The last time we talked, I left you to swim to the shore where Jesus was waiting.
Mirroring the reckless decision of Simon Peter, who couldn’t wait the time it would take for the boat to reach the shore, both he and I (I more metaphorically) dove into the sea and swam to the shore to reach Jesus as quickly as we could.
I can only try and explain the reason to jump rather than wait by borrowing an ending line from one of my favourite films, ‘When Harry met Sally’, where Harry confesses- “when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
I think that realisation pushed Simon Peter and I over the edge of the boat and into the sea: both of us realised that Jesus is our greatest need- and if Jesus is who we want to spend our life with, we want that life to start as soon as possible.
But I think that these new circumstances have caused many of us to question what this life will look like and we begin to use the language of impossibility and disbelief and doubt… I am a teacher and conversations with other teachers centre on the impossibility of going back to work; conversations with friends are full of doubt about what will happen and my own children are full of disbelief as life has shifted again this week… Isaac didn’t believe that he could swim in the sea- what if the police came? And Lyra was in disbelief as she realised that she couldn’t be with her friends as she had hoped. And me? Mum. Teacher. Aimee. The idea of home-schooling and working until September at least? Impossible. The practical implications of trying to create class sizes of 15 with 2m social distancing? Disbelief. And Aimee? Self-doubt and condemnation often come knocking on my door at the best of times.
Aimee-beloved- I love impossible situations- tell them how you let me into yours…
Impossibility, disbelief and doubt are the soundtrack of Aimee BC. When this track begins to play, do you know what Jesus has taught me to do? Do you love me? He asked three times. Of course, I love you, you know I love you… Jesus also turned up and made an impossible situation possible… It was two weeks ago, about 6.00pm, a Thursday evening and I was getting tea ready- all the usual domestic stuff. I was also multi- tasking- following an online course and this session asked you to invite Jesus to dinner (Revelation 3:20) and ask 3 questions: 1) What would you talk to Him about today? 2) What do you think His response would be? 3) How would He say it? What is His tone?
So, it felt natural to lead from the video into inviting Jesus to come join me for tea-but suddenly the power goes in the house: life becomes all practical and real as I fix the fuse (easy part) and then try and find what caused it (the harder part). It was the oven. And I’m looking at it- in disbelief (No! Why?) and thinking how can I get this fixed at a time like this? It’s going to be impossible! Anyway- I get a nudge in my spirit- remember the story you heard where the guy prayed for the dishwasher? Rueful smile, doubt- I liked the story but really? But then Jesus had got my attention- So, Jesus you’re here for dinner, we can’t talk properly and I can’t sit and eat with you cause the oven is broken and yet You are speaking and You are saying to pray for the oven. Ok Jesus- we’re both laughing- I’ll pray. So I pray for the oven and then the phone rings- ‘real’ life begins- it’s my dad- a cynical atheist- why don’t you pray for the oven? He scoffs… I already did… Then Isaac and I watch a film, I post a plea on Facebook for advice; look at YouTube videos on oven fixing, eat popcorn and head to bed...And then the next morning, when I wake up, I’m nudged to try the oven... And? It is WORKING! And it is still working.
So, what does life look like in these times?
Life looks like what- or Who we look at! My life looks like Jesus coming for dinner and staying to fix my oven.
And the bit that is really giving me joy is that if I keep looking at Him, He keeps looking back and speaking- see that impossible situation? I can fix that. See your disbelief? I can rebuild that. See that doubt? Let’s get it gone.
So, if you invited Jesus to dinner today, what would you talk to Him about? How would He respond? What song would He sing over you? I’ve got a feeling it would be a love song…
Do not judge.
I’m sure many Christians are familiar with this instruction from Jesus to not judge one another before we take stock of our own issues.
The passage in Matthew 7 when read in context tells us that there are times to judge but that we must be careful and considerate of our own position.
Watching the news and reading the online press and trawling social media show us that it is rare that we all agree on any particular issue – can anyone remember Brexit?
Rarely has an issue been more polarising for our society, and yet as important as Brexit was and still is, it has been surely superseded by our current predicament of the Coronavirus pandemic.
This has provided us with another chasm of differing opinion – lift or maintain the lockdown. Whichever is the right decision only hindsight can judge but people’s opinions and feelings are understandably still running high.
It is worth remembering that we are all made differently, in fact we are all unique, and we will often differ on many things. Apart from a minority of society who may be driven by selfish motives, I would suggest that the majority are basing their opinions on worthy ones.
Some are in need of a return to work for the financial security of themselves and their loved ones, others are afraid on contracting and or spreading the virus, making safety their main concern, some are bewildered by a desire for both.
While all these opinions are valid, they are often polar opposites and as followers of Christ we are called to disagree well. Whatever our opinion or position we need to love others as we would like to be loved.
The bible talks of the fruit of the Spirit that dwells in every follower of Christ. That fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
If we can display these characteristics of Christ in our daily lives, we will be able to disagree well and debate for positive outcomes from opposite sides of a divide. We are right to debate and question, to suggest and provide alternative views, Jesus did much of this in his ministry.
So, as we disagree with one another, let’s not judge but be kind, gentle, patient, loving and full of self-control.
I am reticent to quote social media straplines but, in this moment, it is very apt, if you can be anything, be kind.
Written by Hamish Macdonald.
I was out taking the dog (Murphy) for his morning walk and in the park we could see the signs of spring. It was lovely… the white and pink blossom in the trees and occasionally floating swirling down in the wind with vivid blue skies above. It made me thankful to be alive and I couldn’t help but think of a song lyric “cherry blossom in the market square”. (I’m sure Andy L will be commenting and quoting as I know it’s from one of his favourite bands !!).
I had already begun reflecting on some of the earlier posts which have been written during March and had noticed there seemed to be a tenuous link.
Geoff had written a post back on the 19th March and had called it Singing in the rain which is also the name of the 1952 classic song sung by Gene Kelly.
This was followed on the 23rd of March by his post titled from a Joni Mitchell lyric You don't know what you've got til its gone
Followed by Rachel’s post on the 27th March titled STOP who had inadvertently named it after one of her favourite songs from Sam Brown.
Paul wrote his post on the 29th March and called it Shifting Sands which reminded me of song by Deacon Blue also called Shifting sands !!
This caused me to reflect on just how important music can be and how much there is, in such a plethora of genres. I have long felt and known that music is a great influencer both for good or bad. It has an uncanny way to be able to evoke emotions and lead your feelings. I was reminded of a phrase “music feeds your soul”.
Food is so important for our bodies it is what helps us grow, keeps us fit and strong we know what a healthy diet looks like and the importance of it. We have heard it said, “we are what we eat”. Yet what we feed our souls is equally if not more important.
Are we as aware of what we feed our souls?
The above is what I began in mid-April then….
On Sunday (26th April) Geoff in his sermon continued his series on the Psalms of Ascent and talked about the soundtrack of our lives and even how this group of Psalms had been sung on the way to Jerusalem was like a spotify play list for a road trip for a road trip of Faith.
He then challenged us in his blog on the 27th April Surrounded by the arms of the Father to comment or suggest songs which we have found encouraging.
Really I’m not sure if my blog is not just a repeat of this but sometimes we do need to be told several times before we hear!!
So in this time of lockdown with lots of fear around are we careful in what we feed our souls? Do we remember God is faithful so we do not need to be fearful?
I was reminded of Psalm 23 verse 3 “He restores my soul and leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” in the NIV version it uses the word “refreshes”.
What is our soul?
Soul can be defined as the spirit and essence of a person.
Restore means bring back or re-establish, to return to a former condition, place, or position.
Refreshes means to renew the vigour or energy of (oneself or another).
Let us feed our soul and be mindful what we feed it. Look at the soundtrack of your life. Does it build it up or pull it down?
The great thing I noticed in the comments to Geoff’s blog was not the number of different and a variety of style of songs but they were all worship and praise songs which help focus us on our God who is the one who will build us up.
Ultimately, God is the one… the almighty, all powerful and all loving one who wants to be invited to be the centre of our lives and it is he who is able to restore our souls.
Music is a powerful tool but not the only one which can be used to refresh our souls. What other ways does God use to help refresh and restore our souls? Please encourage others with comments.
Thanks to all who are helping, co-ordinating, donating to our LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR campaign. We so appreciate it!
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I have been challenged these past few weeks about what I am doing as a mum to help Connie grow in her relationship with God, now she may only be 3, but it is important that she knows and loves God. So what can we do as a family to help our children?
1. Pray often
1 John 5:14: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
What routines do you have at home for praying? Connie prays before she sleeps so that means at midday and at 8pm, we pray together. I don’t think Connie knows what ‘praying’ is yet, but she does know how to speak to Jesus - and she loves it. We are now in a routine of repeating after me, followed by us repeating after her. Her prayers 90% of the time consist solely of “thank you for mummy and daddy, Amen” however there are days where others get a mention...family, Hamish, Rachel, the plants, her toys etc. What is she doing though? She is thinking about her day and then talking to Jesus about it. She wants Jesus to hear her. I encourage you to find a time to pray with your children, but encourage them to pray on their own too, fan that desire in them to want to speak to God.
2. Give thanks
Psalm 107:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.
I remember when I was pregnant with Connie and going along to the Mums’ community group - we were discussing thankfulness and Hannah said that she just thanks God all the time so the boys hear it and know to thank God - she gave some funny examples and we ate cake but it has stuck with me. I try to thank God out loud as much as possible with Connie, as I want her to know that we have what we have because of Him. So we thank God for the flowers we are growing, for the rain and sun that they need to grow. We thank God for our food, for her toys, for the bugs in the garden, for healing her ‘booboos’ (thank you American YouTube videos)...
How else can you thank God as a whole family? Could you create something - a piece of art or music? Maybe you can show your thanks in action - could you DO something for other people?
3. Fill with praise
Psalm 34:1 I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
I love praise time in Kidzone and Kidz Klub because it is truly wonderful to watch children unashamedly dancing and singing in the name of Jesus. However, this doesn’t need to stop on a Friday/Sunday. Playing worship songs in the house/car is a great way for the whole family to praise God. It doesn’t have to be ‘kids’ worship songs but I would challenge you that the words in kids songs make it real and understandable for children - He is their superhero, best friend, great big God. It doesn’t just have to be music - how can we just be speaking praise in the house? Creative ways to praise God.
4. Share Truth
Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Read the bible, tell bible stories and share testimonies of how amazing God is. This can be through reading a story, orally re-telling/acting it out or through online videos but make it a priority that they know the bible, even from a young age. Connie knows that God kept three men safe from a fire, that he created the world, that Jesus did amazing things and that he looks after people - she already knows of God's truth. She loves a book called God Knows All About Me - it is teaching her bible truth - no matter what she is doing or how she is feeling, God knows all about her. I want her to know that truth.
To grow in their faith, our children need you. They need you to pray with them, thank God with them, praise God with them and share the truth with them.
A lot of you reading have a lot more experience of helping building faith at home so please add in the comments with any tips that could help others.
(For families looking for resources, there are videos, resources and devotionals that you can use at home on the Kidzone page on the church website - this gets updated weekly).
Our Living Hope
Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— he remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord.
All around us the world is asking,” Why is this happening? Why must it end like this?”
As people are losing loved ones or are afraid this virus will come to them and their family, the Psalmist reminds us, “Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”
We can put our trust in the government, the medical scientists and the NHS as they do their utmost to protect us and bring this situation under control and we should pray for them as they give everything to do so at this time.
However, we are reminded in this wonderful psalm that we cannot be saved by human beings or princes or governments as when their souls depart from this world, their plans will come to nothing.
With all the best effort and intentions, we cannot save ourselves which is why we are called to put our trust and hope in the Lord our God, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Even before this pandemic that we now face, people would wonder about prevailing darkness and evil, suicides, rising violence, increasing poverty, injustice and disease. Where is the world heading? Does it all end with this?
As followers of Christ we are stewards of the only message on the planet than can ease the aching hearts of lost people, what their hearts need most, which is a message of hope.
Hope that prayers will be answered, that sickness will be healed, that doors of opportunity will be opened, that wars will cease, rifts healed, relationships restored and lives saved.
It is a message of hope that we must live out and hold up for the world to see and in doing so show them that life doesn’t have to end like this – there is hope, hope for all who believe.
Will we be the beacon of light and hope that the world is looking for? When the world around us is hopeless will we show them hope? Will we show them the way to a forever faithful God who promises a different ending? A promise of eternal life and hope in the face of despair.
Perhaps meditate daily on this wonderful psalm, Psalm 146, and as we go about our business in these difficult times, whether at work, in the supermarket, online or on the phone, live in the hope promised us by our faithful, loving God and allow others to see a glimpse of what life can be like with our wonderful Saviour – a life full of hope and empty of fear.
Themed worship suggestions:
Our Living Hope - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9l7lIisdyMk
God I look to You - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEubLmNPxwg
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people
both now and for evermore.
Someone called the songs of ascent a “road trip soundtrack”. It’s your Spotify list for the journey of faith!
These ancient believers sang as they journeyed. Surrounded by hills and mountains as they walked together up to Jerusalem to their festivals of worship.
One of the things I like to do is cook and put on my favourite radio show and listen to the music as I go.
Music and food and conversation lift my spirits!
These songs of ascent are for us during this time – they are our soundtrack of faith to lift our spirits and to help us negotiate our way through these mountains!
The truth we reminded ourselves of this week is that we are surrounded by God!
I am surrounded
By the arms of the father
By songs of deliverance
Psalm 125 tells us, we cannot be shaken, we are safe and secure, we are surrounded by the LORD and his presence.
“You are my hiding place, you shall preserve me from trouble, you shall surround me with songs of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7)
Let’s spend a little less time listening to the daily grind of 24-7 “news” and conjecture, and change the soundtrack. Let’s listen to the Lord’s songs of deliverance.
Put your hands up! You are surrounded!
What are some of the songs and words of scripture that are encouraging you during this season?
So, the last time we spoke I was on the edge of resignation- pleading for redeployment and deploying humour to mask anxiety, lack of control, and questioning- why were things happening ‘this way’? The nun thing was a nun starter- and I was full of self-doubt and found it hard to bear the weight of responsibility for myself, my children and the avalanche of new tech and new ways of having to work.
So, to magpie Geoff’s metaphor, I felt like I was drowning… But God proved Himself to be as He always says He is -He rescued me. He brought me to sit at His feet, to rest and learn from Him. A place of Peace. Hope. Love. Which lasted for about a week... Ok-days... Maybe a day?
Or until Easter chocolate ran out, boredom kicked in, bedrooms became wastelands, pants were left on stairways, dishes accrued quicker than I could wash them, home schooling advanced like trench warfare with small victories and heavy defeats…
It suddenly all got difficult again. And exhausting. And busy.
And I found myself closing my eyes and confessing that I wasn’t really doing any of ‘this’ because my faith was strong and I was good- but because I was full of disbelief and doubt and just ‘doing’ a desperate anything rather than a defeated nothing.
But what about when Simon Peter was fishing all night? You know the story- go look at it again…
Immediately God spoke to me (little doubter, full of disbelief) and I had learnt enough to listen- although some habits take longer to form…
And this is what I heard: Jesus always does it in His way.
So in John 21, the disciples are trying to make sense of circumstances that are beyond belief (sound familiar?) Jesus had been crucified and resurrected- and yet His way of victory was still beyond their understanding- how did Jesus leaving them spell victory? How could they trust that His leaving was the best way for them?
And Simon Peter’s response to these shifting circumstances is to go fishing. He goes back to doing what he had done BC- before Christ- maybe because it felt familiar, safe; maybe because doing something felt like moving… maybe because Simon Peter, just like me, couldn’t yet be still and trust and wait… And the disciples follow his lead, ‘we are coming with you’. And that night they catch nothing. These expert, experienced fishermen catch nothing. Another defeat. Another blow. They work all night with nothing to prove their efforts.
Now I am not a fisherman- but I have been a mum for 13 years, a teacher for 20, was baptised at 15- I should be pretty expert, right? Have some expertise to draw upon in these times? Be able to be still and trust and wait?
So why do I still feel like I must do something? And yet the doing still leaves me feeling like I’ve worked all night and caught nothing? My nets are empty. I have nothing to prove for my efforts…
Now the disciples know Jesus: He has been with them, in the night, in the storm, in the boat- He has proven Himself as the One who even the winds and waves obey; He has walked upon the water, in supernatural power with ability to rescue and save. Immediately. Do it that way again Jesus!
But Jesus does it in His way. He waited until morning was breaking and asks them if they've caught any fish. And they admit, no. So simply stood on the shore, He says, ‘Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find some’…
Jesus-resurrected, powerful, mighty to save, asks them to do ‘it’ again, one more time.
But with one difference.
And the difference is not really the side of the boat. The difference is that He asks them to do it His way. So, they ‘cast their nets and they were not able to haul it in because of the great catch of fish’. And doing it Jesus’ way-obediently, yields for us in this time, not fish, but peace and prosperity (Psalm 37) and a greater revelation of who Jesus is… ‘it is the Lord!’.
So what if Jesus has always been stood, waiting for us to stop doing things our way (trying to keep control, getting busy and distracted, working it all out in our own strength) and waiting for us to do it His way?
But what is His way? Come and have breakfast…And Jesus took the bread and gave it to them and likewise the fish. It is the way He has always been with us. Jesus our servant King waits to wait upon us, to provide for us, to serve us and to simply be with us. To love us.
So, today- I’m not drowning in these circumstances, I’m throwing myself into the sea and swimming to the shore- Jesus is waiting.
Remember Rudyard Kipling’s poem?
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise….
If is such a small word that makes such a big difference…..
A lot of things can hinge on an “If”
Here the Song says:
If the LORD had not been on our side….
We would have been swallowed up alive…
The flood would have engulfed us
The raging waters would have swept us away
We would have stayed trapped
The inference – the statement of faith and fact – is that God is indeed with us…. And that changes everything!
Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.
The Songs of Ascent that we are studying together on Sundays are such encouraging psalms of faith and hope and endurance and security.
We are reminding ourselves in our weekly rhythm of the goodness and the faithfulness and the trustworthiness of God.
Remember that many waters cannot quench God’s love, rivers cannot overflow it!
Remember Peter who started to sink beneath the waves and who cried out:“Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
Remember Isaiah’s promise: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you”.
Remember the Psalmists’ declaration: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam…”
Remember this week: God is the best buoyancy aid ever!
You won’t go under. The waters won’t overwhelm you. The torrents won’t sweep you away…..
If God hadn’t been on our side….
But he is.
He is on your side.
Your help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
To all those trying to homeschool...
Liz, the manager of Roundabout Nursery, wrote this post for the families of the nursery however we love the practical advice about un-schooling in preparation to home school.
I have read some interesting articles over the last couple of weeks about home schooling and the impact that working from home and schools being closed has had on families.At the weekend I read about the concept of 'Un-Schooling' children. That often, when a family chooses to start home schooling they would go through this process. i.e forget routines and expectations and just 'be'. Then, after a few weeks, when the child is ready, they will begin to seek out routines and learning of their own accord.I am a great believer in routines. I have three children of my own. They are now 17, 15 and 13. When they were little I used to draw routines for them and stick them onto cupboards, even in the holidays. We still have routines, albeit slightly looser these days. We sit round the table for dinner in the evenings. We have a TV dinner on a Saturday, church on Sunday, clubs during the week.But during these last few weeks we have 'un-schooled' the children (and ourselves, my husband is a teacher too!). We have just existed together, and we have enjoyed it.....well most of the time. We have worked when we have wanted to or needed to, but other than that we have just enjoyed slowing down. But now we are ready for a bit of structure to our day. Whilst we are still allowed to, we are taking our daily exercise, we are beginning to insist on set sleeping and waking patterns, we are sharing the jobs out, and encouraging hobbies.I recognise that for those of you with little ones, your routines will look very different. And I know that there have been mixed opinions on whether we should be creating routines for our children at this time or not. It has been great to slow down and not feel so rushed, but children really do benefit from routine and structure. Don't overdo it, but if you haven't already, perhaps take some time to think about how you could structure your day.At Roundabout we are influenced by The Curiosity Approach. They have recently published an article about routine and how to create one in these new times we are experiencing. You can read it here www.thecuriosityapproach.com/blog/routines-and-rhythms-at-home.