Thursday, 29 July 2010


This blog is not an easy read. The subject matter is difficult and we make no apology for that. The reason we are writing this now is so that other people affected don't suffer in silence.  It is easy to not talk about this stuff because there is an element of it being a taboo subject, but to be honest, that just helps leave people trapped. So, we would encourage you to read this prayerfully and would encourage you to leave comments or speak with people you trust. We would be happy to either speak with you or point you to others who may be able to help. Finally, I want to thank Catherine for her courage in allowing this to be published.

Hi, I'm Catherine, some of you will know of me from church, others through reading posts in this blog. I'm 32, married to Gareth and we have two children, Becky (almost 4) and Josh (just turned 2). I grew up in a loving, Christian family and had a 'normal' childhood. By the time I was 16, like most other people, I had encountered things that had built me up, and things that had damaged, but nothing that straightforward prayer wouldn't have sorted out at the appropriate time.

Then, on a school trip, I was assaulted by one of the leaders.

School Trip
The leader bought me a drink,
I thought it was kind
- I was too young to drink beer or wine.
Then you walked me back to the tent,
I thought that you were being such a gent.
So I gave you a kiss, my first,
but you wanted more.
I tried to stop you from having it all
but I couldn't for you were too strong,
and words were blocked up, tying my tongue.

Silence then reigned, as my friends teased and laughed
and I laughed it off with a well put on mask.
But inside the numbness and shock was right there,
and the self blame had started, and lack of self care.

Surely it was my fault -
I had chosen to drink,
if I hadn't it wouldn't have happened I think.

I must have flirted to give him a signal
he seemed so nice before buying drinks and all

I should have cried out loud to say no!
instead of just trying to push him away.

Or did what I wore make him do it to me?
My value has waned as small as a flea.

My friends were there, I feel so dirty,
what did they see, shame has now caught me.

Could I be pregnant, what did he do?
I remember I was bleeding when I sat on the loo.

But what was wrong was not my choice,
but rather his when he stopped my voice
and afterwards I felt the shame
that should have been placed on his name

David: Your poem hints at some of the immediate impact; the self-accusation, the internalising of the hurt, the silence - can you tell us some of the longer term effects?

Catherine: Sure, where to start! I guess one of the bigger ones was anxiety; I became anxious around people, especially those in leadership, and when I needed to say something in front of a group, my brain would pretty much stop working - I would have to practise breathing to try and not panic. Even then, what would often come out would be incoherent.

Secondly, I felt I needed to stay in control of things, even to the extent of struggling to allow Gareth my husband help with the kids.

Then there's all that's associated with what I would now recognise as depression which has affected me at different levels for the last 16 years: feeling robotic and numb - like I wasn’t really living and couldn’t enjoy anything or have fun with anyone. And a period of wanting to kill myself, because I felt I was such an awful person.

In the early days my grades went down at school, and I found concentrating harder, which I just dismissed as me actually being quite stupid. Then there were times when I would suddenly burst into tears and get angry at stupid moments, responding out of proportion to what the moment was, leaving me feeling more awful afterwards. Sleeping became very poor and is still not great, often leaving me on the edge of exhaustion. I also realise now that I was living pretty much on guard, over aware of all going on around me, my brain not really switching off.

Of course it had an impact on relationships as well; not speaking about such a profound event closed down some other aspects of relationships with friends and family as well. Sex went from being something precious for marriage to something suddenly less; I felt I was there to be used, cos that's what happens. Then when I went to church, I felt like the worst Christian, like an outsider, felt I didn’t belong, that I couldn’t be close to God.

I hope this selection of the whole gives a flavour of the big and little things that have been affected in my life.

David: We know this stuff happens all too often - most people tend to shy away from talking about it or feel that it is beyond their ability to help with. What would you say to those who have friends who have been through similar ordeals - how can they help?

Catherine: Just being there for someone, treating them as a person, patiently listening, caring, not trying to take over decisions, but giving time for the person to make their own choices. reminding them the truth that it was not their fault!

Different things help different people, but I guess that for me It helped to be encouraged to speak to the doctor, which was a difficult place for me to go to, regarding depression, in order to give me some strength to deal with some of the underlying stuff, and affirming that it was ok to be feeling the way I was feeling and that I was not going mad! The truth is that in the process of the underlying issues being dealt with, there have been times when things have been way more difficult than they before they were addressed. For example, as I reconnected with emotions that had been shut off, I suddenly had to deal with emotions that I hadn't had for a long while, and felt like I had regressed back to a 3 year old having tantrums, and in confronting the truth the pain that had been buried surfaced, and where I hadn't been feeling stuff about it, suddenly had anger, and rage, and hurt that I could not put into words.  But as I have journeyed through this the freedom I have had given to me has been so much better than the way I was living before

David: I know that you've already experienced some significant healing and freedom - and that you are still journeying in these. What are some of the key steps that have been instrumental in this process?

Catherine: Yep, the last year has been an amazing journey - difficult though. Key steps; being as honest as I could be with someone I trusted, allowing God to help, and letting go of control. Recognising that what happened was wrong, illegal, and not my fault. Acknowledging the impact it had had on me and that I had tried so many coping strategies to cover up. Speaking to my family about it (I hadn't spoken to anyone at the time for a number of reasons, which had led to me shutting down a bit with my family!!). Exercising forgiveness in the sense of handing it over to God as perfect judge, and letting go of my right to judge. Recognising the things that I thought |I had lost, but which God was giving back. Lots - from the spiritual - allowing God to break strongholds, to simply accepting practical advice (helping my kids getting into a sleep pattern)

David: And writing some wonderful poetry.

Catherine: Yep hadn't written a poem before last summer, they have really helped me to express myself when I couldn't talk verbally about stuff...

Your eyes watching, leering, using.
value on the outside - inside hidden,
making me meaningless, unimportant.
What do you see, a cheap fix?
An object to fulfil all your desires, your lust,
someone to sleep with, no strings attached.
I see your eyes, I see your look, mind fixed on outside appearance.
An object. Mine. I want a bit of her they stare and say.

But a bit of me, is not for you, for no-one has a bit of me,
not a small bit, or a big bit, for I don't come in bits, to be used as needed,
For I am not man made, but a child of God.
Not a projection of your imagination,
but a real person, body, mind and soul, not just body.
And I am to be loved, not lusted after,
to be protected, respected,
not consumed and devoured, like a cream cake.

God's eyes watching, loving, caring,
value on inside.
I am meaningful, beautiful, important, beloved.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Church - If Only...

Catherine's daughter Becky went to a playgroup in an Anglican church the other day. Stained glass windows and everything. She told me it wasn't a proper church because unlike ours it didn't have an upstairs. Strange how quickly we fall into preconceptions. When we have tours of school children in our building, they don't think we are a proper church, conversely because we don't have the stained glass windows...

We're reviewing our web-site and as part of that a friend has produced some extraordinary images describing the preconceived ideas many people have of church. In the midst of that he used a phrase that cut to the heart: 'Is church a broken promise?' Another friend who leads one of YWAM's bases and who I know is passionate about local church, said a couple of days ago: 'I understand why people wonder how church ever got to be this inadequate if God really is who he says he is!'

Then there's all your helpful suggestions from Facebook about how church could be better - I especially liked those that involved chocolate!

With all that in mind, have a look at the video and then read on....

So, what's this deal about church? Surely the secret is at the heart of the song isn't it? Collectively we represent the love of God to a world that is in desperate need of it.We're a group of people; two's, three's, a community - who love one another in extraordinary ways. And as a community, love those not yet part of the family, as if they were. We're serving one another, those who are outcast, those who are vulnerable, those who are lost.

Of course we should be caring for those already in the family, of course we should be equipping and training one another. Of course we should worship together, celebrate together. But none of these are the purpose of church, they are the means by which the community that is church is is formed. But the point of church, the only point of church, is to make God visible.

Let's think this through. Other than when we 'go to church' (aaagggghhhhh), when do we stand up with other people and sing a whole series of songs? When do we voluntarily sit and listen to someone tell you stuff for upwards of 40 minutes? How alien would it be for someone who has never 'been to church' to enter such an environment? How hard do we have to work in order to persuade someone to do such a bizarre thing? How much easier to invite them to the familiar - our home, our bbq, our life...

Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of what we do on Sunday - I just don't believe it is church. I don't believe it is the starting point of a conversation about faith. If we think church is about what we do when we meet together on a Sunday, and that evangelism is about persuading people to come into that in order to hear 'the good news', then I suspect we have lost the plot. Of course we're going to be welcoming of everyone if they do come along. Of course we should explicitly encourage those who are there to a faith commitment. But if our strategy for loving the outcast, the vulnerable, the lost is to invite them to what we do on a Sunday then we have truly lost our marbles.

Invite them to your home. Invite them into your life. Invite them to be your friends. Love them. Don't hook them like some poor fish to be dropped into the 'keep net' of 'church'. Don't invite them to a 'service' where the 'professionals' can persuade them of God's love. Be God's love. Let's all do it. As a family, as a small-group, as a community of faith.

Church is not an introvert process. It isn't a place where we get healed behind closed doors, come out when we're shiny and perfect in order to witness to the world, then go back for repairs when we get a bit tarnished. Church is where God's people engage with a hurting world. Church is where people who have been messed up by sin (theirs and others), who are in the process of being healed and saved, enagage in battle; spiritually, practically, daily, on behalf of those who are messed up by sin but who are not yet being healed or saved.

So that's it. I've decided. I'm never going to 'go to church' again. I'm never going to invite someone 'to go to church' either. I hope I can be a good friend to those who are hurting, to those who are outcast. I hope that with others who love God I can practically demonstrate His love to those the world ignores.

I look forward to celebrating and learning with others on a Sunday or whenever. It's fun, it's enriching, it's inspiring, it's great.

Then afterwards, we can go and be church.

Monday, 19 July 2010


Submission... Was thinking about it. When we say that word it seems all about power and control, submitting to someone elses will for them to do what they want. I have struggled with the concept. Easy to see it as one person being a doormat to the other, and I have acted that way in church because I have felt I have no value, that I am worthless, and that my needs are not important, and its all about pleasing the other person. But I now think its not like that. But in thinking like that I am assuming the person doesn't love or care. That God doesn't love or care, and that he will treat me like a doormat because that is my value. Reckon the truth is that God loves us, that he hates it when people exert control and power over each other in this way as it goes against the very nature of God being love. So what about submission, if its not this, what is it, can it be good?

Great question! I think this is a good example of how we should approach biblical interpretation. Catherine, in thinking about the above has come across a passage that read literally stands in stark contrast with what we know about God from the fuller context of scripture. What to do then? Either we doubt what we thought we knew, hold competing concepts of God (that leads to the double-mindedness that James warns of) or discard the difficult passage. If the broad context of scripture points in a particular direction, then what we should do is ask what is wrong with our understanding of the piece that doesn't fit. Maybe it's a piece of sky not a piece of sea!

So to submission. When we use the word it has the connotation of surrender, of one having power, control over the one submitting. Submission is a very negative word. Worse, it has been used in exactly this way for generations to justify the subjugation of women. Yet the word used does not mean this at all and the context in which it is used should make this abundantly clear. The word translated as submission means 'to rank yourself beneath'. It means that you consider others as valuable, as significant. It means you place yourself away from the centre, it means you are willing to lay aside your agenda for the sake of others. It does not mean you give others authority over you. It does not mean you have no choice, it does not mean that you become a victim.

In the light of Jesus' laying aside of rights, of His 'ranking himself under', we should all 'submit' - rank ourselves under, each other - as a worked example of what Christ has done. This understanding of submission is mutual - it demonstrates who God is, His character. As Catherine points out, far from control or oppression, it is loving, giving, joyful.

Re-reading the passage in this context we see that in verse 21 it points out that in the light of who Christ is, we should all submit to one another. In short, husbands should submit to wives, parents should submit to children, masters to slaves – as well as the other way round! The context is that those who have rights should be willing to lay those aside – because this is what love does – it is what the one who is love has done. Household codes of the day set out the rights of those who had power (men) over those who had none (women, children, slaves). But Paul radically says that for this submission to be Godly as opposed to abusive, it needs to be in the context of a love which is not conditional on that submission. With this context in place we read the passage not as a mandate for groups of people to lord it over others, but as opportunities in our relationships to demonstrate the love of Jesus:

Ephesians 5 then becomes:
Wives, demonstrate God's love by ranking yourself under your husbands in the same way as the church ranks itself under Christ. Husbands model your love of God by ranking yourself under your wives as Christ ranked himself under the church.

Children, model the Father heart of God ranking yourselves under your parents. Parents model the love of God by ranking yourself under your children as you give up your power to minutely control.

This is truely radical - let's give it a try!

Monday, 12 July 2010


Catherine writes...

Diaries. I don't have one, quite funny when I suddenly remember that I should be doing something in 10 minutes, and then have a mega rush to get there vaguely on time :) Reckon a diary can be good, stops the mass panic, the questions over what time I need to be somewhere because I have forgotten, the ringing up the doctors to find out when my appointment is.... But when it dictates what we do and overides the natural response, then it becomes a problem. The person is upset, but I have to be somewhere else - diary says so. My friend is locked out of their house, but can't take the spare key cos I'm diaried to be doing something else. Friend needs a lift to the hospital cos she's broken her leg diary says nooooo!!! Doing stuff by diary makes things a whole lot more predictable, less messy, but I reckon an element of relationship can be lost if the diary becomes the be all and end all. People become a slot in the diary, rather than someone to relate to, activities to complete, not people to love.

Same with our approach to church. It can be about set times and events, but Jesus didn't seem to work like that. It was about relationship, about choices of what to do with time in the immediate. When the woman who had been bleeding for lots of years touched Jesus he spent time with her, before going off to heal a girl. About to have a nice rest, crowds followed him and he talked to them instead. His mother asked him to do a miracle at a wedding, and even though not the right time chose to do it for relationship.

Diaries can also make us too busy, cramming things into it to fit as much in as possible, doing everything partly but not fully. End up exhausted, and also feeling like you're not quite doing anything right, and frustrated. Chatting with Charlotte one of my friends while writing this, she points out we can end up filling our diaries doing good things like Martha, easy to forget to spend time being with God, enjoying his company, listening to him speak, like Mary.

David adds...

I'm back from holiday! Judging by the fact that readership numbers for the blog went up in my absence (thanks Catherine, I'm not jealous, honest), you didn't really miss me! We had a lovely time thanks, partly because we had a week not ruled by a diary. Back to work today though. Monday morning; 9:30 devotions really good - thanks Gail, 10:30 Senior Leadership Meeting - important; 11:00 Pastoral Team catch up - prayerful; 2:00 Meeting with Steve - really helpful..... get the picture? All really good, important, but how different to last week. Time for the spontaneous - 'do you want to come to dinner?' yes please. 'Do you want to join our bowls match?' Indeed I would. 'Simon, do you want to come with our family to Waterworld, since your boring parents don't want to?' Yes please. Space for fun, for friends, for life...

But what about now we're back from holiday? Will the diary take over as tyrant?

No, because we set boundaries, physically and as a principle. First thing we do in the New year is plot into the calendar times of holiday or recreation (for me that includes teaching - it genuinely builds and refreshes me). Each day I make sure some time is set aside for doing creative things (like blog writing) because again, that refuels me. My current role is admin. heavy, so I don't book meetings on a Thursday. At all. I block the day out as 'busy', but don't accept meetings. It's for people - I'm a pastor! When folk say 'heh can we catch up?' I'm free to say, 'yes, how about Thursday?'. I could be busy at meetings every evening, but we don't book more than three evenings a week for appointments. That means most evenings we can spontaneously say 'It's sunny, we're having a bbq, pop over' or our friends can just drop in. Unless it's an emergency (real, not just someone's idea of one), we don't answer the phone during our family meal time. Friday is my day off, I go to the gym then often drop in to church - it's like bunking off school in reverse - I love it, I can just hang out, have a coffee with whoever is around. This isn't a sophisticated way of admitting that I'm lazy, the point is that being diligent does not have to mean being task-oriented or ruled by the diary.

Of course not everyone has such control over their diary during the working day, but most have more than they perhaps think. Lets treat every day as a holy-day, set apart for us and God, us and others.

Saturday, 10 July 2010


Trust. How much do you trust me? Guessing quite a few of you would say not a lot, as you have no clue who I am :). Kind of like that with me and God until the last year, didn't really know who he was, so couldn't let go of control I held and allow him to help, because didn't trust he was Good, or Just or that he cared about me because people who were in positions where I should have been able to trust them did things which broke that and I saw God in that same light. I would say God was good, that he loved me, but it could never get into my heart cos there were barriers in the way. It meant I isolated myself, didn't have the blessing of other people in my life and made things a whole lot harder with the kids, because I had to stay in total control and struggled to allow even my hubby to look after them for any length of time.

Control it is so strange,
For as I hold things tight
Life seems so impossible,
And always such a fight
But as my hand unfurls
And stops holding onto life
Things seem much more in control
And peace replaces strife

To trust someone means that you are giving some control over to them, working with them, allowing them to be who they are, and be part of your life, and not controlling what they do like a remote control car, but in the same way involves risk, they might make a big big mess of it. David could have decided to take my rights away when I hacked into the blog, given me a ticking off and banned me from entering the site again to stay in total control of his blog, but then he would have in my opinion have missed out!!
Same with God he places trust in each of us to represent him as part of his team, to be his light in this world.

Holding tight, knuckles white,
Can’t let go, or lose control,
Racing head, shaking legs,
Fuse lit, harder to hold the powder in the keg
Want to explode, but can’t let things go,
For I lost power before, and I can’t do that once more
For when I give control away I take a risk of trust again
But I have seen a love so strong,
A love thats true and don’t do wrong
And this is helping me to trust,
And live outside my little box

Friday, 9 July 2010


Formless and void
God called Gabriel to His side. ‘I want to show you something’ He said excitedly. Gabriel looked up, wondering as ever what might be next. He loved God, but never quite knew what to expect. ‘We’ve decided to create a universe’ He said. ‘A physical place for people to live and enjoy our love.’ Even though these were new concepts to Gabriel, he understood their meaning – yet another thing he didn’t really understand. ‘Look, I’ve begun the preparations.’ Gabriel saw and didn’t know quite what to say. It was a mess. Chaos. No shape, no form, just lots of, well, stuff. God smiled: ‘Go on, say it’ He encouraged. ‘Well, obviously I mean no disrespect. But it looks like, well, a mess’. Gabriel waited for the rebuke that in his heart he knew would never come. God laughed. ‘But I love mess!’ He said. Mess has potential, mess has creativity! We’ve got forever to clear up! This is just the raw materials for creation, now comes the fun part – what should we make?’ Gabriel waited a while for the answer then realised that it was a genuine question. God was asking his advice. ‘I don’t know’ he stammered, desperately trying to think of something that would sound intelligent. God put His arm round his shoulders and laughed again. ‘Don’t worry’ He said ‘Tell you what, how about if I show you some options, then you can help me decide?’

The World of ‘Little Loves’
In his mind Gabriel saw all the good stuff being swept up in God’s hands and being fashioned into something. Finally, God held out His hand and said ‘tell me what think.’ It was a world, a lovely world, made from good things. It teemed with life and chief amongst that were two-legged creatures that God called people. It was a fine world, peaceful, harmonious, un-messy in every respect. The people enjoyed their world, enjoyed each other, enjoyed God’s company, year after year, rolling into eternity.

God asked Gabriel ‘What do you think?’ ‘It is lovely’ he said. ‘Lovely’ God repeated. ‘Yes, it is. But it could be so much more. That’s the debate.’ ‘What do you mean Lord?’ ‘Look more closely Gabriel, tell me, are the people fulfilled, are they happy?’ Gabriel watched for a while. ‘Nothing changes’ he said ‘they seem to enjoy all the parts of their life and yet, deep down it is sad. I don’t understand.’ God smiled again ‘You are right Gabriel. These people I call ‘little loves’. They have only a small capacity to love and to be loved. It’s too risky you see. The more capacity for love, the more capacity to not love. The more potential for love the more they must be free to choose. Gabriel, the more good we allow them to do, the more evil they can do. So this is a world of ‘little loves’. They can’t hurt themselves or the world they are in. You’ll like this – it can never be messy.’ He shook His head with a kind of wistful sadness, then quietly, so Gabriel had to strain to hear: ‘There is another possibility Gabriel, let me show you, then we will decide.’

The Messy World
God took some more of the chaotic stuff of creation and formed from it a new world. Another lovely, beautiful world, again teeming with life, created from the very essence of goodness. Yet here, as Gabriel looked closely was a difference. The people seemed majestic, there was something divine about them, they seemed to shine with dazzling potential. Gabriel looked at God and saw Him smile. ‘This is so much better Lord’ and God nodded but said simply ‘keep watching Gabriel, keep watching.’ As he did, the splendour of the people and the world they inhabited grew. The joy, the inexpressible wonder seemed to be inexhaustible. Then it changed. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a blackness appear. A lie told, an envy, a lustful look. With horror he saw the beauty decay, the awesomeness shatter. He saw death and disease, he saw murder and rape. He turned away, unwilling to watch any more. ‘Make it stop Lord, how could they, please, they are causing so much pain, so much hurt, make it stop.’ ‘Ah, but that’s the point Gabriel. I cannot. I can destroy it, I can choose not to create it. But I cannot otherwise stop it. If they are to have the capacity to be all that you saw, they must be capable of what you now see. It is their choice. If I impose my choice on them, they have no choice, no love – they become less, they become ‘little loves’.

Gabriel couldn’t bear it: ‘But surely there must be a way, a way to warn them, a way that leaves them their dignity, their capacity, but doesn’t end in this.’ God looked at him kindly: ‘Trust me, we have thought of little else since we first imagined this possibility. But whatever we do, however we warn them, in the end, one of them chooses not to receive our love. We have played the possibilities countless times. It always ends the same’. Gabriel stared at the ground for long moments before saying finally ‘Then there is no alternative, if creation is to happen, it must the world of the ‘little loves’’ and with great sadness he turned to leave.

‘Gabriel’ God’s voice cut across his despair. ‘Keep watching’. Gabriel started to say something, to say that he couldn’t bring himself, to ask what was the point. But something in God’s tone caused him to pause, to turn and to watch again. At first the horror continued, a descent into depravity, blindness and death. Just occasionally someone would live a life that shadowed the original glory, once in a while someone would make extraordinary, courageous choices to love God despite the evidence and briefly there would be a blaze of colour against the backdrop of grey. But as time passed they were fewer and fewer and Gabriel was about to turn away once more. When he first saw it he assumed he had made a mistake, for there, right in the midst of the darkest place a light flickered. Not any light, not the light that had come from the poor brave souls who had made God their choice. A light that Gabriel knew well, a light that even now stood next to him. He gasped. ‘No, it can’t be. My Lord, I see you in their midst, at the heart of the storm.’ Gently God placed His arm around Gabriel and quietly said ‘you asked if there was a way to stop this. There is a better question Gabriel. Can it be redeemed? Watch’ And so He did. He saw how His God walked as a man with men. He saw how the darkness fled from His presence, saw how people were drawn to His light. He became excited, thrilled and amazed at what he was seeing – thought that God shared his hope as he felt his shoulder squeezed in companionship. But it wasn’t. As he watched, he realised that God was leaning on him for support. He tried to understand such a thing but suddenly everything else was erased by what he saw. The light was being murdered. God was being killed by the people He had gone to rescue. Mute, he stood transfixed, as motionless as this disfigured man now nailed to wood before his eyes. He saw the people mocking, he heard a cry that tore the heavens, he saw God die. As he stared in disbelief he heard God whisper ‘look closely’. He did. He saw a new morning about to begin, a day without hope. He saw a woman who had the memory of glory hidden deep inside, but who had been painted black by the world. He saw her walk to where they had buried the light, her heart as broken as was Gabriel’s own. Then God spoke. Not this time a whisper, not this time with sadness, not this time to Gabriel, but to this forlorn woman. ‘Mary’ He shouted so the whole of eternity heard it. The woman looked and saw, saw the man she would die for, saw the man who had died for her. Saw the light ablaze once more. Gabriel watched as she embraced the light, watched as the cloak of darkness vanished from around her, watched as the glory buried within burst uncontrollably, inextinguishably into life. Watched as they danced together, watched as she told her friends, watched as mankind was redeemed.

The Choice
‘So Gabriel, which should we choose? Little Loves or a cross? If they knew the full story, not just the suffering, not just the present, but the redeemed future as well, which would they choose? Tell me Gabriel which would you choose? But before you tell me know this. I created you and all those like you with great capacity too.’ Gabriel paused, his mind reeling from all he had seen, from the questions God had posed. Then remembering he said: ‘Lord, you said that at some point, no matter how you warned, at some point one of those with great capacity will end up betraying. And you have reminded me that we too have great capacity.’ ‘Indeed Gabriel. Which is why I invite you to choose with me, for you and your kind have a part to play. You will nurture and protect, you will advocate on my behalf. And some will choose a different path.’ Their eyes met and Gabriel knew the choice he would make. Knew the choice that was in God’s heart to make. He smiled and grew to his full stature and cried ‘I choose life!’ God laughed: ‘Well chosen Gabriel, go and prepare – I have a mess to make’

In the beginning of creation the earth was formless and void. Chaos, unformed goodness. And the triune God debated what they might create, discerned the cost, decided on a plan, out of love, made a choice.

And God said ‘Let there be light!’

Thursday, 8 July 2010


Was thinking about Jesus, and him meeting people. His eyes were different, his eyes weren't tainted by labels of society, by fear of people being different, by grudges held in hearts from past experience, by assumptions about a person based on appearance/ clothes there wearing/ how often they had a shower/ what they talk like

And how often I see things so differently to him. Love the fact he sees the heart, sees through the exterior, sees through the labels a person has had placed on them to their heart. He sees the hidden depths.

Wrote this poem a couple of days ago after reading Luke 7 v 36 - 50

What do you see, what do you see
A woman so impure she shouldn't touch thee
A friend trying to help by pointing this out,
You shouldn't let her you hear him shout
But what did you see, what did you see
a heart filled with love and honouring thee
her hair wiping tears that flowed from her heart
and thanks and love and thats just a start
For when she bent down and wiped your feet,
you saw who she was and not all her deeds
You saw the design that you'd placed within her
and not all the dirt and the grime of the world

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


Was thinking about dancing, bit of ballroom going on in my head (thankfully only going on in my head otherwise Gareth my husband may have very sore feet. Amazing how much better the dancing is in my head!!). And thinking how much our relationship with God is like a dance. Him taking the lead, us keeping in step with his plans. Step at a time moving with him, too many steps, and get confused about what the next one is. If I move too far away it all goes pear shaped. Try and take the lead trip over, lose the rhythm, dancing becomes hard work. Keep in step with him things are free, flowing and great :)

Dancing with the father

My dad takes a step, I follow his lead gliding around free on the breeze
As petals of an iris from the centre spray out so the rhythm that takes me around and around,
Is like a drum beating within my heart, to keep my arms and legs, in step in this dance
So twisting and turning this way and that, but held in a pattern uniquely designed
Guided and led by the beat from inside, that is led by the father in his love for the bride

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


What a match the world cup, Ghana vs Uruguay, great game, last minutes of match, Ghana going for it, and then Suarez (think thats his name, but I'm a girl so don't do football!!) cheated, stopped the goal with 2 hands, got sent off (and if he says that it was instinctive, I say piffle who is in control of their own body!!), penalty missed, then Ghana lost on penalties. So unjust!! thankfully not a life and death situation. God loves us and gives us choice, that means choice to make decisions that are good and bad. There are times when things happen which are unjust as the result of other peoples choices. So as just a little thought on this here's a poem I wrote a few months back:

New year

The end and the beginning,
at the same moment of time,
as on that cross you hung,
in pain and anguish
the end seemed more apparent
and victory seemed long gone
but when the curtain tore the whisperings of a beginning were shown to all
and the whispers turned to shouting as you overcame the grave
and rose to life again
death defeated victory won
self giving love the winner
so as I see my life and injustices dealt out
I know that miracles you can work to bring about
Good from bad, victory from seemed defeat
For your love is stronger than things meant to destroy,
and as I see my year, the bad, the ends, the times of trial
become beginnings, living springs, wells of water flowing out

Monday, 5 July 2010


So to expectations. Don't you just love the way young kids don't conform to whats expected cos they really don't know what to do. They are creative, and they often see the world in very different ways. Convention says that they need to use a fork to eat a gooey cake, but they don't know that, so end up eating it with hands and then using the leftover goo to make a beautiful picture, normally on clothes or another stainable surface. Then they learn what is expected and everything becomes a whole lot less messy.

But expectations placed on us can limit us, weigh us down, mean we miss out on all God has for us, because we think we have to do things a set way, or think that that is what people expect us to do or be. Things become a whole lot less messy (generally good) but we become a lot more restricted and constrained (generally bad).

Often expectations however well meaning actually hinder change and growth because they become set in stone and a way of life. People will continue acting up to expectation until something different is expected from them. Class clown keeps on being class clown cos thats what people expect. Can end up being boxed by expectations rather than free.

In writing this blog could feel like I have to make it like a David Painting blog, but I ain't Mr Painting (some very fundamental differences) So ain't living under expectation of doing things his way, happy days :) And though the blog may be a bit messier, and less well put together than normal, I'm learning, and learning often means mess, (just thinking about my kids baking!!) but is also fun :)

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Hackers Blog

Well mr p is away and have hacked onto his blog! Privelege of feeding his 3 rather straggly tomato plants in the hope that one day they will fruit!! What fun :) so thought while he is away would post a random thought or two, and maybe a poem if feeling very brave (though may have to work up courage first) !!

So what to post!! was thinking of dissing him, sharing some awful secret or just making up a scandalous story just for the response and because I am in a mischievous mood, but can't think of anything to write on that. So to the blog:

How easy it is to run people down, to see them as a problem, to look down on them under the guise of helping them. To be jealous and fearful of all that they have and so try beating them up with words to make ourselves bigger and them smaller. Truth is when we actually get to know people, rather than just half know people, we start seeing them less as a problem and more with eyes of love, care, and wanting the best for them. And not unsurprisingly they also start to learn about true love, and are able to give that back. So although it was tempting to be a bit naughty on this blog page, have resisted, because I actually rather like the guy and his fab family as friends. They have cared for me through difficult times, looked after my kids when I was about to explode (or implode) to give me time and space to think, and work through things. shown love when I was feeling rather unlovable, spoken out truth into my life when was listening to lies, and also been a lot of fun.

Hoping they have also found out that I can be rather funny/mad/insane and generally good to be around too :-)

So hoping they have a great holiday, Praying Gods blessing over them, and if I am honest will be missing my second family just a bit :)

Saturday, 3 July 2010


We're off on holiday. Paphos. Yippee! Sun, sea, nice food, some sport, books, puzzles, interesting places. Then we arrive....

Truth is of course, whilst it will be really nice to be away, so much of what we enjoy is right here at home. The convenient and familiar access to the everyday things. But above all, the people. Friends, family, loved ones; the casual conversations, the immediacy of relationship. Ultimately these are the things that matter and one of the great things holidays do for us is to realign our perspective.

Made me think about how maybe God sees things. We're those that matter most to Him in the whole universe. It's not the sun, the stars, the heavenly host that get Him excited. It's not the stuff  He created. It's us. We're the ones He longs to be with. We're the ones His heart yearns for. We're the ones who, when we come into the room, light up His life. And He knows that if we respond to that love, we will be free, we will have overflowing life, we will have exuberant joy. He knows that it is a prize worth every price. He knows that if we but taste it that we will agree too.

Of course, as Christians we understand well the price that God chose to pay. That Jesus, for the joy of relationship with us, chose the cross.... But what about the price we pay? Oh, I'm not talking about some self-denial sacrifice (I'm going on holiday for goodness sake!). No, I mean what happens if we agree with God's perspective, that relationship with Him is worth everything - the 'pearl of great price' for which we sell all we have - what permission does that give God?

He's our Father, our perfect parent. How far will He allow us to go, what will He allow to happen to us? You see, intuitively we think that the perfect parent would prevent us from all harm. Especially an all-knowing, all-powerful one. But what if He all-knows that the path to the very best includes, maybe even requires, the stripping away of things that distract, hinder or spoil that relationship? What if He defines harm in terms of damage to the relationship rather than just to the material? What if, for the joy that is the relationship, it is better to lose a hand or an eye? What if the relationship is so overwhelmingly wonderful that we are not willing to stop even if death is in our way?

We had a BBQ last night. Josh (almost 2) saw something and ran for it. Never mind that the BBQ was in the way. Kept his eye on the goal, full speed, straight line. Crash. No damage to boy or BBQ. Grass a bit singed...

Two things. Good parenting sets appropriate boundaries, warns of danger, is quick to protect, swift to comfort, available to heal. Good parenting does not constrict, does not always prevent - takes risks - knowing the goal is worth it. Secondly, we need to look at the Father's open arms and just go for it. Don't worry about the dangers on the way. Set your focus on him and run exuberantly, joyfully, uninhibitedly into his arms.

As we do that, there will be holiday - the green pastures, the still waters. But there will also be some shadowy valleys. Don't think of them as things God should have spared us from - maybe they're just the BBQ in the way of fuller relationship with God, the refining on the way to the ultimate holy-day - eternal life, heaven with God.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Kings, worms and bowls

When I was about 15 I took up playing bowls. (No, I'm not asking for sympathy or ministry...) It has I confess, still got something of the 'old mans' game about it. Pictures of manicured greens and elderly men and women in whites come to mind.

Turned out though that I had a natural talent for it (bowls, not being an old man) which led to a problem. How should I relate to people much older than me - what should I call them? 

Some of us have grown up focused on the awesome attributes of God. Just like David in Psalm 8. 'O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all your works...'. Of course, it's great from time to time to reflect on His majesty and power. But as in Psalm 8, it can lead to an approach to our relationship with God that asks 'what is man that you would even think of him?' If we don't look beyond this, we end up with 'miserable worm' syndrome - almost outdoing each other with tales of how unworthy we are. God is the awesome King and we are the pet dog who, if he is very good, is allowed to sit by the fire in the King's bedroom. Once or twice, when the King is in a particularly benevolent mood, we might even be allowed to curl up on the end of the bed.

Such a view erodes our power, deminishes our self-worth and degrades what God has done for us. We aren't worms! Jesus did not die for worms! We are new-life, set-free, empowered, co-heirs - who collectively will defeat the very powers of hell.

The truth is, our relationship with God has never been about power or status.  It's not based on His majesty, power and might, but on love. Jesus says that He no longer calls us servants, but friends - even though he is King, He lays aside His right to be related to in that way.

The bowlers chose not to stand on their right to respect and formality. 'Call me Fred' said the 'skip' - the captain of my team. I never lost sight of the fact that it was a privilege, never used it as an excuse for disrespect, was always conscious that they were who they were. Curiously though, having laid aside the right to position, as we played together, as I got to know their stories, a much deeper respect grew than ever there would have been between an upstart adolescent an old man. Now it was founded on shared values, shared experience, mutual understanding rather than on mere power or status.

It helped of course that my immense talent won us lots of trophies...

The relationship God has chosen for us is not master-slave. Not even master-friend. But as loving father, as adopted brother, as co-heir and most extraordinarily, as Bride. This profoundly affects the way in which we approach God, the language we use, the content of our praying: If the relationship was master-slave, communication would be one directional. God would simply give us instructions, we would never initiate a conversation, never dare to ask, never hope for anything more. If the relationship was King-trusted advisor, it would be characterised by formality. But it is none of these, instead of stooping down, he lifts us up. Instead of condescending He promotes. So though He is a king, come boldly to the throne of grace. Though He is awesome, don't be overawed.

Because though He is a King, you too are made royal.