The illusion that all is well.

We meet together to consider how we can offer the best pastoral care and friendship to any LGBTI+ people in our churches.
It was an evening to listen and discuss ways in which we can make our churches more inclusive.
It was at this evening I heard Lizzie Lowes story.
It’s lizzie story that I want to share with you. Its not a easy story to share but it’s important story that I feel it needs to be shared.
September 2014 Lizzie Lowe took her own life. Lizzie Lowe was 14 years old and gay.Her tragic death shock her church, her school and her wider network of friends.Nobody in her family or church knew that lizzie was gay (they wished they had).
Lizzie like any teenager was still exploring her feelings, juggling those powerful teenage emotions.
It was only at the coroners hearing, her family and church learnt that lizzie sexuality and her perception of faith were at odds with one another. This was expressed in text messages that lizzie had sent to her close friends leading up to her fatal decision. Lizzie had became convinced that God could not love her the way she was.
Something deep inside tells us our churches are not as they should be. Many like lizzie are marginized because of their disabilities, race, class, sexuality or identity. Things need to get better.
We need to give a voice to what we want to see made new. We need to be able to tell our own stories without feeling the church will no longer welcome us. We should not be ashamed of who we are, we need to talk to each other . We can change, it’s seems overwhelming, it’s easier not to change. To keep the the illusion that all is well.
Yet Jesus taught us to love one another, he taught us “ you are the light of the world “ his words dare us to believe that we can participate in making not only our churches but the world the inclusive place we long it to be .
More than any other generation we are aware that everything is connected, we shape the world by our choices.
Change begins with us – all of us.
Each day brings us new opportunities to step into action, to live by doing to others what we would have them do for us. To love our neighbours as we love ourselves.
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One big long emotional prayer.

A wooden cabin located in the Somerset country side was our home for the weekend.
This beautiful location with its own private garden was a safe place to off load the burdens that we carry. Two friends on a weekend date with God.
We gave ourselves permission to be real, not just with each other but also to God. We talked about pain and fears. Being open without the slightest fear of judgement, knowing that we are loved.
The weekend was best described as one big long emotional prayer.
It was weekend of giving to God in a way that I have never really experienced before. I started to understand that the gifts I have do not belong to me or the church, but to God.
Gifts that have been freely given to me with the purpose of using them to help others, to praise God in my actions.
I experienced how astoundingly powerful just being with someone can be. How sharing and preparing food together is an act of gratitude, knowing that we are fed by God.
It was strangely exhausting, An emotional exhaustion that is almost neutralised with prayer and love.
As I listened, prayed and journeyed with my friend I grew too.
I showed myself that I can lead prayer. I can pray with someone that’s hurting and make a difference.
Showing my love the only way I knew how. Grounded in the ambulance of natural beauty that surrounded us. I shared the love that residues in my heart. We both felt that peace and love that comes from God.
The prayers we shared were personal and a beautiful reflection of our friendship. The loose itinerary planned pushed us both in many different ways but at no point did we feel uncomfortable.
Journeying with my friend giving her space to be with God, to share Gods love for us was a privilege.
To listen to her story, to be trusted with her thoughts and to share her prayers was friendship at its best.
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1 Peter 5:6-7 The Message (MSG)
6-7 So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.

Seeing The Bigger Picture.

The church I attend has been running a stewardship campaign. Asking us to look at our giving to review the money we give to the church.
It’s left me feeling that I have very little to give and what I do give is not enough to make a difference.
Church for the last few weeks has been personally for me focusing on what I don’t have. It’s been a focus on my lack of income and my failure to give. It’s left me feeling guilty about the money I spend on ourselves. Wondering what else can I cut out of my life to give more to God.
I have associated stewardship with the sermons I have heard and the letters I have received about church budgets and lack of funds.
I have since come to understand that the fundamental principle of biblical stewardship is God owns everything, we are simply managers or administrators acting on his behalf.
Stewardships heart is deep in creation. Creation that God has entrusted to us with the understanding of God’s ownership of all.
I needed to see and hear the bigger picture look beyond the budgets to the way God connects everything we do with what God is doing in the world.

Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.
– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
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Journeying beyond my boundaries.

Day 39 – Lent Challenge – Freedom.

My penultimate blog for lent. 39 blogs on people that have changed and influenced my life. It’s a thank you an acknowledgement to some amazing people that I have been privileged to know, and in some cases love.
Writing the blogs has been a little bit of an epic journey. Some blogs I have had to work desperately hard to find the words that tell my story. It’s been very emotional at times, I find healing in the writing.

This blog is a thank you to a very individual down to earth man. I have so much respect for him, he showed great friendship and kindness. He also took me beyond my comfort zone, allowing me to experience the joys of being happy in my own skin.

Understanding my own journey to happiness is individual to me, not to compare myself to others. Learning that expressing my thoughts even if those around me do not think the same as me is ok.
He helped me take my first steps to seeing the freedom of thinking different. He helped me find the confidence that was buried very deep within myself, bringing it slightly nearer the surface. I found joy in being myself, making me feel more motivated and more determined to challenge myself, to be adventurous.
He taught me the values of being me and never forgetting how important that is.
He believed in me, he trusted me to push myself but also gave me space for when things become to uncomfortable.
I smile when I think about our times together. The journeys to visit him and his wife. The evenings spent on the edge of the Mendips sat in their garden watching shooting stars.
His funeral that filled the tiny parish church. He was a special one of kind type of person.
Although I am shy and lack confidence.I am happy in my own skin and have been for many years. The confidence that he taught me was a inner confidence. It stayed inside without the voice until I found my faith.

I am revisiting the area that he lived more frequently at the moment.
A journey that followers the same roads but with a completely different destination.
I journey that will need me or push myself in ways that I have yet to think possible.
A journey that scares me far more than excites me. Discovering and responding to Gods call, journeying beyond my boundaries.

It’s stepping out to follow where Gods voice is calling me. Finding my faith has given purpose and reason to challenge myself. Allowing confidence that has been locked away inside to grow. God has given me a voice and with that voice comes adventure, love, hope to a destination yet unknown.

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Jeremiah 29:13 Good News Translation (GNT)
13 You will seek me, and you will find me because you will seek me with all your heart.

Valued and Loved.

Day 33- Lent challenge – Give

We need four hugs a day for survival, Eight hugs a day for maintenance 12 hugs a day for growth.
We really don’t hug enough. Twelve hugs a day for growth that’s almost one hug for every waking hour.
There’s something about the raw simplicity of a genuine hug. There’s beauty in that simplicity. It’s love compassion and peace. A gift that holds you in the moment. A hug is love in action, love without language. It’s love from within spilling out from our hearts into our arms.
Theirs a human connection in a hug. Jesus touched the untouchable, embraced the children. Jesus did not wave from a distance, acknowledge our pain with a dutiful smile. He did not love and heal with an a understanding nod of his head. He embraced.In that embracing opening a way to God, forming human connections and expressions of love. To hug and love each other is profound and real. A living connection to God. A loving connection that children by their very nature understand. A connection as adults we forget.
I defiantly think we should hug more.
I read the other day that a hug is an outward sign of an inward grace. It expresses our spiritual oneness with God and each other.
What could be more beautiful?

Todays blog is a thank you to a very special person. A humble friend with a big heart. They give the warmest most sincere hugs. It’s a gift to be able to hug as they do. Being loved by God while being held in their loving arms. Held in the moment, valued and loved, it’s a transfer of emotions.
I need to challenge myself to hug more. Reaching out to those I love and those who need to feel love and compassion .
Remember we need four hugs a day for survival, Eight hugs a day for maintenance 12 hugs a day for growth.
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Matthew 11:28-30 Good News Translation (GNT)
28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30 For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.”

Love – Faith – Friendship.

Day 30 – Lent challenge – Friendship

This poem is for a friend. It tells of our journey together.

Love – Faith – Friendship.

Friendship of colours painted on faces.
Blended with glitter and sparkly dust.
Henna flowers on the backs of our hands
Hugs of glitter crafted in love.
Friendship, painted, splattered.
shared.

Bold colours blossomed.
So we grow.
Journeying as families
We loved
Through tears we said our goodbyes

Harsh times.
Vulnerable hurting.
Anchoring our hearts in pain.
Holding firm you kept us secure.
You understand our pain.

Quietly empty our hearts longing.
Stopped and stunned empty silence .
Roots form.
Intertwined with leaves of children’s laughter
Families standing together.
We blossom.
Grow.

New beginnings -fresh laughter.
Breakfasts cooked- films watched
Sunrise blocking out our pains.
Renewed charged.
changed.

Nourished by just being.
We breathe.
Nurtured by prayer.
love.
Faith.
Friendship.
We share.

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1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Good News Translation (GNT)

4 Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; 5 love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; 6 love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. 7 Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.

8 Love is eternal. There are inspired messages, but they are temporary; there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease; there is knowledge, but it will pass.

Feet planted firmly on love.

Day 29 – Lent challenge – Questions.

This blog is to my friend of 40 plus years.

Our lives have taken a similar paths. Life’s ups and downs have been shared and solved over many tears and evening walks together. We have seen challenges and problems we never imagined. My friend was always the adventurous one encouraging me to have a go, take risks.
A lot of that was down to our parenting . She was encouraged and allowed to take risks. Her parents would always remind us as we cycled of on an adventure that God would look after us – trust in the lord. My parents would give us the 3rd degree on not talking to strangers, not going to far on our own etc etc. We listened to neither cycled care free.
We both continued to ignore her parents views on faith and God. We learnt to disappear when the subject of our personal relationship with Jesus was the topic of conversation.
As we became adults they became more persistent in their longing for us to be saved. Family barbecues could if we where not careful turn into question time . Strong big uncomfortable questions. Questions that made you want to run, Questions that we could not and did not wish to engage with.
It started to become a family Joke. We talked about conversation rates. Learnt to change the subject when we were asked if we accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour ?
We did not understand why they did this. We certainly did not want a life with Jesus if this is how people behaved and acted.
My friend was often embarrassed and hurt. God to her was a problem that would not go away.
When my friend turned to her parents for help they in turn turned to scripture. They recited verses which to her that had no meaning. Words that where alien and seemed unkind. Words totally out of context to my friend. My friend was just looking for a hug some love an understanding.
My friend is told God is the answer to her grief and pain. A God that is just words to her and a God that causes her embarrassment and pain.

We still walk together about once a month. She has started to slowly ask questions about my faith. We talk about the children’s groups I help with at church. We have started sharing God together .
Some walks we are really chatty others we don’t even approach the subject. She leads and I share.
Friendship and Gods love has to be at the heart of my faith sharing. Meeting people where they are. Walking with them letting them in their own time and space ask questions.
I long for my friend to see the God that resides in my heart. The God of love, the God that gives great big hugs when you need them. A God that takes nothing away from you just enhances and allows you to see things so differently. The God that has saved me because I asked to be saved. Not because someone told me it would be a good idea.

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Ephesians 3:17-19 The Message (MSG)
14-19 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

Greek Holiday 1989.

Day 14 – Lent Challenege 2018- Journey.

This year I am following a 12-month Bible reading plan.
The Journey through Acts sent me on a physical journey to the loft. After lots of rummaging through suitcases I finally found my Greek holiday journal from 1989.
This Journal is full of memories of a fabulous trip to Athens followed by a cruise around the islands.
It’s great to see my photos of the places mentioned in my Bible readings . The places I visited as a teenager are helping me today. Joining up my worlds making the Bible come alive .

Years later my travelling companion introduced me to my husband, supported me through pregnancy loss. When her beautiful baby daughter was baptised she choose me to be one of her God parents.
It’s a massive hug of thanks to my friend of many many years.

Acts 17:16 Good News Translation
While Paul was waiting in Athens for Silas and Timothy, he was greatly upset when he noticed how full of idols the city was.

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Acts 21:1 Good News Translation
We said good-bye to them and left. After sailing straight across, we came to Cos; the next day we reached Rhodes, and from there we went on to Patara.

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Acts 19 Good News Translation
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the province and arrived in Ephesus.

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Revelation 1 Good News Translation
9 I am John, your brother, and as a follower of Jesus I am your partner in patiently enduring the suffering that comes to those who belong to his Kingdom. I was put on the island of Patmos because I had proclaimed God’s word and the truth that Jesus revealed.

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Viewing life through the eyes of others.

Day Four – Lent Challenge 2018 – Hospitality.

Today’s Lent challenge prompt is “hospitality ” and I chose to share and say thank you, to one family that are very gifted in hospitality.
Its their total acceptance of who we are. Just as God excepts and love us so do they.
Viewing life through the eyes of others is never easy. It’s so easy to criticise those that do not think the way we do.
It’s so easy to think someone that is loud is rude.
It’s often just their way of hiding the true person. The person they are to afraid to show the world.
It’s only when we take time it get to know people do we discover the true them.
Many of my friends can’t see beyond my husband’s negative comments.

The phrases that comes from his mouth can be blunt and seem rude, but that’s not really him. He would be devastated to hurt someone’s feeling. But he also can seem rude, condescending, or downright mean. Making terrible mother in law jokes that are not funny, laughing at another person’s mis-fortune, or cracking inappropriate jokes.
We have found ourselves as a couple on the edge.
Church family has broken the cycle of us feeling rejected. It has broken the cycle of us not socialising.
Hospitality really is God given. It has only been through the church that we have felt this expectance and love.
So thank you to this wonderful family for inviting us into your lives, for sharing food together and laughing with us.

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Romans 12 The Message (MSG)

12 1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.