Friday, 26 April 2013

Who Am I? The spiritual search continues

Wednesday was a busy day for me. In the morning I went to Billesdon in Leicester for some newly qualified minister (NAM) training arranged by the East Midlands Association. Then it was back home to put together a Bible study on Women in the Bible, vacuum the lounge (a must with two cats), eat tea, and lead the house-group. I think working a 13 hour day was a bit of a mistake but nevertheless an enjoyable one. 

The house-group is newly formed and has been, until now, an all female affair. It was perhaps ironic that we welcomed our first man to the group given our study topic. I shared some of my experience of what it was to be a female minister and the gender inequality that existed in the church as well as reflecting on why we don't hear so much about the women in the Bible. 

Who am I? is a good question to ask. I am no-one special really, just me, but I am a women with a call to ministry ingrained on my heart. Sometimes I would like to escape that, and indeed I have tried to deny the calling, run away from it (for over 10 years), given it back to God, fought it, and eventually given in and followed that calling. It has not been, and isn't easy but this is part of who I am.

Earlier in the day at the NAMs training we looked at the subject of spirituality, a topic close to my heart. The sessions were taken my Revd Dr Tim Mountain who has just been appointed as a tutor at Northern Baptist Community. His teaching was excellent and I am sure he will be a great blessing to the college.

After spending time in worship we looked at some definitions of spirituality, such as that from Alistair McGrath (Christian Spirituality, Blackwell, 1999).

Christian spirituality concerns the quest for a fulfilled and authentic Christian existence, involving the bringing together of the fundamental ideas of Christianity and the whole experience of living on the basis of and within the scope of the Christian faith.

For me spirituality is about the way in which I connect and engage with the living God, be it in the still small voice that makes the hair on my arms stand on end, or the vastness of the Grand Canyon that reminds me of how awesome God is. God speaks to us in lots of different ways but we have to take time to listen to and experience God for ourselves. 

We looked at the criteria for Christian spirituality, such as, our core beliefs about who God is, and our 'rule of life' (our regular routines that maintain our relationship with God), and the different ways that we engage with God noting that whilst we may do that in many different ways we all have a preferred method. For me connecting with God comes most naturally through nature, normally pottering around in the garden. Even today's half an hour of pulling up weeds helped me to pray and to focus better on God and what really mattered. I think I might do this every Friday when I am trying to write my Sunday sermon!

After a little discussion on spiritual direction and whether we have a spiritual director (I do), we were invited to take part in several spiritual exercises. It was good to have some time to spend alone with God. For me the following exercise entitled 'Who am I?' was the highlight of the day, although the worship was pretty fantastic.

  • Choose an object that suggests something of who you are and the journey you are on.
  • Reflect on the reasons you have chosen it.
  • Do you think you would have chosen it a few years ago? Why?
  • Express your thoughts and feelings to God in prayer - perhaps silently or by writing them down.
           (The purpose of the exercise is to reflect on the person God is at work on.)

This is a picture of my choice of objects, well some of them. There were also an onion I was tempted by but here is my choice. I later found found Tim had chosen the same object when he had done the exercise a few years ago. 

So who am I? What are the similarities between what I chose and who I am and the spiritual journey I find myself? 
  • It is bright, cheerful, and fun. So am I, most of the time.
  • It has an empty space needing to be filled. I have a need to be constantly filled with the Holly Spirit.
  • It has a wiggly line around it. Life and my walk with God is full of highs and lows or as I like to refer to them as hills and valleys.
  • It has a bit of a chip. Like me it is not perfect.
  • There is a red line around it which reminds me of the blood of Christ and the healing that he brings me.
  • There is a green line around it - my mind turned to being sea sick for some reason. Life can be so hectic. It makes me dizzy and a little sea sick at times. I guess I am also a little green behind the ears as a NAM.
  • There is a brown colour at the bottom of the mug which reminds me of the earth. I am earthed and rooted in Christ who is my foundation. 
  • The cup reminded me of the women at the well (I preached on this last week). Jesus asked for a drink but he had no bucket or cup to put the water in. After meeting Jesus she went into the town and said, 'Jesus knew everything about me.' God knows everything about me.
  • As I selected the mug one of my friends laughed. I asked them why and they said because of the obvious. I wonder if people do think i am a mug sometimes, perhaps I am for following this calling. Others may think I am a mug but actually I am the carrier of the cup of the Lord, offering others a drink of living water.  

Would I have chosen this a few years ago? No, probably not. In my other life (pre-ministry training) I was a financial adviser so I would probably have chosen a calculator or something similar. Have a look at the photo above, or around your home, pick something to represent you and do the above exercise. There are no right or wrong answers just be open and engage with God. Feel free to post your comments and let me know how you get on.  

Who am I? The spiritual search continues. I like to think I am very self-aware but there is always something new to discover about what makes me the person I am and indeed who I am in Christ.   


Friday, 19 April 2013

Dear God

I came across this today written in my first year of training for ministry as we looked at the subject of worship. Previous to that I was working at a drop-in for young people which you can probably tell by some of the language I used to express myself. I can't say this is the best thing I have ever written but it made me smile so thought I would share it, well for a short time anyway!

Dear God

I love you.
I worship you.
I adore you.
I know you but I long to know you more.
Holiness is you, make me holy, make me more like you.
The world seems so full of sin,
It's difficult to know where to begin.
What do I want?
What do I need?
Do you agree or do I need to change my mind?
Forgive me for the times I moan.
Forgive me when I make you groan.
Build a hedge around you and I.
Keep me safe and free from sin.
Help me to walk close by your side
Closely with our hands entwined.

God your cool, your massive, your mine.
My Lord divine.

Friday, 5 April 2013

The tale of the little black cat

A poem by Thomas Hardy: Snow in the Suburbs


Every branch big with it,
Bent every twig with it;
Every fork like a white web-foot;
Every street and pavement mute:
Some flakes have lost their way, and grope back upward when
Meeting those meandering down they turn and descend again.
The palings are glued together like a wall,
And there is no waft of wind with the fleecy fall.

A sparrow enters the tree,
Whereon immediately
A snow-lump thrice his own slight size
Descends on him and showers his head and eye
And overturns him,
And near inurns him,
And lights on a nether twig, when its brush
Starts off a volley of other lodging lumps with a rush.

The steps are a blanched slope,
Up which, with feeble hope,
A black cat comes, wide-eyed and thin;
And we take him in.

I came across this poem the other day. I have loved Thomas Hardy's work since I was a teenager. It is so descriptive. I love the way he entices you into the story and paints pictures. There is a little black cat that visits and seems to want to adopt us. I often hear it coming through the cap flap at night and then going back out again when it hears me get up. I managed to catch it the other day. I am a little concerned as to whether it is OK and wonder if it is a stray or not. It looked well fed, but then it has been feasting on the food left for my two cats. It seemed well although its heart beat was going ten to the dozen but then it didn't expect me to pick it up. I normally give it a shoo. I asked it where it lived but got no reply only a wide eyed look. We have had such bad weather recently I have been worried it was OK. A few days ago when we had some snow, after chasing out the cat flap, it looked up at me through the kitchen window and meowed. It captured a bit of my heart that day. Who does it belong to Lord? I asked.
Yesterday evening a sign went up outside the house opposite with a photo of a cat on it. I went out to investigate. It read 'Missing for 2 weeks' and there was a photo of the little black cat. I knocked on the door. It seems the owner inadvertently frightened the cat after telling it for peeing where it shouldn't and it disappeared. Was this the same little black cat? I think so.

We all need somewhere to call home. I am reminded of the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31) who spends his inheritance living the high life and, when the cash runs out, returns to the family home with his tail between his legs. Not knowing what to expect hoping only to be treated as a servant. The father welcomes him home with open arms. 

I hope the little black cat finds the love he needs and finds his way home. I hope I can encourage it to do so. We all need love and acceptance. Things go wrong, relationships break down and misunderstandings and fear get in the way of restoration. The little black cat's owner is waiting to welcome him home. In the same way God is always waiting with open arms to welcome us back even when we make big mistakes.



This is my cat Holy helping me with a jigsaw. The photo about is of Buddy hiding in my wardrobe.