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Archive for the ‘Worth’ Category

We have just returned from visiting family in California.   During our time there we spent a couple of days in Santa Barbara.   On our first day we went for a walk along the pier and on one side there were a group of people hanging over the rail.   So, being naturally curious, I went over to have a look, and what I saw were people trying to throw coins into a small bucket, placed on blanket, on the beach below.    

Make a Wish

The blanket had a card at the front which said – “Make a Wish”.  In the middle of the blanket was the bucket which people were trying to throw their coins into.  And at the back of the blanket there was another card which said – “Get it in the bucket, and all your dreams will come true”.   And people were raking through their change to find coins to throw; to make wishes and have their dreams come true.

 

Just Plain Hungry

Now just a little further along there was another blanket, another bucket, and another sign which said – “Just plain hungry”.  Now very few coins had been thrown there , and there certainly weren’t people queuing up to do so. 

Two homeless people, two different approaches.   One appealed to the selfish superstitious nature of people, who hoped to get something in return for their few coins.   The other, appealing to the generous, hospitable and caring nature of people.  To put it mildly, I was dismayed at people’s response to the second blanket and it’s plea.   In fact the image and the feeling stayed with me throughout my holiday.    Maybe, it was because just before I left we had started a short series on hospitality and I was somehow more aware, but everywhere I looked I saw and heard the poor, the refugee and the homeless being berated, discounted and marginalised.

In the early second century … Aristides (c 125 AD) commended the Christians on how they lived their lives:

They love one another,

and from widows they do not turn away their esteem;

and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly.

And he, who has,

gives to him who has not,

without boasting.

And when they see a stranger,

they take him into their homes

and rejoice over him as a very brother;

for they do not call them

brethren after the flesh,

but brethren after the spirit and in God.

It appears the early church was known by the way she loved strangers.  She was known for the way she loved and cared for those forgotten and pushed aside by society. and those who found themselves alone and vulnerable.

If hospitality to the poor and needy, the homeless, the troubled and the stranger distinguished the early Christian communities from their surrounding society, and became a characteristic of authentic discipleship, then perhaps that is what the church should be reclaiming in our day and age.  

Perhaps hospitality and reaching out to people in need should once again become our focus.

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Today I sat in the homes of several of our members who are going through hard times at the moment.   When I get home after such an intense day, I sometimes look back in amazement at how I have been ministered to by being the presence of people who, despite their life’s circumstances, are not decrying God for what is going on in the lives, but continue to marvel at “how great is our God”.    As I reflected on this yet again, I was humbled to think that while they thank me for my visit and my time “because we know how busy you are”, the reality is that they have encouraged me in my ministry and indeed strengthened my faith.    So imagine my delight as I have thought about all these things, and how like those I have visited today, I continue to believe just how great and faithful our God is, that I receive a link to the video below – quirky “instruments” but the words have always been favourites and for the moment this is my new favourite rendition.    So thank you to one of our worship leaders – John, for forwarding this to me, and also to the Irish Worship Band – Rend Collective Experiment.

 

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Louis, was a rather awkward and sad boy. This was made worse by the fact that his parents did little to encourage his self-esteem. In fact, they all but came out and told their Rabbi that Louis was too stupid to learn the traditional Hebrew passages a boy recites for his bar mitzvah.The Rabbi was determined to bring out the best in this boy. He spent extra time teaching him the songs and prayers, and in so doing, he discovered that Louis was quite intelligent and also had a fantastic singing voice. On the day of his bar mitzvah, Louis performed beautifully. At the end of the ceremony, the Rabbi stood and spoke directly to Louis. He said, “Louis, this morning you met your real self… This is who you are. You are good, graceful, talented, and smart. Whatever people told you yesterday, and Louis, whatever happens tomorrow, promise me one thing. Remember . . . this is you. Remember, and don’t ever lose it.”A few years later, Louis wrote to the Rabbi. The boy whose parents predicted that he was too stupid to perform a traditional bar mitzvah was studying for his medical degree … Louis ended his letter by saying, “I kept my promise – I always remembered my bar mitzvah morning when you said that this is who I am. For this, I thank you.”   Having someone believe in him made a huge difference in Louis’ life.

You are unique: be who you are called to be

We have someone who believes in us and that someone is God. God has chosen us for great things. God has forgiven us all of our sins, faults and failings and declares us to be holy. God tells us we are his dearly loved. He also shows us that his love for us has no limits, and if we can just keep these simple truths in mind it will help us to accomplish the goals that Paul puts before us in Colossians 3:12-17:

Put on then, or clothe yourselves, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, with compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Be who you are called to be, but also do the things you are called to do.    And just in case you think that it is beyond you, I leave you with this declaration and promise from 2 Peter 1:3 to remind you that we don’t do it in our own strength:   ‘God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.’

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Recently I’ve been reading through the Book of Genesis and once again I’ve been caught up in the stories of the families of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – not, it has to be said, your ideal template for ‘happy families’.   Yet I am constantly amazed by the fact the people think that if you belong (or even come along) to a church then you should have some kind of perfection in your life, whether it be your personal life or your family life. 

Many believe that over the past few decades there has been a shift in the shape and the nature of family, but has there?  Have we not always lived as fractured people, in fractured families, within fractured communities?  It’s just that before we didn’t openly acknowledge it – we kept it under wraps; hidden behind a veneer of respectability.   (Certainly that’s what I’ve found as I researched my family tree back over three or four centuries!)

The fact is there is no ‘perfect family’ modelled within the pages of Scripture.   And yet this ideal is still put forward and even offered by some within the wider church.   The proposition being – if one adheres to the ‘rules’ then you will escape the pain;  your marriage will work; your children will grow up well balanced and responsible;  you will cheat the chaos that surrounds you in society as a whole.  And if the chaos affects you – well then the fault is yours!   You failed – you – the divorced; the addicted; the imperfects.  

It is any wonder then that when the chaos does hit, the first thing people do is to stay away from the church.   Even for some within the church, this notion of the ideal of perfection means that many strive to produce a perfect image, because by doing so, they do not have to deal with the brokenness and chaos that they face in their lives, and they can still feel that they belong.  

The role of the church is not, nor has it ever been, to project themselves as a community only for the perfect, rather it is a place where the broken should feel they are able to come to find acceptance and achieve wholeness.

When it comes to the chaos that we encounter in our lives and in our world, the church needs to step up to the mark and declare its belief:  that God is at work and he will bring order from chaos; that it is only through him that our broken lives can achieve wholeness.

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I’ve been organising two marriage ceremonies for this weekend; prayers are written, readings chosen and addresses completed.   But as I was doing this preparation I was thinking about an incident a couple of months back that happened outside a jeweller’s shop.

I think we were all drawn to jeweller’s window, not because it contained expensive, in fact overpriced jewellery, that we all wished we could own, but because it was a cold, dark, wet day and the window lighting made everything sparkly and fairytale like, and there are just times when we’d all like a bit of that dream.   You know the dream:  the one where you have all the riches of the world gifted to you either by a stroke of luck like finding buried treasure, or given to you by some unknown benefactor.   That way you wouldn’t have to be stuck in the cold, dark, wet day!

“far more precious than jewels”

“far more precious than jewels”

Anyway, there were about half a dozen people standing in silence looking at the amazing shiny objects in the window, not all of them pretty, (I’m talking about the jewellery, not the people), when one of the women pointed out a diamond and sapphire ring to her husband.   She commented on how beautiful it was and the fact that it reminded her of a ring her grandmother had. (Note: she didn’t point and say “That’s pretty.” And move on to something else.   She gave a strong emotional reason for pointing it out.)  Her husband’s comment was: “Hmm.”   She added more to what was now her story:  “I used to love trying on my grandmother’s ring it made me feel very special and grown up, and loved.”   She then read out the price tag:  £925.  Her husband turned and walked away.   She stood for a moment looking at the ring, then turned and shouted after him “If I wasn’t your wife you would buy me that ring!”

Two things happened then, the words of Proverbs 31:10 instantly popped into my mind:

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.

Followed by the thought – she’s probably right.  If he was still trying to woo her, there would have been acknowledgement of the story, discussion, and maybe even a purchase, or at the very least a plan to purchase in the future.  However, to the onlooker, his reaction was one of disdain, whether towards his wife or what she had said I don’t know, but it was certainly not that of someone who considered her “more precious than jewels”, or even worthy of being with, and talking to.

I don’t know what their financial status was, could be that they couldn’t have afforded the ring, (presumably she thought they could), but I do know that a grunt and turning your back and walking away doesn’t give the person left standing alone, the feeling that they are “far more precious than jewels”, be they man or woman.

Now two things:  first, I’m not advocating the purchase of jewellery to make someone feel they are a person of worth, and second, I can only talk from the perspective of someone, who like many others, occasionally wants to feel “more precious than jewels”, but equally one who recognises that sometimes I too may be guilty of taking people for granted.    

So that’s my question for today – do we let the people closest to us know that they are of worth … “far more precious than jewels”?   Or have we got into the habit of turning and walking away, either physically or mentally?   

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AlfWe are fairly new to cruising, but one thing we’ve enjoyed as part of this relaxing and educational type of vacation, is meeting and talking to a wide variety of people. When it comes to mealtimes, we usually request that we be seated at a table with other people, mainly because we find it interesting, sometimes entertaining and occasionally challenging to meet new people and hear a bit about their lives, and on the whole our experiences have been pleasant. However, on our last cruise, we ended our meal with the decision to request a table for two for the rest of our holiday; because we had made the frightening discovery that the spirit of Alf Garnett (Archie Bunker if you’re American) lives on, and he’s out there on the high seas.

During the course of the evening the two other couples at the table found they had a lot in common as they criticised Americans, “Jocks” (i.e. the Scottish, not sportsmen and women), Essex women (apparently they can be spotted even if they’re not dancing round a handbag), vets and dentists (because they are too highly paid), coloured people (because they came into areas and lived in ghettos and formed gangs), and the finally the untidy mess that some Chinese refugees made by simply existing and sleeping in a park in one of our ports of call. They spoke of the famous people they had met – Jonathon Price, the Manchester United Football Team, Ryan Giggs and Sir Geoff Hurst to name the ones I can remember. Oh yes, and for some reason it seemed imperative that we knew that these people were “just living their lives”, but it was said with some disgust, because it meant that they didn’t come up to their imagined mark of celebrity status. They reeled off the hotels they had stayed in on various holidays over a number of years and in a multitude of locations around the world, each time going further upscale to ensure they received the kind of service they so rightly deserved, and which they couldn’t possibly receive on this cruise if they chose to eat with the riff-raff in the buffet section.    (We didn’t tell them the “deal” we got on our holiday!)

It took all my strength to fight the urge to:

(a) scream at them “Get a life! Who do you think you are?” or

(b) do a Basil Fawlty and hit them on the back of the head with my plate.

My husband was equally and uncharacteristically restrained. Turns out we both had ulterior motives: disbelieving what we were hearing we wondered if it could get any worse.   It could and it did.

What is it that makes people hold these type of views? Is it that they’ve heard these types of stories since they were children? Is it that they have been exposed to it in the reading of their preferred daily newspaper?

What is it that makes people think they are in some way superior to others? Again, is it something they’ve heard since they were young? Is it that they actually voice these things to make themselves seem like people of worth?

What made me want to challenge them about their views and attitudes? Is it because I’ve heard a different story since I was young? Is it because I have read something that has exposed me to an alternative view? Is it because I know that every person is a person of worth?

So what story have I heard and read that can change views and attitudes, and help us to come to the realisation that every human being is a person of worth? Oh yes, it was that God has imbued each of us with worth by placing His image in us.    Each of us has been created in the image of God, and God has ordained that his image be respected.  

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