October 2009

God is Back / The Case for God

‘God Is Back’ by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge of The Economist and ‘The Case For God’ by Karen Armstrong are two books that explore our relationship with God.
The number of people claiming to believe in various forms of God is rising fast almost everywhere.

Karen Armstrong’s The Case For God demonstrates that
throughout history, religion was not something you thought, but something you did. It required discipline, ritual and hard work with the aim of discovering an inner dimension of your being.
Her journey goes from the Lascaux Caves (10,000BC) to the present and is described as wonderfully clear and insightful – and not out to convert anyone.


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November Devotional – God’s Love

It’s amazing to know that God loved you and I from the very beginning of creation and has continued to love us without reward even in the fall. God loves because He is love itself and, unlike us in our spiritual journey of wanting God to bless us and give us something, God would continue to love even if no one turned to love Him back.
God is the personification of love.

We want to love God for all He can do for us:- bless our families and relationships, our homes, our work but there is a deeper level. In Romans 5:5 it says ‘And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us’- NIV.
The love of God has been poured out within our hearts – what a precious picture for us to remember.

Some of the pain we go through, where we don’t seem to get blessings are part of the process where the real love He has poured into our hearts can emerge in order for us to love Him with that love. God asks that we believe in the unseen and eternal. ‘However, as it is written: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit’ – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NIV.

He asks us to go to a deeper level where we love God because He is God and where we love Him in the same way as He loves us allowing Him to take us deeper in an experience of loving Him. He may ask that in that process we leave some of our old ways behind and start a new phase in our spiritual lives. God asks that we love Him with the kind of love that does not make demands but is simply true. His expression of love back to Himself must be true to His character, which is pure and simple love.

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Change – a personal reflection

In the last month I have changed my job, changed my mobile phone, changed my internet account and changed my working hours. In the same month our youngest child went to University so the house feels radically changed. Our shopping list is completely altered, the amount of washing and ironing has radically reduced and the house is so quiet. Matt is a piano playing, sofa-surfing, fridge emptying 19 year old so you know when he’s around!
The new job is as a Lay Minister at our church. This is the first part of my training towards ordination. A better description of what I do would be a curate. It’s full time and I’m combining it with part time study at Theological College. So also in September I went back to being a student for a week, complete with living in a student bedroom on a study corridor and having a whole new set of people to get to know. My training will be one of constant change for the next four years because I will go to college residentially for two five week blocks each year so it’s going to feel like I am constantly shuttling between the parish and college.
Changing the mobile phone and the internet account were the two changes that almost pushed me over the edge! Mega stressful. The change in my working hours means I’m now often out in the evenings and in during the day so when do I see my regular 9-5 husband? Also even if I’m in at home, when am I at work and when am I off duty? I’m not really very sure.
Change is bewildering and yet all the changes I’ve described are actually positive ones. They are changes we have planned for. Even so, three weeks into the new situation I found myself lying awake for hours in the night too worked up to sleep and then in the day-time I’d be frantically writing lists because I was too tired to keep anything in my head.
How much more devastating is it when change is sudden, unexpected or when it feels like a body blow: an illness, a betrayal, a broken marriage, redundancy.
Two things are helping me through my time of change. Someone said to me ‘Big problems are most often solved by a sequence of small solutions. Thinking ‘small steps’ starts to shrink the gap between where you are now and where you would like to be. So, for example, I said to myself ‘I don’t have to understand all the clever things my new phone does, for the time being it’s quite enough to be able to make calls and send texts’.
The other thing that I learnt that when we go through a change we often start out with hope and end up with more confidence than ever at the end of the process but the bit in the middle can feel very difficult. So for me there is the hope and joy at being recommended for Ordination Training followed by the reality that I have to do a Theology degree. At the end I as I emerge, I hope I will feel positive and confident again. Someone renamed this valley in the middle as the ‘valley of insight’. I found that helpful. It’s not the ‘slough of despond’, it’s not a deep overwhelming pit and it’s not a black hole. Faith, time and the love of other people will carry me through all these changes but while I’m here it’s a ‘valley of insight’, I’m learning to depend on others, I’m learning to say how I’m feeling and I’m learning that I will never, ever reach the end of my ‘to-do’ list by the end of any given day but that’s okay.

If you’d like to reply to this article, it would be great to hear what kind of changes you have experienced, how have you coped with them, and what have you learnt.

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Seven Pounds – A Film Review

I recently saw this film with Will Smith in the lead role. It’s almost impossible to write about it without revealing the ending but I will try. However if you are planning on watching it knowing something about the plot would be a real help because it’s one of the those films you only understand at the end.
Before I watched it I knew the following: it is the story of a man who kills seven people (including his girlfriend) unintentionally in a terrible car crash. As a way of dealing with his guilt he resolves to make donations into the lives of seven other people, each one chosen because they are good people and they are in desperate situations.
When you realise that the title comes from The Merchant of Venice and refers to the pounds of flesh required pay off a debt you will realise that the donations he makes are not financial!
My husband watched the film with me without any of this prior information and half way through I asked him if he knew what was going on ‘ Not the faintest idea’ he replied! Having said that by the end, he had still enjoyed the film. It’s a very clever film, an exploration of guilt and whether it’s ever possible to put things right for ourselves.
The ending is quite harrowing but I won’t tell you whether it was a happy ending or sad ending because I still haven’t decided which one it was!
A great film for making you think and would prompt a good deal of discussion, I think I’ll be showing it to my film group next month.

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