Wednesday, 26 January 2011

No Man's Land

Catherine writes
Think a lot of the time when dealing with stuff we can end up trapped. We ask people to pray for us, and end up with a general feeling that the issue should have been dealt with. But often feelings/ fears, difficulties return. In reality, underlying things aren't dealt with in a five minute prayer at the end of a service or wherever! Problem is, we feel we have prayed the prayer, so to go back on that is just our weakness. Guilt and shame then piles on as we keep being unable to do things that have been prayed about or we fail/struggle with thoughts or behaviours. We end up just fighting it - we feel that we can't talk to God about it, that he will be fed up with us, that he will be angry that we haven't moved on, that our faith just isn't good enough. And we feel we can't bring it up with church people because they have already prayed for us, 'what will they think?'

For a lot of my christian life it worked like this for me: Anxiety not overcome, not feeling God near, feeling I needed to work harder at stuff to show I could do things. Feeling a 'failure' as a christian. Feeling it wasn't right to talk about how I was actually feeling, because that just wasn't right.

Think this process leaves us trapped and chained, and unable to access the freedom God has for us.

David writes
On the other hand, the alternative to the quick after-service ministry prayer is often seen as counselling or 'therapy'. Where every nuance from the past has to be understood and dealt with in minute detail, sometimes taking years with no discernable change. Except perhaps to the counselees bank balance!

Catherine writes
That's harsh! Think we both agree that there's a place for ministry times and specialist counselling.....

David writes
Yeah, I reckon you're right, but for a lot of people who are trapped as you describe, there must be a better way!

Catherine writes
Yep, I reckon there's a third way! God longs for us to have this freedom, longs for us to be transformed, longs for relationship and to communicate with us. Difference is, when he transforms things change! Let's recognise that ministry praying has to leave room for the possibility that this is part of a God-guided journey of increasing discovery and freedom. Not everything changes at once, God has time, He's patient!

David writes
Ok, like it, but how does that differ from counselling, other than the important point that the person doesn't feel guilty that the one off prayer was supposed to fix it all?

Catherine writes
It's about God revealing the stuff that he knows is key to the issues that need dealing with now. They may not be those secular counselling would pick up on or even those that we would choose to highlight. That's why God is God! He's a loving Father, He knows that this needs dealing with in order to get to other things later... It's about cooperating with The Holy Spirit as He convinces of sin, reveals wounds and brings healing. Then it's about exercising the gifts of the Spirit to minister healing into the area He has revealed. Sometimes it's not even a whole area that is revealed at first, it might be just the hint of something that as you pray into becomes clearer. But little by little, the layers are peeled back, not of every wound or every area, but a light-shining, truth revealing insight into that which God knows is the best thing for us.

David writes
So, not a one off prayer, but not an open ended counselling that might open wounds in an untimely manner... more a developing understanding and progressive dealing in God's time at His pace, of the issue that He has pinpointed.

Sounds like what we need are Spirit filled friends....

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Wobbly Legs

Did you watch any tacky movies or shows over the holiday period? Lots of guys (and some women) I know secretly like them but hide the moment when tears begin to form - embarrassed that their 'strong' image may be let down as they see Bambi's mother shot, the dalmations escape or the Von Trapp family sing their way to freedom....

Guess to some extent we all have choice as to how open we are with our feelings  - for years I blocked mine off (click here for related blog). Thing is, now that I am free to feel again, there is an added complication. Seems like I have a sleeping disorder which means that my legs literally go to sleep when I allow myself to feel strong emotion. The rest of me remains awake, if a little slowed down, but legs disappearing suddenly is not easy to hide.

So what to do? Risk being misunderstood, looking ridiculous, a bit of public humiliation, or suppress feelings?

For example, New Year's Eve party. Tired, a bit fragile, vulnerable. Easy to grit teeth, fight off emotions, retain dignity, but die a bit. Alternative is to turn away from pride and embrace the gift God humbly won back for me. The result - me collapsing on the kitchen floor..... Guess if you had walked in and seen me slumped in my husbands arms you might have assumed I had had too much to drink.

So thinking about it this week. God wants me to have feelings, so why am I going back to trying to stop them? So what if others misunderstand my falling over or wobbling and assume the worst about me - I am loved by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He knows the truth, it's his opinion that matters. I'm reminded that Jesus didn't allow what others thought of him, didn't allow their misunderstanding, their misinterpretation, to stop him doing what he knew brough life. Even though it cost him his own.

Of course I want things to change, want my legs to stop giving out, but in the meantime before that happens, I'm going to accept that feelings are good and part of who I am. So if you see me on the floor, say 'hi' and pray for all those who are misunderstood. And next time Bambi gets shot at, or your child goes to Uni, or a loved one gets hurt, or a friend gets married - don't hide the tears.

Celebrate them with me.

ps. I had a sleep test at the specialist Sleep Unit at Papworth hospital this week to see if the sleeping disorder is narcolepsy / cataplexy. Thanks for all your prayers and thoughts, the outcome is that I have seriously fragmented sleep, but they don't think I have narcolepsy which is great as it means that driving is ok (provided I'm not too tired). It's possible that the tablets I am on for depression may also be interfering with my sleep. The consultant didn't know what was causing the collapsing legs, said it seemed like cataplexy but he didn't think it was from sleep study, suggested seeing a neurologist to see if its neurological, or that it might be a consequence of dealing with all the emotional stuff in the last 2 years, will wait and see :) so glad to get detatched from all the wires :) xx

Friday, 7 January 2011


Been challenged to think about Paul's comments regarding civil authorities and the wider issue of the law (see Romans 13:1-7). The way we interpret these passsages leads us to very different positions in terms of those in authority and the role of the law. In one direction we end up with the 'Divine right of Kings' and a legal framework that seeks to impose types & standards of behaviour according to religious belief. In the other direction we end up with a legal framework which is entirely based on the pragmatic functioning of society. I suspect that Christians mostly default to a position nearer the former than the latter. Instinctively we look at the bible, read the old testament and presume that a religous framework for our laws is right. Then we look at the supposed halcyon days of Britain under it's 'Christian' laws and the assumptions are reinforced.

Yet surely the message Paul comes back to time and again is that law is powerless to actually change us? God gave the law, not in the hope that it would lead to a better world but as a means of reflecting how far away from that better world human behaviour takes us. Of course within the whole law there were purely civil regulations that were founded in the charatcer of God; cities of refuge, the welfare rules surrounding harvest etc. But in the New Testament, Jesus persistently points not at the external law, but at at the internal heart. Isn't it the case that the message is not about the external imposition of Godly behaviour, but the internal belief that transforms our behaviour? 

In which case, where does that leave the legal system? This is not academic or simply a philosophical nicety. Should the law be based on morality, on right and wrong as defined by religous values, or simply be an expression of what allows society to function as effectively as possible in a fallen world?

My personal view is strongly the latter. Such a position allows us to ask pragmatic questions such as whether society would be safer if we legalised drugs. If we start from a position that the law has to represent God's wisdom, then we will prohibit anything that is harmful to the individual or society. But in such a model all we can do is police, enforce and condemn....

I know too little about the underlying statistics and trends to know, but I would be very interested to hear from those who do... Would there be less crime, would more people be rehabiliated, would fewer people die, if we legalised and licenced the sale and use of drugs? Would some girls and women be safer if prostitution was regulated and licenced? In neither case am I suggesting that these are good things, but given the fallen world we in which we live, is it not at least appropriate to ask these questions?

It's a dilemma epitomised by the Catholic Church's response to the Aids crisis in Africa. By imposing a standard of behaviour that is unsustainable without redemption, thousands of people have lost their lives.. The message of abstention and the prohibition on the use of condoms simply do not work in a fallen world, yet the imposition of these standards led to far more people contracting HIV than would otherwise have been the case.

Surely a better approach is to allow the authorities to create a legal framework that facilitates civil cooperation within a safe structure and allow the church to get on with modelling a better way underpinned by the love of Christ?

What do you think? Am I being hopelessly liberal, or pragmatically relevant?