I’ve been in a prayer triplet for 6 years now. About 3 years ago we started always eating together when we met up, (taking it in turns one does main course, one pudding and one sorting drinks.) Even though I have moved a couple of hours away we still meet up every couple of months. Today’s photo is of them making custard.
As long term readers of this blog will be aware I have an “interesting” relationship with church, having only recently for the first time started to look forward to church on a consistent basis. In church this morning I started to think about what it is about where I go at the moment that makes me love it, and what I should therefore look for when I move. Previously I might have talked about service styles, the music, what activities there were. Now however I can see what I appreciate, there is a feeling, especially in the prayers, of hope missed with reality. It’s not about praying that God will wave his magic wand and magically fix everything. Instead it is about praying to a God who will be there in the situation, will see the forgotten ones and stand with them in the pain, and hurt. The sermons I also appreciate, instead of feeling like it’s about making sure that all hear the gospel every week, it’s about treating us as grown ups, and helping us to think how we take steps in our faith, how it impacts on what we do. Not sure what I’ll find in the future but I want to hang on to that faith and the real world not being in conflict, but faith being what gets us through real life.
Again amazed at actually wanting to go to church this morning, ok still a fight to brave the cold, but I did it!! Yet again I was struck by how calming I find the prayers at the church I am going to at the moment. Coming from a tradition where prayers seem more “off the cuff” I am really enjoying the thought thoroughness of them. Each week different things are prayed for in a way that gives dignity to all, and acknowledges that there are no easy answers. Prayer comes across not as a magic wand to fix everything, but as a way of giving dignity and respect to those in different and difficult situations. There is an acknowledgement that yes God can change situations, but more than that we are asking for the strength to cope in the situation. It is very refreshing, it gives hope, but without pinning God into the corner where we end up with the question, why didn’t God answer. I have definitely found the prayers to be a source of healing and comfort to me.
In other news I am trying to work out what to say to a friend to which I really want to say “you stupid girl, did you think this through at all? What are you playing at?” But where I will have to at least seem pleased, even though I can see that there is a lot wrong with the situation, will have to try and find some tack, not my best skill!!
For various reasons, last week was one of those not so good weeks. On Thursday when I met up with my prayer triplet, I was feeling like there was no point praying, because I didn’t have the faith that they would be answered. My limit was asking for it not to be windy on Sunday, as I was going on a short ferry journey with a friend with balance problems. Sunday was not only still, but amazingly sunny. It reminded me that God does care for us, even when we feel like he doesn’t. (Not thinking it through to far, as to what it says about prayer and answers, just being grateful for Sunday.) Also a couple of different people have reminded me to break down in to do able chunks, and it’s ok to say no. I’m trying to remember this, as it is definitely helping at the moment.
I was thinking the other day that I seem to be better at having time out to connect with God when I go somewhere, where there are less distractions, where the amazing beauty of God’s creation is evident. But how do we connect with god where we are, how do we find that space right where we are. It’s easy(er) to go for a walk and meditate on God when we’re out in the countryside, but what about finding that space and connecting with God in the city, how do we “retreat” in any form in the city. I decided today, to see what happened if I went for a walk to help me to connect with God, something I find useful when out in the countryside, but what about in the city?
The first thing that struck me was that when out in the countryside my first reaction is to praise God, whereas in the city my automatic response was to pray for the different situations. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but the point of the walk was to concentrate on who God is, and to worship him. I got to a park about half an hour away and sat enjoying the greenery and decided that I need to chill it wasn’t about what I did or didn’t do, it was about God not me. I then wandered along by the river towards the station and found this amazing picture. I just looked at it and thought about 3 separate and distinct colours that are still separate but all need the other to make up the picture, which to me was a visual representation of the Trinity. It just struck me as useful to my thinking, and added a new little piece on to my understanding.
The other thing that set me thinking was that as I walked up through the city centre the Orange Walk came through. The reactions of those in the city centre was quiet interesting. There were a few obvious visitors who looked very puzzled and were obviously asking each other, What on earth is going on? The vast majority carried on as if it wasn’t there, with a few stopping to watch, I did here one person say to a small tot, you’ll be doing that when your bigger. I wondered how much this mirrored peoples reaction to the church? Most people ignoring it as irrelevant, while a few are totally puzzled by the church.
Just back from a “wilderness retreat” weekend. It was a retreat in the sense of getting away from it all, with a low-key spiritual element to it. The wilderness part was certainly true, there were eight of us on this wilderness weekend and we got dropped by boat in a bay at the top end of an Island, a long walk from the nearest people. It was a beautiful spot, with views out to sea and other Islands, the sea looked an amazing blue, but I know was really cold, as I had a very brief dip.
While I enjoy camping, I am not the most adventures of campers. So this was my first experience of wild camping. I’m not a great fan of lots of the more adventures (or less adventures) sides of outdoor activities. Therefor this weekend could be described as a weekend of facing my fears. As someone commented they loved the fact that despite being scared of boats, matches, scrambling over rocks, caves and a few other things, I had looked at a weekend like this and decided yes that looks a good idea. The facing of real fears and overcoming them was good for me. We can talk about overcoming fear in lots of areas of our life. But overcoming fears in a real and tangible way, helps us to be able to look at these moments when faced with less easy to define fears, and remember that we can overcome them. On the evening of the first day we were there we did a cave meditation. Just getting there was a challenge for me, which involved walking/ scrambling over rocks round the headland. I’m very grateful to the others for getting me there! Arriving at the cave, I thought I have to do this, even though I really don’t like caves so I went in. I sat there thinking. “How can I do anything different and challenging. Maybe challenging myself in everyday life isn’t the way to go, God how am I meant to follow you when I’m scared off different things.” (there was more to my thoughts which I don’t want to go in to.) We then did a meditation based on Lazarus (John 11) when we thought about leaving the grave clothes behind. I came out feeling totally peaceful. It was what can only be described as a “God moment”, when something is said or done, that answers what is going on in your brain which others don’t know about.
Sunday evening we sat around a campfire on the beach and talked about when Peter denied Christ while stood round the fire before the crucifixion, and about the fire on the beach when Jesus meets his disciples after the resurrection. We then had permanent markers, and wrote on stones, the instructions were very unspecific which suited me. I threw “fear” in to the sea, and brought “hope” home with me.
Often when life is tough, as Christians we are reminded of the verse “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We are encouraged to see that God knows what is happening and what we need. We apply to very specific situations, to make us as individuals feel better. Yet if we look at the whole passage we see that it is not written to an individual but to a whole nation. We also see that it is a long term promise, it is not about it all being alright now, it is written to those in a difficult situation, telling them how to get on with life now, and also looking to the future. Many of those hearing the message wouldn’t have been around to see the fullfilment.
Often as Christians we are so busy thinking about ourselfs as individuals we forget that God’s plans are the best not just for us but for others, and see the big picture. We are so busy wanting it to be right for us now that we don’t see the big picture.
After a break while life attacked (and a holiday) i am back suggesting countries for people to pray for. This week i would like to remind people about Lebanon, a country which has in the past been wracked apart by civil war. It still has UN peace keepers stationed their, as the Israel conflict often spills in to Southern Lebanon. It has some difficulty with it’s relationship with neighbouring Syria. Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the assignation of it’s former president, where Syria maybe be implemented. The UN are still investigating who is responsible.
Lebanon has the freest press of any Arab state. It has historically been a place of refugee from oppression in neighbouring states. It has a mix of religions. This is demonstrated by having a Christian president and a Muslim prime minister.
Prayer and Praise points
* Praise that different religious groups work together and that this will continue to be the case
*For relationships with it’s neighours – Israel, where the UN police an area in the South of Lebanon
– Syria with some in the country being pro and some anti
*Praise for the current press freedom, and that press freedom would continue to grow.
This week I want to encourage people to pray for the Falkland Islands. It is a British Overseas territory. This means that it is self-governing, but defence and foreign affairs are handled by the UK government. It is famous for the UK and Argentina going to war over it in 1982, while the UK retains sovereignty, the Argentineans are still claiming sovereignty over it. There are still disputes over fishing and flights over the Falkland Islands. There is also thought to be oil reserves of the coast, which could lead to further disputes. It has a permanent British military presence. It’s economy depends on fishing, and sheep farming. Tourism is on the increase but only makes up a small proportion of the economy. English is the language of the Falkland Islands with most of the population being of British decent. It is a wind swept island and is famous also for its penguin population.
• That the environmental and economics of tourism will be balanced.
• For continued improvement of relationships between the UK and Argentina over the Falkland Islands.
• For both environmental and political management of potential oil.
New week new blog. This week, I would like to encourage people to pray for Lesotho. Lesotho is a small landlocked country, completely surrounded by South Africa in. due to its size and position. It is very dependent on South Africa. With many migrating to work in South Africa, particularly, South African mines. Politically Lesotho is a democracy, generally, elections have passed off relatively peacefully. Lesotho has one of the highest rates of HIV in the world. They are taking steps to stop the spread of HIV. However, at the moment, the life expectancy in Lesotho has fallen from 60 years to 35 years. This has brought with it the associated problems of orphans and the elderly left to bring up grandchildren. At present, under the constitution women are regarded as minors, under the guardianship of male relatives.
Ideas for Prayers.
• That democracy would continue within Lesotho
• For the rights of women.
• The child headed households, due to the AIDS epidemic.
• For a continuation of the education into the prevention of HIV and AIDS.