ALM adventure

So following the “Living Faith” course we are all geared up to take our faith and share the joy and enthusiasm or are we?

Well and truly hooked on learning more about my faith and my place in God’s plan, the opportunity to join the Pastoral Care Elective was too good to pass up.

ALM – Authorised Lay Ministry – The Next Frontier!

This parish based ministry is deeply rooted in the Dioceses Strategy. It’s an active response to local needs and an exciting new form of ministry in the Chichester Diocese,  in an active and positive time of change.

Now that might read like a PR statement but it is how I genuinely feel.  I have been on the coal face of things not quite working, communications not reaching the rural parishes in time, initiatives based on large town or city churches and the apparent dismissal of the gifts of the laity to contribute to active church life.

I know all aspects of the diocese need work, updating systems, implementing procedures and finding ways to actively supporting our clergy as they gather flocks, work in our changing society and do what they are called to do – bring us to Jesus.

ALM is not about taking any of the responsibility away from the clergy but it is about recognising and equipping the laity in the knowledge and skills that are needed to be an active team member working in the parish for the greater good.

After being trained and authorised by the  Bishop it is hoped that we (ALM’s) will lead or help establish a team of people in our parish to undertake various tasks and or to help develop the gifts and potential of others.

During the introduction evening we were reminded that at Baptism we are called to be disciples, called to be our true  and unique self’s  and to follow Jesus. This is just the next step along the constant road we are journeying along.

So the training promises to be interactive, reflective, challenging and diverse, their words not mine but having experienced last year I have no reason to doubt that will be the case. I learned so much from shared experiences, discussions with people from different backgrounds and from listening to what was actually being said to me.

I am hoping the reflective journals we are being asked to keep will the something that I will grow to appreciate and give me the opportunity (like this blog) to look back and see just how far I have travelled and how far I still have to go.

However with the song “KLF 3am Eternal” as an ear worm every time I say ALM. (Google it) In the words of the song “KLF is going to rock you!!”.

I rather hope it will be “ALM is going to ROCK me”

 

 

Ordinary Times

Listening to a work colleague leading a prayer session, I marvelled at how close she had become to the Lord in the time I had known her and how her naïve look at Christianity was endearing and made us realise we shouldn’t take things for granted.

Now that might sound patronising and that was really not my intention but when she referred to seasons I have been doing so much reading up on being a proper Anglican that I automatically thought Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Ordinary Time.

Not that either of us is incorrect just that we are both looking at the same time zones in a different light.

But we are in the “Ordinary Time” church season and in that lovely time of year when we still get warm sun but that we can enjoy  a crisp morning and the smell that autumn is just a blink away.

It’s a time to see the world around us changing from children starting school for the first time or heading off to university. To drag those woolly jumpers out the wardrobe and to look for new winter boots.

It’s a time to shed our excess, like the trees that shed their leaves, and to hunker down and prepare not only for winter  and for the long dark evening ,where the opportunity to read and reflect is a welcome thought . Warm cuddle blankets on the sofa and a good book. Perfect.

So maybe moving on from leaves we are really de cluttering our life, shedding the activities of summer, recouping time to  explore and be with God.

Like the seed safe in the warm earth, is winter our time to grow in Christ?

I hope so.

Blessings x

Who touched me????

Sometimes during this “what am I doing period” I have hit some real lows, wondering if I am barking up the wrong tree.

Have I really got a calling? Is God really talking to me or am I being led by my ego or a need to please others?

A friend gave me a very gentle telling off recently saying I am doing too much, that I need to slow down, to leave space to hear what God was trying to tell me. She told me I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that I was loved by Jesus regardless of what I did.

All very well her saying that but how do you stop doing what you do when you are juggling so much and others rely on you. Now the truth being, nobody is irreplaceable when it comes to  doing certain things, and just because you have been the one to pick up loose ends you are not the only one capable of doing that.

So I went cold turkey.

Going away on holiday is a perfect time to lay down extras jobs and gentle encourage others to pick them up. Trouble is I am just a bit impatient and giving time for others to realise I am really not doing something is making me a bit twitchy. I guess I am just one of life’s doers. The lesson I should hear is waiting and patience.

So I was blessed with ten days in a beautiful place in Spain and armed with four books it had been suggested I read. Anyone who know me on knows I can devour books on holiday at an alarming rate so I did worry four might not be enough and made sure my kindle was loaded as back up.

In the run up to my holiday, as well as the unusual end of year (I work with students) trials and tribulations, I dealt with my place of work changing and the packing up of the old place, the emotion of saying goodbye to work colleagues who will no longer be working with me. All served me in good stead as experience in pastoral care I felt ,although I couldn’t help but feel stressed by it all in a way that indicated I was in need of a break and a massive rethink on things.

I duly started my first book on the plane, trying to close my racing mind to things I had left behind but nothing I read would go in.

I read, I reread and although I got to the end of the book the only thing that stuck out to me was  a brief mention of Mark 5:24-29 – The women who had bled for 12 years and when she touched Jesus in a crowd, without him seeing or knowing it was her, she was healed.

Culturally, to have been ostracised for bleeding for so long she must have felt so cut off from her family and society. Unclean not able to visit the temple but she showed such faith that to just touch the hem of the cloak Jesus was wearing and she knew she would be healed.

So after a few hours sat by the pool I started my 2nd book. One I had saved for holiday and I really wanted to read but I  again I just couldn’t absorb anything. I gave up.

I was slightly upset by this as I really needed to read these books recommended by my VA. But the words of my friend came to mind. What do you have to prove? Are you doing this for you, for Jesus or to be seen to do something? In other words, are you doing any of this for the right reasons? Are you trying to follow this path because you feel its expected of you or because you are being called?

All sorts of doubts came to mind and I was filled with anxiety . Am I wasting everyone’s time? So I prayed and sat in the sun and swam and prayed some more.

While I was in Spain the fiesta of John the Baptist took place 24 June. Huge bonfires are built on the beaches all along the coast and fireworks explode into the night. Herbs are hung on doorways in some areas and large effigies are burnt on the bonfires of witches or demons. In true Spanish tradition its a celebration, a party and very family oriented.

It was good to  see families enjoying time together with all ages dressed in red.

After a day or two of just chilling I picked up my book again and the space and peace I had given my brain had made all the difference. I could absorb the words, the theory and hopefully understand.

There it was again – Mark 5:34. 

The woman brave enough to trust her faith that this man could heal her just by her touching the hem of his cloak. He didn’t even need to place his hands on her, she believed that all would be well if she could just stretch out through a crowd and place a hand on his cloak. Not grab handfuls, bring huge attention to herself but gently touch his cloak in an anonymous way.

But Jesus felt the impact of her healing – he knew that something had happened that somehow a change in someone had occurred and he asked who had touched him. He felt the healing spirit leave his body.

How scared must she have been this women who was used to living in the shadows. Lots of people in the crowd must have seen her as invisible but here was Jesus talking directly to her.

This confirmed to me that Jesus sees and feels all that  we do no matter how small.

So I mulled over this and took from it that even when we think Jesus isn’t aware of what we are doing he notices and feel not only our pain but our joy and our healing. Faith brings peace.

Now those who keep with the readings will recognise this story from last Sunday, when I am sure it was preached as part of the trio of  healing miracles.

I still hadn’t quite shaken off the despair from the start of my holiday and I arrived at church in not the best of moods. Some could say I was grumpy 🤭 Then came the sermon….

Now I swear my Rector is in cahoots with the Lord above when it comes to reassuring me along my journey. I hadn’t had the chance to talk about how I was feeling or that I had been pondering about Mark 5 but when he said “Daughter” as Jesus had said, I knew he was talking to me. His words seemed to be directed straight at my heart and the panic and the anxiety of worrying was I enough? Am I hearing you correctly Lord? And I found my calm place.

My faith has taken me on this journey, my faith not my actions. And while they tell you to look for signs and it may be I was subconsciously looking for something, I know Jesus was talking to me in that sermon. I am not giving up I will continue to look to hear what I am being called to do but I suspect I am on the right track but with still a long way to go.

Walking along side others

I keep being referred back to thinking about how Jesus worked and reacted to those around him. And I don’t just mean the men he had with him as disciples but the people he influenced, touched, welcomed along his journey.

Now this might be because I am reading Luke and trying to grasp the meaning of the lessons Jesus is trying to teach. Familiar stories  -Mustard Seed, Healing on a Sabbath, Repent or perish. Doing good not for anything in return other than to help others not a fortunate as you.

Now that’s a bit heavy for my simple blog but I guess my point is recognise who you are walking along side.

Sometimes people just need you so recognise they need help, companionship to be noticed. There is very little you can do but be there with them at a time of hardship, grief or heartache.

For the last few years I have been privileged to work along side A Band of Brothers (ABOB).  We host a BBQ for an amazing bunch of people who take pleasure in running ultra marathons, and while they are all slightly bonkers, we cook butchers burgers and sausages for a lot of the 450+ runners who come back from the run with huge appetites . But I digress.

Each year we welcome young men who have perhaps not had the best start in life or have got a bit lost on the way. We do not know what they have done and we don’t care but we ( there are two of us from church) welcome and take them at face value and are privileged to see them on their journey.

Now this year we were invited to be part of their round up chat at the end of the day.

In the round up they are asked to say how they feel (at that precise moment) what they took from the  day and anything that had worried them before they came.

WELL HOW HUMBLING WAS THAT!!

Comments such as “Didn’t want to come was worried but It was brilliant!” and ” I feel energised” ” So what about next year!”, ” That was my best day off in a long time”.

And what had we actually done?

We had welcomed them as they came , without judgement. We had laughed and joked and work hard as a team.

We had I hope been a little bit like Jesus.

Time to make choices

All good things must come to an end and My Living Faith Journey course has finished.

However I don’t think my journey has even really begin……

I have been meeting with a really nice man who has been tasked with helping me discern. That’s C of E code for laying awake in the wee small hours trying to work out what it is that God actually needs me to be doing next – if anything?

I have been given suggested books to read  – Tim Keller The Prodigal God that literally set me on fire with enthusiasm. You see being an expat brat ( technical term for those who grew up abroad. Honest!) I have long struggled with the whole cultural thing of the father running to greet his younger son. And before you all shout at your screens I know who Jesus was telling his story too and they would have understood his meaning but it still narked me a bit.

Seeing the two sons in relation to people within our church – deanery – diocese has also been an eye opener, myself included.

There really are those who expect results for their faithfulness in a “HE OWES ME” kind of way. I think there is a little bit of the older brother in us all. Not that any of us will be pleased to hear that. Perhaps the older brother in us may stop us breaking with traditions in our church, lead us to stick with what is safe and easy for us, thinking that it doesn’t matter as long we stick to the rules, do as we are asked but do we?

We ARE called to Love one another. Not just those who are like us.

Are we as elder brothers missing what we are commanded to do? Are we being so pious we are missing the very people who Jesus cared for?

It’s all very well living a good life but are we, at any point, sharing why we do this with people? For who we do this?

I talked myself into a challenge during our meeting. I talk about God and or the church quite opening but rarely actually say JESUS when I am talking. Its one of my weaknesses thinking I am not worth to say his name out loud.

By discussing Jesus you instantly bring the conversation or topic to a heart level, especially when talking to non or new believers. God can seem far away but Jesus could be the man sat next to you. It makes everything far more personal and indeed at times you can understand in more depth as you imagine Jesus having the same human emotions we have.

But lets not forget the younger son – we are like him too.

We know and are safe in the knowledge that God will welcome us back with open arms regardless. BUT IS THAT ENOUGH should we get away that lightly. Should we not repent before this happens?

The younger son did repent – he at his lowest point sat in the pig sty (I still struggle with pigs in this context but appreciate it was the lowest of the low) he had nothing, he was in the depth of despair, but he knew by returning to his father and offering to be a slave not even a servant , he would at least have a roof over his head and food as he remembered how his father treated his staff. He didn’t expect to be welcomed back with open arms and with a fattened calf.

That sad, quiet moment when he cried out in despair for his father was the moment we have all had, when things are so tough, we turn our thoughts to Jesus in despair, pleading for help.

So we are both sons.

The lesson for me was to be more aware of those around me not, to judge people’s actions or indeed lack of actions but to be more aware of who Jesus would have been drawn to in society and to STILL try to find my purpose in all of this.

I started with choices. I am rather impatient by nature, one of my growing edges, and I wasn’t really ready for the amount of time that this process may take. So I have made the choice to apply to take an ALM course in Pastoral Care. And to join a Sussex Gospel Partnership course to expand on my bible knowledge. Both things that I hope will make me a better person with more to offer.

SO I am afraid you stuck with me blogging for a little bit longer.

Blessings

xx

 

 

 

End of term 2 (How did that happen?)

After the blur that was the start of the year  with flu and work and actually having a life, I seem to have become way,way behind in keep this blog updated – not that I have not penned things just sometimes not things I can really share.

No nothing of scandal to report! It is just that while reading more and praying in a more structured way my views are changing slowly.

Not my belief .

Not my core faith that I am here to Love and serve the Lord but that maybe I am seeing a broader vision of what I might be called to do.

I know we are all called to do something in our life for God. It might be something enormous like sacrificing your own life to save others. We can’t all be Jane Haining.

 Jane Haining was a missionary at a Church of Scotland-run school in Budapest when she was arrested by the Gestapo in 1944, having repeatedly refused to leave Hungary because she wanted to stay with her pupils. The frightened schoolgirls who watched her led away never saw her again.

But maybe we can be a bit more like the lovely lady who takes time each week to visit an old people’s home in Hastings to give  a time of prayer and worship, not for any other reason but that she recognised the need for companionship and fellowship through familiar worship amongst  those no longer in their own homes and communities.

Or the couple organising regular “HotDog runs” to the homeless in Brighton.

Yes evangelising but with actions to start with feeding and offering vital supplies to those just a little bit less fortunate than we are. Taking time to hear the needy, not only to feed them but to offer companionship, conversation laughter and the occasional clean pair of socks or warm hat.

Or like A Band of Brothers (ABOB). Mentoring young men who just need someone to take the time to walk alongside them. To encourage and point out sometimes right from wrong. With no judgement, no payment, just to see the potential in someone be encouraged and teased out.

http://abandofbrothers.org.uk/ 

Look them up!  Best non-Christian organization I know of!

Others of us are merely called to be ourselves to live out a Godly life. Being kind to one another to live a peaceful existence following Gods rules and the example of his son.

I know we are not commanded to stand on the roof tops and yell how good we are and what a lot we have done for others for the Glory of God. I know it the little things we do to the glory of God that are noticed. I know our Father misses nothing, is all-seeing and to him we can only be honest and true with open clean hearts.

I also know that sometimes to forgive and move on you need to express your pain that anothers have caused you with their wrong doing.

Being Christian isn’t about accepting pain and hurt afflicted on us but  at times with calm resilience to rise up and forgive by confronting the pain. Addressing the stumbling block that is clouding your judgement.

But what that do we do if we are not sure? What if we have followed all the guidelines and think you need to go one way but others think you need to go further in another direction? When do we stop listening for God to direct us and become guided by our egos?

Off to ponder that one.

 

Shapes-“My Gifting for Ministry”

Sitting down to write this and trying to sum up the last few weeks and explain where this journey has taken me I am really not sure where to start but I know that I am  ready to write something as there are jumbled up thoughts flying around my head, jutting out at the most annoying of times, what did that mean? have I read that correctly? DID he really just say that? DID I HEAR WHAT WAS MEANT?

To explain somewhat I have had the dreaded flu/virus that has been doing the rounds since the day after boxing day. I spent most of the Christmas and New Year holiday in bed with a fever or coughing in a most un lady like way. Too exhausted to even feel sorry for myself, never mind read what I should be reading or thinking about homework.

We had an interesting piece of homework. No really it was.

Reading it at first it was a bit daunting but by the 2nd or third read through it started to make sense.

The aim of this exercise was to help each of us to  understand the unique “shape” God has made us in, the gifts he has given us and how he might want to us to be serving him. We were asked to consider our:

Spiritual gifts   (God’s unique gifts to you as a member of Christ’s body)

Heart’s desire (what motivates and excites you, what you most love or long to do)

Abilities          (your talents, knowledge and skills)

Personality     (your character, style, preferences, personal qualities and strengths)

Experiences    (your life experiences – both good and bad – and what you have learned and gained from them)

We were asked to consider  these gifts and how they affect the way in which we engage with our family, friends, job, local community and voluntary or leisure activities. Did our gifts enhance our faith or our faith enhance our gifts?

DID I ACTUALLY HAVE ANY GIFTS??

By answering the questions and digging deep, we were encouraged to ask others about how they saw you?

So I asked three people to help me out.

Two who are very dear friends, who are always there when I come up with a hair brain idea or fundraiser to support and encourage me. One lovely lady who I work with who I know had enough Christian depth to answer me honestly and with comprehension of the work I was trying to undertake.

Now this wasn’t an ego massaging type of exercise, it was a warts and all tell me what you think I am good at and more importantly what are my faults.

They didn’t hold back.

All three wrote honestly with compassion both my good points and then my negative points. It’s hard to read and digest as I don’t take compliments very easily tending to brush off comments with a joke or rapidly change the subject. I am a fan of team work and sharing credit for things or doing things  quietly without help not to be a martyr but because its just quicker to get on with things.

I was humbled by the detailed honestly, often about things I wasn’t aware or conscious I was doing. Now I am no saint (But then we all are really are we not?) but when people you love dearly say positive things about you that really means a lot. I am a firm believer in being an encourager as the world has too many critics already and I would urge everyone to be positive and have faith but I was still blessed by the response.

EVEN the negatives – I cant not say it was not hard to read these mainly as I knew they are true but as they came with an explanation as to why my friends felt I have  these negatives it made understanding them a reality to be faced, dealt with and to move on from. When things you are afraid to face are spoken and out there, they are already a step closer to being resolved .

We are all a work in progress which I guess is the point of this course.

Sharing our findings about our shape with our group was not the experience I felt it would be. Maybe not all of us gained as much as I feel I did from it or maybe they are already confident in who they are with Christ and didn’t feel the need to share or didn’t want to be seen to be weak. Personally I felt I was being judged by confessing my negatives and came away feeling very vulnerable, that I had opened up too much and that was not what was wanted. Maybe I was being over sensitive or maybe I am just forgetting this is my journey I just bump into others along the way.

Blessings