is like weaving a basket

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  A while ago God gave me an image of church needing to be like weaving a basket.

 The vertical ‘spokes’ which create the initial framework of the basket are like church structures.  They are essential but not enough.  They give the outline shape of the basket but of themselves do not create a basket that can be used. They also have gaps between them, so just like this it is not a strong vessel. This includes the hierarchy/leadership of a church.  It is vital as the backbone of the church but without the weaving is insufficient.

 It is the weaving in and out, under and over the spokes which then creates the vessel which creates the basket shape, the true structure of the basket. Only when the weaving is in place can a basket be used for carrying things.  There is a big emphasis these days on church leadership and training up leaders and this is important. However the ‘ordinary’ folk have as essential role to play in developing a church community as the leaders. It is the weaving on a basket which holds the spokes in place. The spokes on dependent on the weaving not the other way around.

 The basket maker weaves the horizontal strands very close together so that they touch.  This gives it strength and durability.  From a distance you don’t see the individual strands, you only see the finished object.  Those of us ‘ordinary’ folk in church have a role to play in being woven in and out of one another’s lives.  We are not to rely on the leadership for it all to happen but look for our places.  Often we look for our role to play in church life, yet we may have multiple roles to play, living as in a Venn Diagram in overlapping circles being involved in several activities and touching different lives in each.

 At home I have a log basket.  It is starting to fray at the top where some strands have come loose and broken off. Because it is looking a bit tatty, I keep saying that when it falls apart I will get a new one but the overall structure is so strong that it is still going and I am nowhere nearer to getting a new one.  BUT the bits on the top edges have snapped off.  Because they were at the edge they were most vulnerable to coming loose.  Folk who are at the centre of a community have plenty of strong bonds to keep them there, but those who are at the edges (for whatever reason and there are many) are in danger of drifting loose and being snapped off. Therefore, we need to take special care of them.

Basket weaving is very labour intensive.  We live in a world full of labour saving devices and we are forever on the look out for ways to take shortcuts and make our lives easier.  But building up community and relationships is labour intensive and takes time.  The front cover of our church newsletter this week included this section:

 Pastor Evans … gave me this time.  I remember long hours sitting and talking in his study surrounded by books.  Over those early years there were a number of people who took me seriously, and through those conversations I came out wanting to love God more and serve Him better.

 Building up community takes time. It will include lots of interactions and conversations for which you cannot ‘justify’ the inordinate amount of time taken, and in our world of striving to manage every minute of our day, much time will seem to be wasted. Yet looking at Jesus’ life you hardly hold him up as someone who managed his time well. A 1st C time management consultant would have mapped out a far more efficient route which would have covered a lot more ground, taking in far more ‘large’ and ‘important’ places and people in the three years that Jesus spent on his ministry. But Jesus listened to his Father because he ‘wasted’ hours in prayer, so he knew where to go today and who needed he needed to meet with.

 So how do we weave ourselves in and out of each others lives?

  The One Another Scriptures

love one another (John 13:35 – this command comes 16 times)
be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10)
honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10)
live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
build up one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
be like-minded towards one another (Romans 15:5)
accept one another (Romans 15:7)
admonish one another (Romans 15:14; Colossians 3:16)
care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25)
serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
forgive one another (Ephesians 4:2, 32; Colossians 3:13)
be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13)
be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19)
submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21, 1 Peter 5:5)
consider others better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3)
look to the interests of one another (Philippians 2:4)
bear with one another (Colossians 3:13)
teach one another (Colossians 3:16)
comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18)
encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13)
stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)
show hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9)
employ the gifts that God has given us for the benefit of one another (1 Peter 4:10)
clothe yourselves with humility towards one another (1 Peter 5:5)
pray for one another (James 5:16) confess our faults to one another (James 5:16)
Be honest with one another (Col. 3:9)

Why?

We are to do these things because we belong to one another (Romans 12:5; Ephesians 4:25).

 

Doubt: when the clouds roll in

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Tonight I watched a film called Doubt . It begins with a priest telling this story:

 A cargo ship sank one night. It caught fire and went down and only this one sailor survived. He found a life boat, rigged a sail, and being of a nautical discipline turned his eyes to the heavens and read the stars. He set a course for his home and exhausted, fell asleep. Clouds rolled in, and for the next twenty nights he could no longer see the stars. He thought he was on course but there was no way to be certain. As the days rolled on and the sailor wasted away he began to have doubts. Had he set his course right, was he still going on towards home or horribly lost and doomed to a terrible death? There was no way to know. The message of the constellations: had he imagined it because of his desperate circumstances or had he seen truth once and now had to hold onto it without further reassurance?

 This week for me, the clouds have rolled in. There have been occasional breaks in the clouds where I get a glimpse of the stars but most of the it feels like dense fog has descended. All that I thought was secure in my theology and psychology has been blown away. Issues I thought were resolved have come back to haunt me and I know longer am certain about what I believe about God. Worst of all, my biggest question, the one about how can a God of love allow all this suffering has risen its head again to the point of consuming me.

 The question I am faced with is what do I do? How do I proceed?

 Once I read that in times of crisis when faith flees, the thing to do is to act as if your faith is still there until it returns.

 I trust that this is true.

To watch the film clip click here and start at 4mins 20 secs.

The elephantness of God

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elephant and blind menThere is a tale from India about six blind men who wish to discover what an elephant is. Since none of then could see the animal, each one was given a different part to touch. The first man holds onto a leg and says an elephant is like a tree trunk. The second touches its tail and thinks an elephant is like a rope. The third holds its trunk and so says a snake; the fourth says a fan because he is touching an ear, the fifth feels the animal’s side and says a wall and the sixth likens the elephant’s tusk to a spear.

The moral of the story is clear: each one of the men only hold a small part of the truth about an elephant and therefore in order to get a larger and more accurate perspective they needed to share that knowledge and listen to one another.

From a Christian point of view it is easy to translate that into our perspective on God and life. God is SO big and awesome and beyond us that we hold onto to the little bit about God that we know and are sometimes scared to take on someone else’s experience and perspective because it challenges our own. For example, I am very happy with the gentle merciful side of Jesus which:

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Matthew 9:36

Yet I am extremely uncomfortable with subjects like judgement and hell. I know they are there in the Bible and have to be addressed, so I listen to them, trying to take them on board but they don’t sit nicely with the gentle Jesus I am more at ease with. This is why we need the body of Christ. We all have our own take on God and life. None of us has it pinned down so together we have a much richer and more accurate reflection of God’s nature.

HOWEVER the main point of this post is not about that. My real point is that some of us need to hold onto those parts of God that we KNOW are true in the face of opposing viewpoints. And sometimes the heaviest opposition we face is in church itself. When week in week out I am presented with sermons about how you need to be doing more to becoming transformed like Christ or doing more to serve him it is easy to lose touch with God’s key messages to me this year:

§ Stop striving, instead relax and receive

§ Sit at my feet and listen to me, like Mary of Bethany

§ Learn to live by the unforced rhythms of grace

These are not messages of doing but of being. I ‘do’ best when I focus on ‘being’ with God and ‘being’ myself with him, often gut wrenchingly so. So many times I have come home torn between between what I have personally think I know of God and what I have been told from the front. I end up confused and generally convinced that I must be wrong somewhere, that my experience is false in some way.

Yet there is a positive side to all this: it forces me to go further into God searching for answers. Asking for truth about the matter – his truth not mine or someone else’s. Sometimes it comes quickly such as a verse which leaping out of the page. At others there is no reply and I learn to live with the ambiguity of life but safe in the knowledge that I sought to find answers which in itself gives me an element of peace about it all.

Through it all I am learning to trust the part of God that I know to be true. It is hard and there is much refining to be done and many more parts to discover – however we need to start somewhere with God, whichever part that may be for each of us.

And in the end I just come down to trusting that the God’s elephantness and grace is big enough to make amends when I am blind and deaf to truth.

So which parts of God are you hanging onto or just beginning to explore?  Which ones are you desperately trying to avoid?  Let me know

Jo x

Forgiveness and Justice

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breakingfree

If like me you struggle with forgiveness read this article.  It is awesome.  As a result of reading I am finally able to let go of the past.  I hope it helps you too.

…It may seem odd to connect forgiveness and justice. Sometimes we even think of forgiveness as a way of nullifying justice or of making an exception to it: “Yes, justice demands that you be punished, but I forgive you instead.” This has something to do with the way we usually think of justice…

To read the whole article go to explorefaith.org – Forgiveness and Justice

Shared via AddThis

You mean I can enjoy serving God?

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Your vocation is where your greatest bliss encounters the world’s deepest need.

 – Frederick Buechner

What beautiful words.  I assumed that my ‘calling’ or vocation for God meant doing something I hated.  I thought that all the stuff about God having a good plan for your life and all that was just hype.  I never believed till reading this that I could actually enjoy serving God.

Awesome!

So what is your vocation?  What do you get passionate about?  Where do you want to help create change?  Let me know.

Jo x

changed by the chisel

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The other day many thoughts were running through my head (as ever) and somewhere in the background Ephesians 2:10 kept cropping up:

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Often I struggle to believe that I am God’s ‘masterpiece’.  What are the good works I have been created to do?  And more to the point when do I ever get to be ready to do them, rather than keep tripping up along the way? 

One moment I am going along and life is fine and I think that I am doing fine.  Then out of the blue, whoops, I blow it somehow and rushing up to the fore come all my bad points. So, then I start feeling ashamed for ever having contemplated that I could ever do doing ok.  Mixed up in all that is the gnawing wish that God would just leave me alone and stop shaping and moulding me – can’t I just stay as I am for a little while.  It would be nice to spend more time in a comfort zone than out of it.  Yes, I can see the benefits of all this moulding in hindsight but a rest along the way to admire the view would be nice.

And then the day after I received this clip.  It is awesome.

If like me, you struggle with struggling, then watch this and be inspired to keep going.

holding on to his hem

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woman_Jesus_hemorrhage150There are times when we come to the end of ourselves, ground down, utterly weary and beaten.  Life has sapped our strength, as disappointments have overtaken hopes. We have tried everything and still not been able to mend whatever it is that has been broken. It gnaws away at our very souls.

 It was the same for the woman who had been bleeding for twelve long years.  During that time, she had spent all her resources on doctors seeking out a cure.  Now she was penniless and almost out of hope.  

And a woman was there [in the crowd pressed around Jesus] who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.

 What happens in moments such as these?  As we come to the end of all we have and are, where do we go now?  What do we do?

When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Mark 5:24-34 (Today’s New International Version)

 The woman chose to reach out to Jesus knowing that he alone could save her.

Nothing else would work. 

No one else would do.

 

Jesus senses that touch and looks back, ignoring the disciples whittling on about the crowds.  He won’t move on until he has spoken to the person reaching out to him.

 Twice she has to go to him.  The first time she barely touches the tassels on the corner of his cloak.  This time she speaks directly with Jesus himself.  Both times it took courage.  Both times he responds to her. Touching his cloak she is healed physically.  After speaking face to face with Jesus she receives something even more precious.

 In Hebrew “Go in peace” is ‘Shalom’ which means wholeness.  Jesus not only heals her body but speaks words of life into her very soul as well.

 

 That word is not only for a woman 2,000 years ago.  It is for all of us.  Jesus came that we all might have life and have it to the full (John 10:10).

 But, like the woman, in order to receive it we have to reach out.  Jesus is waiting and willing but we need to ask first.

 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:16 (New International Version)

Reach out and grab the hem of his garment.  Jesus is never too busy with the rest of the crowd.  He will stop and look back for you.  He will listen as you tell him your story.  He will speak healing into your life.

 “Take heart, your faith has healed you.

Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

 

 

If this has spoken to you in any way or you too know what it is like to wait for healing then write and let me know.  Hope often comes from knowing that you are not the only one like this and others have gone this way and found what they were seeking.