Thursday, 8 May 2014

Anyone got a light?

I thought our house had been blacklisted, but apparently not.  I was up to my elbows in the u-bend when the doorbell rang, I de-marigolded and answered to whom I immediately recognised as Jehovah's Witnesses. 

'Ooh fun!' I thought, as I introduced myself as a born again Christian.

"Oh good, so you'll know Gods views on smoking then?"

Oh? smoking? Yeah, of course I know Gods views on smoking, He posted a meme on face book the other day. Hates it. 

I mean where do the JW's get these ideas? They seriously believe that smokers, because they're smokers, will not enter Heaven! You'd think with the numbers getting into Heaven being so tight, they'd be glad of  a few people scuppering their chances with the odd cigarette, it would improve their odds of entry no end.

I did say I thought they would alienate people with that as an opening gambit. People don't take kindly to being judged about life choices, let alone eternally judged about their life choices.  

I'm pretty sure God would prefer we were opening our conversations about Him with talk of His love for us and the world, and His want for the best for us in our lives, and sure, smoking is not the best for us, it's unhealthy and unsociable, but so is overeating; c'mon, we've all been to
social occasions with food, where we're looking forward to another piece of quiche (this is a Christian gathering - there will be quiche) and the overweight guy is tucking into the last slice, how unsociable!  

And the lady at my door certainly looked like she'd had her fair share of pies, her argument about respecting the body God gave you kind of faltered there.....I wonder if she'll be allowed in?

In Matthew the Pharisees were testing Jesus by asking him about the greatest commandment in the Law. Jesus responded ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’

Love. Not judgement. Not rules. Not do's and don't's. Love.

In being Christians we attempt and often fail to live in this loving way, to accept others and their lifestyle choices, but even if they are choices that are not Gods best desire for them, it won't be those choices that prevent them from entering Heaven. Dismissing Jesus as Saviour is the only thing that can prevent us from entering Heaven. Jesus said  “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Belief and acceptance of Jesus is our way to Heaven, smoker or not!

So I wonder whether you will give up smoking or take up Jesus, both will have dramatic effects on your life, one will secure your eternity.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Christian Charity is.......Charitable....

You'd never catch me dirtying my hands by reading the Mail, and I don't just mean from the newspaper print. However, I follow a lot of people on Twitter who apparently do read it and took to tweeting vehemently against an article they published yesterday on Easter Sunday.

They basically congratulated themselves for sending in an undercover reporter to claim food, from a food bank. STOP PRESS ***CHRISTIAN CHARITY IS........CHARITABLE***

The said reporter got "3 days of questions asked" and after filling out a couple of forms was "asked a series of questions about why the food bank vouchers were needed." 

Of course none of us are naive enough to think food banks aren't open to misuse, but it is not on the same scale as claiming disability benefit or unemployment benefit fraudulently, we all have to pay into those benefits via our taxes, so when they are abused we feel we personally have been cheated.  And defrauding those systems results in cold hard moolah, far more appealing than a Fray Bentos pie.

The food banks are run purely on donations from the public, without those donations they simply wouldn't exist, the people who find themselves having to use them will usually have exhausted all other possibilities before walking into a church clutching a voucher, to leave with 3 days worth of preserved goods.

I imagine it was fairly easy for the Mail On Sunday reporter to rock up to the the Citizens Advice Bureau and lie his way into gaining a voucher. 

Now imagine you are a father and husband, you've always provided for your family but now you have lost your job and are struggling to find employment again. Friends and family have been helping you out, sometimes you've asked for it, other times they've just slipped a few notes into your hand to keep you going. Your self esteem has gone through the floor and embarrassment levels are sky high. Your child comes home with a note that requires money for a school trip, the car tax is due and you need to buy food, you have the grand total of £7.64 in your wallet.

The school might help out but you worry about whether it will affect your child if anyone finds out. You avoid taxing the car and hope you can get away with it for another month. You can probably just about buy food for your family for today with that £7.64 and hope that things will change tomorrow. You don't want to stretch out your hand to your own parents for another handout.

Things have been like this for some time now and this is when you arrive at the food bank. Not proud that you've somehow cheated the system and will be claiming your pot noodles for free, but feeling ashamed and embarrassed that somehow it is your fault that you have ended up not being able to feed yourself and your family.

Yes, some people are claiming more than they are entitled to by returning more than the recommended times but who does this affect? The Mail reporter hasn't been obliged to donate from stoppages from his wages, if they don't agree with it, don't donate; it really is that simple.

It is not gourmet food people are claiming, lets be clear here, it is the cheap end of the non-perishable grocery market. It is usually the supermarket's own low end brand of tinned fruit and vegetables, or packet pasta meals. If you are returning to claim this time and again then I would suggest you are a person of need, and that is exactly who the food banks are for, the needy.

And as a big two fingered salute to the Mail On Sunday, the British public response to the article was to donate more! 

Go to Just Giving Crack UK Hunger If you would like to donate to the Trussell Trust to help fight UK hunger. Or maybe think about volunteering at your local food bank.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A Christian, A Rabbi And An Atheist Walk Into A.........(add your own punchline)

They actually walked into a radio studio and debated the Old Testament on Justin Brierly's Unbelievable show on Premier radio. 

The radio show came hot on the heels of the premier of The Bible tv series currently being aired on channel 5.

Rabbi Josh Levy, Christian lecturer Chris Sinkinson and an atheist you may well have heard of, Richard Dawkins were discussing the rights and wrongs of the Old Testament stories, including Abrahams near sacrifice of Isaac and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorah.

Most surprising for me was that Dawkins very much encouraged the reading of the Bible - albeit as a wonderful work of literature not a historical document; a lot of his atheist contemporaries are very much against any form of Bible teaching/RE lessons within schools, yet it was at school where Richard came to the Old Testamant which as a work of literature he enjoys.  So there you have it, Richard Dawkins encourages the reading of the Bible.

If you have been watching the tv series as I have, this radio show was a helpful addition to further unpack some of the more difficult passages that Christians and non Christians alike find unpleasant, I found particularly helpful Chris' observation that in the OT times they were only just getting to know God and the sort of God he was and what he wanted for them and from them.

I can also recommend Chris' book Time Travel To The Old Testament, it is written in such an easy to understand way, that the intellect with which it is written doesn't overwhelm you and the historical and archaeological facts don't bore you, moreover it makes you want to pick up your Bible and go travelling yourself with God and his people!

Did you listen to the Unbelievable show? Are you watching The Bible? What do you think about it? I enjoyed episode 2 more, it is growing on me! I think I may buy the dvd set as I still can't stand all the ad breaks and that ridiculous sponsor puppet Buck Denver!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Christmas Giving

Ah, Christmas.....the annual switching on of the town lights, a new Christmas release at the cinema, the shopping for gifts and food, the collection for the teacher......I'm sorry, what? Yes, the termly collection for the teacher, you know, the one that gets done at Easter and Summer and of course now Christmas.

Now, I'm a bit of a grump when it comes to Christmas, I be-grudge buying gifts for people I don't ever see and haven't a clue what their interests are, which is why gift buying for nieces and nephews stops when they hit 18, tough isn't it? And as for cards what a waste of money and paper they are; while wishing someone you see regularly a 'Merry Christmas', you hand them a card that wishes them a 'Merry Christmas'.  And someone you don't ever see from one year to the next and may probably have even died years ago, you post one to! Why?

But the one thing I really dislike when it comes to Christmas, is the annual email that comes round asking for contributions of a fiver towards a gift for the teacher! Multiply that by a class of 30 and you're looking at £150! Yes, teachers are overworked and underpaid, but aren't most people? Especially the volunteers; in fact the people that run the Brownies/Cubs, toddler groups, Sunday schools, etc. all do it voluntarily, in their own time, for our children and never once have I as a parent been asked to make a contribution towards their Christmas gift!

And as Christmas is about giving, whether it's splashing out ridiculously and going to into the red, because you can't bear to see your child have a tantrum because they didn't get the latest iphone, or inviting family or friends around for Christmas dinner, or giving your Son as the Saviour of mankind to the world, maybe this year if you haven't before, think about giving to someone who isn't expecting it, especially someone who already gives to you by way of volunteering.

And as for the teachers gift? Hand in your homework on time, will probably be the nicest surprise they'll get all year!

Do you have a Christmas collection that gets your goat?

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Bible Leaves Me Dissapointed

I have opened up the broken laptop in order to post, having not done so in a few months I really wanted to be able to give my thoughts on the much anticipated tv series to come over from America. The Bible. 

So while my laptop dies and whirs away in the background, so for me did the tv drama.

I am not reviewing the sponsorship, but what on earth were they thinking? Do Christians not already have a hard enough time showing others that actually they can be intelligent people, who are able to run a perfectly normal life and yes, believe in an almighty God in Heaven, a man in the sky if you will, without then having to sit through dozens of ad breaks while some patronising puppet asks kids 'what's in the Bible?'......Honestly atheists, this isn't a made up kids story we believe in.

I was hoping this drama would be one that would be very watchable for Christians and non Christians alike; apparently in the US it went down a storm with many people becoming Christians after watching it, Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback church in South California did 3000 baptisms as a result of the show!

The opening scene with Noah telling his children the story of creation as the Ark rocked to and fro was a good idea, after all how are they going to fit the Bible into 10 hours? But almost immediately it felt like a students short film as Noah narrated and clips of wilderbeast and birds and whales appeared as if cut and pasted into the production from a David Attenborough documentary.

We then move swiftly on to Abraham, and it's at this point I start to feel disappointed in the programme, while at the same time enjoying it?! I love the stories and was keen to see how they would be translated to television in 2013, trouble is it felt very 70's to me, the characters were lacking, well, character! It was around this point about 15 minutes in that I thought, if I wasn't a Christian there's no way I would still be watching this, it became boring and slow, not unlike some sermons I have sat through, where you cringe thinking I hope if there's a visitor to church today they understand it's not always like this.

Skipping straight past Joseph? (According to some tweeters he was busy doing a song and dance somewhere) We move to Moses in Egypt and I really start to feel I've seen it all before, which I guess if you're making a show of a film that's been made more than once, from the best selling book of all time that you don't want to deviate from, you will have seen it all before! So what was I expecting? How do you produce a modern tv show of the Bible while keeping true to it's word?

I don't know, but the BBC do - they got it spot on only a few years back with both  The Passion and The Nativity.

Will I be tuning in next week? Absolutely! I just may not watch it on Saturday night prime time viewing! Maybe Monday morning when I'm doing the ironing!

Did you watch it? Are you Christian or not? As always the book's better than the film!


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Blessed By The Foodbank

Our town recently opened a foodbank, and when it was in it's planning stages my bff arranged to meet me and I found myself shanghaied and attending the first meeting, it didn't quite turn out to be the coffee date I had imagined, the twenty plus other people who had joined us, all over 50, (I'm being polite) were kind of cramping my style, what on earth had she got me into now? Of course I had heard the requests for volunteers etc at church, but I knew I was way to busy to be able to give my time to that!

Now we are up and running and I am very much on the 'rota' for collecting, boxing, bagging and dating preserved food. (I'm sure I read a blog once that gave tips on getting yourself off a church rota - gonna have to look that one up again.)

The foodbank scheme was established in the UK by the Trussell Trust to help people who face sudden and short term hunger due to benefit change or stoppage, immediate job loss, family break up etc.

I live in a middle class town, with excellent schools and desirable housing, of course there are the streets that you would rather not live in, I mean, some of them don't even have their own driveways, but there aren't pockets of squalor, with the unemployed or homeless hanging around outside the bookies. So I think a fair few people were quite surprised when the need for a food bank was seen, surely not here in the fourth most desirable town in the country to live in? (according to The Times or whichever paper it was did the survey earlier in the year!)

But, we have been running since June, and every week we have fed families, couples, singles, all of whom are overwhelmed by the giving of food, and the release it has given them of the burden of feeding themselves for the next few days, of course there shouldn't be a need in the UK, but there is.  

People are going without food in order to feed their children, missing appointments because they can't afford to get to the hospital, stealing food to avoid starvation, keeping their children off school because of embarrassment of being unable to provide a lunch - all this in 'Great Britain'.

I read a criticism of the foodbanks recently which said "Churches should be offering 'spiritual food'".

Jesus wasn't only 'spiritual' he was practical, he was human, if he saw a need he met it, and as his followers we are to do the same, to 'be Jesus' to those who need it, whatever that need may be. And when the day comes and we stand before him on his throne he will say to us, " whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you did for me". Matthew 25:40.

Most of the things I've ended up doing at church have sort of just happened accidentally, someone has asked if I'm available or if I fancy doing it, or in the case of my friend and the foodbank, she just told me to turn up! I have to say, I think God has put me in the roles I volunteer in because of this reason, those promptings from other people have led me to take part in things I just wouldn't have considered before, and I know all of it is to bless others, but you know, I really enjoy it, and so it blesses me as well!

Friday, 26 July 2013

The Woman From Thornbury, She Says Yes!

Haven't put fingers to keyboard for a while, I know everyone is in this boat but when did life get so busy? Or is it not really busy at all and we're dwindling away our days with mundane tasks - ahem, Candy Crush? Level 197 is beating me at the moment!

My mind is taken up a lot of the time at the moment thinking about my first mission trip coming up in about 4 weeks time to Romania. I am amazed that this is something I said yes to, but I know God is behind it, I was restrained for so long and far too insecure to have done anything like this, but once God had set me free I decided I was going to say 'yes' to whatever he asked me to do!

I feel a bit like the man from Del Monte, except obviously I'm not a man and I don't even know where Del Monte is!

This has resulted in me becoming a youth leader for our teenage group, being part of an Open The Book team, volunteering in various roles at church and now heading off on my first mission trip - all things 3 or 4 years ago I would have laughed in the face of anyone suggesting I could do, I mean, I was someone for whom going shopping or to the cinema would bring on a panic attack!

I haven't left the UK for 20 years, when my husband and I had our last pre-kids holiday, so there are many new experiences ahead for me - vaccinations, a 3 am start to catch the flight, a six hour mini-bus ride the other side to get to our accommodation - not to mention the fact that our team leader is very keen for us to learn Hungarian before we get there - I've mastered 'hello' & 'ok' mainly because they are pronounced 'hello' & 'ok'.

I am trusting fully that God will give me strength and energy to get through the immensely busy schedule, in my real life I wipe out around 4pm and have to have a nap, something that I struggle with accepting very much, it makes me feel lazy and like I'm letting my family down and not being a good mum.  I know God is already in control in this area for when I go away, because although I am wondering about how I will cope each day, I am not worrying. I have found before that when I am in a different surrounding and doing different things I can cope without the nap, maybe it's adrenaline that keeps me going or the change of scenery or company......

So, I'm counting down the weeks to the end of August, looking forward to experiencing the way God works on the other side of his world and meeting lots of new brothers and sisters who love the same God as me, and praying that we can introduce lots of children to the God who loves them more than they can imagine or we can tell them!

Are you stepping out into new territory for God? How have you found it? I'd love to know!