Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Gift of Blessing

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Mrs C posted this review of 'The Gift of Blessing' on Amazon:

"As a mum of two little ones, finding the time to satisfy my hunger for God's presence and His Word is often a struggle! In speaking to a crowd and his disciples, Jesus said "Is anything worth more than your soul?" (Mark 8:37, NLT) These are challenging words for all of us today. But we live under grace not law, and this beautifully compiled devotional is a wonderful way to receive and re-receive the gift of His blessing (Numbers 6:24-26) in the messy midst of family life. I've already recommended it to a friend."

Thursday, June 21, 2018

In the days of rain

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My pal wrote this Amazon review of ‘In the days of rain’ by Rebecca Stott which I had recommended to him:

A friend who is a priest highly recommended this book. I'm so delighted he did. It has not been an easy or comfortable read despite or perhaps because of the author's brilliant story telling, beautiful language and fascinating human interest. Reading it seemed to draw up old shadows lurking in my genetic memory, old stories whispered by my parents, old habits observed in my grandparents, old religious anxieties. My own family came out of the Exclusives after several generations in the 1960's when under James Taylor Jnr's leadership, increasingly pedantic and cruel rules were adopted and the formerly strict Christian sect descended into a closed and controlling cult. This was a dark decade, and Stott recounts testimonies of the shattered minds, broken families, suicides and worse. My grandfather - a respected ministering elder - and grandmother (descended from a line of Victorian Brethren) were 'silenced' after grandad said it was not the Brethren's concern if a maid working for two spinster EB sisters owned a radio in her room. But the other elders disagreed - the brethren were to be 'separate from the world' and that meant no maid with a radio in the house ....grandad's worldly view meant he was disciplined and separated.

Grandad refused to march to this warped rhythm and left, but so ingrained was the spirituality that throughout the 1960's & early 1970's he helped lead a meeting for ex exclusives who did fellowship on old exclusive lines. Stott atmospherically explains the meetings which as a young girl she observed, but not participated in, being female. I once attended a gathering as a young boy - the men sat separated from the women and stood and 'prophesied' as the Spirit led and 'broke bread'. It left a lasting impression - but so did a subsequent conversation with grandma who said that same old men say the same old thing every week - so much for the spontaneity of the Spirit! Grandad was a good man, but closed in on himself, he carried a great sadness, I don't recall ever seeing him laugh.

Rebecca Stott's book reminded me of these family aches. Reading it was harrowing but also hopeful. She showed how people could come to their senses, could awaken out of a nightmare, could break free and indeed did, in large numbers, when the whole thing unravelled before their eyes when the supreme leader Taylor was displayed for all to see: an immoral, foul mouthed, bullying, blaspheming, liar, spiralling into uncontrolled alcoholism in the infamous 'Aberdeen incident'. But where do those who have been caged go? What do they do? To walk away from the Brethren was to forfeit your job, your house, your community, your family, your whole rhythm of life. But many on leaving found their souls and drank in deep draughts of newly brewed grace. Rebecca Stott powerfully invites us into the anxiety and delight of her family's new found liberty - I particularly loved reading of her friendship with a Roman Catholic family and her tears at the beauty on attending the Mass and the mother's hand tenderly holding hers. Had Rebecca remained in the Brethren she would not have been allowed to go to university let alone become a professor of Literature and creative writing. But for her father the freedom was mixed: the joy of rediscovering the arts and literature and wide friendships and acting was intoxicating, however chaos pursued him without the bearings and boundaries of Brethrenism and I suspect haunted by what he had been and done. Rebecca's boyfriend secretly wrote every day to her father when he was imprisoned for fraud - an act of tenderness contrasting starkly with the sharp treatment inside the Exclusives.’

The story 'In the days of Rain' will be almost unbelievable to some - a window onto a world few know anything of. But to those whose family were involved it is a painful but cathartic read. This book is revelatory and shows how religion gone bad can crush the soul when man (yes generally male) made rules rule. And this book is redemptive because it shows there is life outside and after a cult - wholeness and fruitfulness and flourishing humanity and contributing and bettering society, as indeed the brilliant Rebecca Stott herself has.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Good questions

I like Ed Stetzer’s accountability questions:

1. Have you been a testimony this week to the greatness of Jesus Christ with both your words and actions? 

2. Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about someone who is not your spouse this week?

3. Have you lacked any integrity in your financial dealings this week, or coveted something that does not belong to you?

4. Have you been honoring, understanding and generous in your important relationships this past week? 

5. Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face-to-face?

6. Have you given in to an addictive behavior this week? Explain.

7. Have you continued to remain angry toward another?

8. Have you secretly wished for another's misfortune so that you might excel?

9. Did you finish your reading this week and hear from the Lord? What are you going to do about it?

10. Have you been completely honest with me?

Saturday, June 09, 2018

The Hills are Alive

...that they may take hold of the life that is truly life' 
1 Tim 6:19

I have returned once again from my annual retreat with the Men on Mountains which is now in its 18th year. We are hatching a few plans for a challenging adventure for year twenty. As ever, we walked, told stories, listened, prayed, asked questions, confessed sins, had them pointed out, poked, laughed and shared each others joys and felt each others pains. These are very special men that I have been graced with to go up hill and down dale and it remains our intention to walk with each other annually to the grave.

As an innovation, this year we had a theme: 'Let's talk about parenting' said one of our number. There are seven of us with children ranging from 0 to 27 so we have a few collective parenting miles on our collective MoM car. Hence, in a pub in Nether Wasdale we each shared a piece or two of parenting advice or a lesson learnt here and there. The Men on Mountains parenting book will follow.

  • Help them take responsibility for their lives
  • Don't intervene too much
  • Eat meals together as much as possible
  • No phones at the table
  • No being different at home than anywhere else- don't pretend
  • Death: deal with death well. Don't hide anything. Cry and be real. Make death normal. Talk about your own story of experiencing death.
  • Talk about things without judgment. Try to listen well
  • Don't drag your kids around to itinerant things.
  • Advice from 'Raising boys': Learn to cook a Sunday lunch by the age of 8'
  • Have explicit family values e.g Generosity. Form a family culture as early as you can eg 'In our family we celebrate with each other'
  • The phrase 'In our family we....' is a good one. However, the caveat is parents need to honour this too. It's not a means of control.
  • One of our number's sons said this at his parents 25th wedding anniversary: 'Dad loves mum way more than he loves us. If there was a train coming he'd rescue her first'
  • Prioritize your wife
  • Read everything on parenting by Rob Parsons
  • Use the 'power of descriptive praise' e.g 'When you sat down with that kid you were really kind'
  • 'To know what your own inheritance as a child of parents is and to know that it isn't the last word'. It can be redeemed. 
  • Don't negotiate with danger. However, patient negotiation is the norm.
  • Danny Silk's advice on 'the naughty step' is: 'Take time- you come back when you are ready'
  • Twins ;'It's them against the world'
  • Christian parents 'We too easily love/speak about grace but do law'
  • Trust God's Covenant in your parenting. It doesn't all hang on you and how you parent so trust his grace otherwise your parenting will simply be 'a work' and that rarely ends well. 
The Reads of the Year.

On parenting there were a couple apart from 'Everything by Rob Parsons'. One of us said that he thought 'In the days of rain' should be read by every children's worker and Christian parent in his Diocese. Its a story of being raised in a brethren home written by a Cambridge don. He couldn't put it down. Although many would be horrified to think there are parallels with the way we aim to disciple children and this story, he thinks there may be a scary amount of unrecognized similarities to the average evangelical home/ youth ministry.  Someone also found 'The Chosen' a help for reflection on parenting. Also Rory Stewart's 'Marches: Border walks with my father.'

Laloux 'Reinventing organisations' has been a help to one while doing a leadership MA.

C S Lewis McGrath

Born to Run Bruce Springsteen

Middlemarch Elliot

The Shepherd's Life was my ten penny worth.

The question that hit me this year was ‘Are your cherishing your wife?’ It was the word ‘cherishing’ that seemed important to reflect on. 

I'll share some more after next year!

Saturday blog-sweep

 Some interesting books for pastors The State we're in Attack at dawn Joseph Scriven Joy comes with the morning When small is beautiful