Welcome to the Patchwork Blog! I hope you enjoy reading my random thoughts about life, Jesus and the freedom he offers.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Teaching for Christian singles

I've been thinking more about singleness and being Christian.  I've started to wonder if God is calling me to begin some kind of teaching for single people in my area. It is still very much in the 'this is an idea I am praying about' sort of stage. If it is God inspired then He will  lead me I am sure.  I want to follow where He leads not run ahead of him.

We quite rightly  have specialised teaching for those who are married with the Marriage Course, we have parenting courses, divorce recovery courses, help those those with addictions and many others.  But what teaching is there out there for single Christians?  I am not talking about setting up groups aimed at dating and finding a partner. There are plenty of websites for single Christians to join in the search for a partner (that is a whole other post in itself ). I am thinking more about teaching people, and providing opportunities for Bible based discussions on subjects to do with being single as a Christian.

What teaching would be needed? Maybe looking at the church's attitudes to singleness, how to deal with the pain of unwanted long term singleness, loneliness, the lack of companionship, sexual frustration , the absence of touch (not sexual but just general hugs etc), practical issues of holidays alone, where to spend Christmas, is it right to want marriage, how do you know if God is calling you to be single?

If you are a single Christian what subjects would you like to see covered? Do you think it is right that we have teaching for singles? Can you see a place for a course on coping with unwanted long term singleness? I would love to hear what you think.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Singleness and the Christian Life


  I've been thinking a lot recently about singleness and how it affects me as a single Christian. One of the things I have realised since starting to write my book about my crisis of faith is that not dealing with the pain of singleness is one of the main contributory factors in my losing faith.  The following are excerpts from the first draft of my book, He Never Let Go.

I have never imagined myself as a career girl. I never had a career plan. I wouldn’t be working for that many years. I thought I only needed a job until I met the right man. I always thought I would get married, have a home, have children, and be a stay-at-home mum. I never dreamt for a moment that I would be single and childless in my late forties, but that is where I have found myself. Like many little girls I dreamt of my wedding day. I dreamt of the white dress, the bridesmaids, the flowers, and the handsome groom. I dreamt of a home of my own to look after. I dreamt of children. It never occurred to me that it might not happen. It really didn’t ever occur to me until later that it might not happen . . .

Over the years, I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed for a husband. I prayed on my own. I prayed with others. I fasted and prayed. I believed that God had spoken to me through Pat but also in other ways too. I kept waiting for God to fulfil what I thought was His promise to me. I waited for a husband. I waited but the only weddings I went to were those of other people. At first, it was fun to see my friends married. I thought, ‘One day I’ll have a wedding’. However, as time went on, and more friends got married and I didn’t, it got harder and harder to go and keep a smile on my face. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy for them. I was delighted. I just wanted it for myself too. I tried to keep my pain to myself. I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s special day. . . 

I can see now that I should have dealt with my disappointments sooner. I buried a lot of my pain. I let out some of it but I didn’t really allow people to see how badly I was hurting. A part of me thought that if people knew how badly I wanted to get married, and have a home and children, they would laugh at me. I thought they would think ‘How could she think that anyone would want her?’ A lack of confidence led me to believe that I wasn’t good enough to be married. This shame prevented me from seeking help to deal with my anguish. I think I simply needed to cry it out on someone’s shoulder, to sob it out, but so often, I pushed it down. 

      Why was I never able to be totally honest about my pain. I think one reason is that I kept thinking God must be everything to me. If I still want to get married then I am not a good Christian. I hadn't taken on board the truth of what God says in Genesis 2:18 'Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is right for him'. But it is clear here that it is the norm that people need other people. It is not good to be alone. That is why God says later on through the Psalmist  in Psalm 68:6 'God places lonely people in families.' He knows it is not good to be alone.

      So why am I still punishing myself for not being able to cope with just me and God? I know the answer may not be marriage for me but I need to  look for the families that God wants to place me in to give me what I need as a human being. 

Are we giving single Christians false expectations? Where did I get the idea that I had to be self-sufficient with just God? People sometimes quote the verse in Isaiah 54 about God being a husband to us - implying that should be enough for us. But that verse was written to the whole nation of Israel - it wasn't written for just single people. Yes, God wants to be a like a husband to us, but he wants to be like that for everyone - including those who are happily married, unhappily married or too young to be married yet. 

I don't know what the answers are for me or for other singles but I would love to get discussions going about the whole issue. 

Monday, 5 September 2011

Is doubt an important part of faith?

Since going through a time of almost atheism I have found that my attitude to doubt has changed. It now seems more important to acknowledge it in my life. Doubt now makes my faith more real, more like faith. Before this crisis of faith I tried to make myself believe wholeheartedly by pretending doubt wasn't there. It didn't help. I almost walked away from God completely despite my best efforts at being full of faith.

I think what I called faith before was blind acceptance not faith. Maybe I am being hard on myself because I know there were times when my faith was real and based on faith not blind acceptance. Blind acceptance is the overall impression I am left with when I look back on some of those years. I read  recently that the oppostie of faith is not doubt - it is certainty. Now I have been through my own time of  severe doubt I know what it means to say that - certainty is the opposite of what I feel now when I talk about faith. Prior to my crisis of faith I would have describe my faith as certainty. back then  I was trying to be a good Christian. I was trying to be what I thought I should be. Now I want to be what I am. And I want to be what I am with God beside me being what He is.

The following is an excerpt from my book He Never Let Go

In February 2011, I heard a lovely, wise Catholic Priest talk about how the light can be more appreciated when you know the darkness. I think I am beginning to realise that for myself. I have now experienced the darkness of a time of believing there is no God. I know what it is to have just a deep, dark, empty, void where my faith used to be. I know what it is to have no anchor for my life. Having this experience means that the faith I have now seems even more precious to me. The light of faith is so much brighter than it was before. It’s only a small beginning but I am beginning to see the value of questions and doubt. I know I will go on learning more.

What about you? How does doubt affect you?

Friday, 12 August 2011

He Never Let Go

Writing this blog has proved very helpful. It has helped me give voice to the vague rumblings of thought bubbling away in my subconscious. Comments have proved even more helpful in prompting me to think things through even more.

Writing my book was like that only more so. I decided to write about my experiences of loosing my faith while still working as a parish evangelist in London. I am so grateful that my faith returned after leaving ministry. Writing about it has cemented everything that happened in my mind.

My book is now with a few kind family and friends who are reading it for me. I have had some good feed back for it.

This morning my step-mum left this on my Facebook wall "Dear Lynda, look at the time! 23.36! I am so enjoying your book I don't want to put it down and I'm forgetting that my task is to proof read it. I'll have to read it right through once, then start again to make the corrections you want. It's very readable - well done indeed!"

Yesterday Tim Ross wrote this "I’ve just finished reading the first two chapters, and already I want to know what’s going to happen. Because of the title of the book and the introduction, the reader (me) is wondering how it can possibly all go wrong, which lends a great sense of anticipation. You’ve got a nice, clear style with uncomplicated language, which I like, as it makes the book all the more readable." Tim also wrote helpful a few very helpful editorial points which is fantastic. Exactly the kind of feed back I needed!

I started playing around with covers for my book. I had all sorts of images in my mind. Many examples of what I played around with are on my Facebook page, He Never Let Go, http://www.facebook.com/LyndaJAlsford 

But then one of my fb friends posted something on my wall. I had previously added various photos of my sample covers asking for comments. Graham O'Leary very kindly played around with ideas himself. He came up with the cover you see on this post. He said "I took the liberty of bold and Minimal! What you think?" What do I think? I think its fantastic. I love the bold and I love the minimal. I really love it. It is eye catching. It will jump of the shelves metaphorically speaking and hopefully literally as well! It speaks of where I am now, rather than where I was during my crisis. I am very grateful to him. It is the cover I think I shall use.

God has been so involved in every step of the way. He gave me the idea. He sent the lovely Kathie Kearny to say to me directly" I think you need to write a book about it".  He has helped me to write the book. He has sent lovely people at every step of the way to encourage me. The whole project is in his hands. It is up to him how and when it is published. I am pushing various publishing doors and have no doubt that if the Lord wants it published then it will be published!  I love you Jesus. 

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Book writing going well

I've been neglecting my blog somewhat of recent weeks. I have been busy writing my book instead, It's going really well. I have practically finished the first draft of the book now. I've got a bit stuck on how to structure the final two chapters,  and can't work out how to end it yet either. But the rest of it is coming along well. I am giving the final chapters a break at the moment. I think if  I go back to them after not looking at them for a while it will become clearer. I am now editing the book. I find I am enjoying this much more than I did the actual writing of it to begin with. I feel it is really taking shape.

Obviously it would be great if it was published but for the moment I am concentrating on the process of writing it. It is an important process for me. It's proving to be very healing too.  I already have people lined up to read it for me so I can get feedback about it,  which is great. Once I've had it back from them and applied any changes etc it will be time to start looking for a publisher or to decide to self-publish.  But that is some time ahead yet.

There is a free draft  copy of the Introduction to my book on my website http://www.lyndaalsford.com on the Book page. If you have any comments about it I would love to hear them.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

What is faith?

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1 NRSV

I have been thinking a lot since I started believing in God again about the nature of faith. What does it mean to have faith? Before my crisis of faith I would have said that I just had faith. I felt faith. I 'just knew' things about God. Now my perception of faith is very different.  Somehow it is in the doubt I went through, that I have really found faith. Experiencing doubt has helped me have faith. My faith is no longer a feeling. It is a choice. I can choose to have faith.  I used to think that to have faith I had to be 100% sure of every thing. Now I see that it's because I am not 100% sure but still take that decision to believe, that leap into the unknown, that it is called faith. I'm struggling to put into words what I really  mean about it.  I like the this quote about faith and certainty.

"I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me--that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns."

That seems to  make sense to me. Its like before hand my certainty was based on me, on the fact that I had faith,, I believed. Now it seems that I know nothing, but I take a leap into the arms of God, knowing nothing but that God will catch me. I still have times when I don't know if I believe really. But again I take that leap of faith into the arms of my loving heavenly Father. He catches me. But it is the leap into the unknown that makes it faith to me. If i was certain would it be faith? Somehow with faith like this, rather than being certainty it feels like it is more God based than Lynda based at last.

A friend of mine who is a Bible scholar tells me that he thinks the above translation of  Hebrews 11:1 is the closest to the original Greek. I like the fact that it doesn't use the word certainty. As the priest said to Anne Lamott in the above quote, certainty now feels like the opposite of faith, not doubt. Doubt now seems to be a vital part of my faith.  It makes my faith real.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Writing a book

Those of you who are not on my Facebook list may not know that I have decided to write a book about my experiences of going through this time of doubt and coming out the otherside of it. I have already started it, but not got that far with it! I think it will be a very cathartic experience writing it even if it doesn't end up published, although I hope it will be. I am also starting to read round other books about the same subject. If you know of any books you could recommend please let me know. I will read St John of the Cross's 'Dark night of the soul', Mother Teresa's 'Come be my Light' and 'Losing faith' by Andy Frost, to start with.  Seems a bit daunting but also exciting as I am sure it is God who is leading me to write it.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Learning to live in the love of God

Since my dream of Jesus' love I have continued to feel closer to God. The challenge now is to learn to live in His love, to stay close to Him each day. I think that is what God is wanting me to learn now. So often I have things in my strength.  Now I  need to learn to do things in His strength.

I find I am enjoying worship in a way I haven't for ages and ages. I really feel close to God when I am singing his praises. It really helps. I have started playing worship songs at home again and find it really lifts my mood.  I lie on my bed in the morning and evening and listen to worship music, and feel myself back in the presence of God again. But even with all this it is still so easy to forget Him  and to allow negative thoughts to take over. I found myself feeling anxious today about the purchase of a flat, wondering if I have done the right thing. Will I find a tenant? It is so easy to dwell on those thoughts rather than talking to Jesus and letting him help me.

I am reminded of the hymn " What a friend we have in Jesus", written by Joseph Scriven. He suffered the pain of his fiancee dying the day before their wedding, and then when he later became engaged to another lady she too died before their wedding took place. Still was able to write these words. Amazing. I look forward to meeting him in heaven!

1. What a friend we have in Jesus, 
 all our sins and griefs to bear! 
 What a privilege to carry 
 everything to God in prayer! 
 O what peace we often forfeit,
 O what needless pain we bear, 
 all because we do not carry 
 everything to God in prayer. 

2. Have we trials and temptations? 
 Is there trouble anywhere? 
 We should never be discouraged; 
 take it to the Lord in prayer. 
 Can we find a friend so faithful 
 who will all our sorrows share? 
 Jesus knows our every weakness; 
 take it to the Lord in prayer. 

3. Are we weak and heavy laden, 
 cumbered with a load of care? 
 Precious Savior, still our refuge; 
 take it to the Lord in prayer. 
 Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? 
 Take it to the Lord in prayer! 
 In his arms he'll take and shield thee; 
 thou wilt find a solace there.

Why do we struggle on trying to cope on our own when we could have the God of the universe helping us? In my experience God doesn't stop us feeling these things but will help us to go through them. Lord help me to look to you for strength.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The power of dreams

I had an amazing experience recently. I knew I needed receive the love of Jesus into my life more.  I hadn't really let go and allowed myself to receive His love. I kept pushing Him away and over eating to fill up the emptiness.  However at the same time I was asking the Lord to help me to open up more to Him.

©Charlie Mackesy      www.charliemackesy.com
The Prodigal Daughter by Charlie Mackesy

God answered my prayer in a very unexpected way. I had a dream a week or so ago. I dreamt I was leaving to go on a journey somewhere with friends, who weren't people I know, although I knew them in the dream. We were running around getting ready for the journey. Just as we were about to leave I noticed that Jesus stood in the corner with a look of such love on his face I felt overwhelmed. He had been standing there the whole time and my friends and I had been running around ignoring Him.  I just knew then, in my dream, that I couldn't leave. I rushed over to Jesus and as a child with her father I just climbed into his lap and had a hug. I awoke  still feeling this love, and it has stayed with me. I feel like I have been 'born again' again! As the picture shows I have been taken up into Jesus' arms despite having rejected Him and gone my own way. And still He loves me unconditionally. He loves you the same way, whoever you are, whatever you have done.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Church as an idol?

Ever since Mandy asked the question "I am wondering why you are doing what clearly makes you feel uncomfortable?", I have been wondering why I seem to be pulled to getting so involved with a church again. I think agreeing to lead the Bible study and helping out on the morning of the ladies breakfast was going too fast too soon. I rushed back onto auto-pilot. Big mistake!

I think I am getting Church and God mixed up in my heart.  I think perhaps I need to rethink what it means to be a member of the church. I need to rethink my role as a Christian in the local church. It's almost like being a 'good' member of the church, and being approved of by them is more important than spending time with God and building up my relationship with Him again. Or its like I think that in order to love God I must get deeply involved in the church straight away.

I have made this leap of faith, and  I have chosen to believe in God  but for some reason I am going back to what it was like before. Church before God. I need to start as I mean to go on and worship God first, not Church. The Westminster Confession says  "Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever."  I have started to believe in God again but now my focus has gone off God and onto Church.
If I don't make God my first priority then I will end up burnt out as I was before.  I think I need to learn to get a balance between loving God and building my relationship with Him, and  my need to be involved in the local church. At the moment it is veering back to being tipped in favour of Church again. If there is a God and I have made a step of faith, by choosing to believe that there is one, then He must come first.  It is God who gives me eternal life, not the church.

Am I worshipping God or the church?
 I don't think I have realised before how much my faith is tied up in what I do at Church. Even as I write this I am realising how much my view of God is tied up in being accepted by the local church rather than by being accepted by God. Being a Christian has been about faith for me but a large part of it has been being involved in the church. Church has become my God.  Being involved in church, and what the church think of me has been my idol. I want God to be my God not Church. I want to learn to spend time with God for His sake, not for how church will view me.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Roller coaster ride

I found myself leading our Bible study group on Tuesday. It scared me how quickly I fell back into it. I was back on auto-pilot and  asking questions etc. At the time it felt OK but I now feel very vulnerable and scared in a funny way. Not sure what is going on for me. I don't want to get back to where I was before. I want this time to be a real heart response to God. I want to discover Him without being told what to think or believe. It is almost like being on a roller coaster. I got on without realising what I was doing and then was scared I couldn't get back off.  There is an advert in the UK at the moment. An older couple sit on a seat to each sandwiches. The man asks for a cheese one. Then the mechanical seat restraints of a roller coaster come down over them and they find themselves on a ride they were not expecting.  After they get off the man ask his wife "what sort of cheese was that?". I can't  think now what it advertises but it is sort of how I have been feeling this week.

The people at this church I am going to are lovely. But it is all just the same as before. The same kind of people, and the same opinions and cliches about God. I feel like I am being dragged back into a swamp again.

I helped on a women's breakfast yesterday. I wished I had not in some ways. All the old resentments about working for the church came back to me. I found myself getting very angry with the whole situation. But I stayed and kept helping because I really like the lady who was co-ordinating the whole thing and she was working so hard for us all.

I don't want to be back in the situation when I trying make my faith fit what others say. I want to work out a relationship with God on my own. I want to open my heart to Him but fear stops me. I spent a lot of my time in ministry receiving things about God at a head level, and then immediately giving them away by telling others without letting it drop into my heart. I  am scared I will be back to that again. I don't want to do that. I want to start receiving the things I learn about God - it is the only way to freedom. And I need freedom from things holding me back in my life.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Small groups

Going to a small group as an ordinary member of the congregation was actually more nerve racking than I thought. I got lost on the way there, and arrived really stressed, and tearful.  Not a good start!

They were a lovely friendly bunch of people and very welcoming.  It was very strange to be in a group like that as part of a study, knowing a lot of the answers from a head point of view but trying not to just think out the answer. I have spent too much time with my faith being in my head not in my heart. Being in a place to receive is very different than giving out to people. I am glad I went though. It ended well, and I shall go again.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Being vulnerable

I have decided to go back to being in a small group. I find I am missing the fellowship, and friendships I had while I was in ministry. Although having said that, it was hard as a minister to open up to anyone at church. I always had to have my ‘I’m a member of staff’ hat on. I had to remember people were looking to me as an example. Being vulnerable in ministry, by being open about some of my spiritual battles did help others. However, there is a limit to it. I couldn’t get up and say from the pulpit, ‘I think I am loosing my faith, I don’t think there is a God anymore.’ There was always the worry that if I did that I would loose my job, and therefore my home too. I was being vulnerable within certain parameters. There was a safety to it in one sense. I knew from experience that it helped people, so it made me popular which is, I guess, what I was craving.

Now I will be just me. I have no role as a lay minister to hide behind. My faith is shaky. I am no longer coming from a place of unshakeable faith in what the Bible says. I have been through a really dark valley of doubt, almost becoming an apostate. It was a scary place and opening up from this position feels very different to opening up as I did before.

I go to my new small group tonight. I am a little nervous. Can I be real? I think I have to if I want to benefit from it. Going to Bible studies as a minister was different. I could hide behind my knowledge. I didn’t have to think about things. I just spoke on auto pilot a lot of the time. Now I want to really grapple and be honest about things.

Nevertheless, I also know I need to develop deeper friendships here. I miss that too. My closest friends are in London and I am now in Sussex. I hope it will be a place where I can get to know people more.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Is doubt a necessary part of faith?

I am beginning to see that my faith in its new form it very different to what it once was. Before I clung to my faith as a way of proving to myself it was true. I didn't want to ask questions about it. I felt threatened by them. I thought ‘Of course I believe. I believe wholeheartedly', and that was without question a lot of the time.

But is my faith really faith when I have not looked at the negatives, questions and doubts about what I believe. If I have not experienced doubt is my faith really faith? Or is it just living the way I have been told to live by someone else.

I have just heard a lovely  wise Catholic Priest talk about how the light can be more appreciated when you know the darkness. I think I am beginning to realise that for myself. Now I have experienced doubt, my faith, although very small at present, seems even more precious to me.

I read this on a friend's blog recently " I was once told ‘my boy, always preach your convictions not your questions’. But I had seen what convictions can do to a spirit and I lived by one truth alone; ‘treasure the questions’. Even in those days I was learning that certainty was the  armour put on by those who had yet to gain the courage to live by faith." From The Churchless Sexton's Blog
The light seems brighter after being
in the darkenss

St Paul in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians says “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” When I looked up perplex in the dictionary it said, “perplex-To confuse or trouble with uncertainty or doubt”. It seems to imply that Paul also had doubts and questions about life, God, and faith but still chose to believe.

It’s only a small beginning but I am beginning to see the value of questions and doubt. Living in darkness does make the light seem very bright but also very welcome.


Thursday, 27 January 2011

Why me?

I am puzzled by why I react differently to some others when looking at the existence of God. Why did I look at the futility of using just reason to work out if there is a God and find in that discovery the freedom to choose faith? Why do others get to a similar point and reject God? The following is a response from someone on the ex-christian.net website in response to reading my blog.

"I am definitely on the way back to finding some kind of faith again. The relief is huge! Following on from my last post, I finally realised the futility of trying to work out with just reason if there was a God." ( The Patchwork Blog from Monday 17th January 2011)

This person wrote the following in response to my blog on the ex-christian website. "Abandon reason and believe the unreasonable!   Obviously, some people aren't happy unless they have a belief in magic even if they know it is an unreasonable position as this one does. It seems that many people want so badly to think there is a god they will take the leap of faith that tells us fairies don't exist until we believe in them.   I see it all the time, but I still don't understand embracing unfounded beliefs while recognizing it goes against reason"

Getting to the same place as I did led this person to choose to reject God. It gave me the freedom to choose to have faith as an act of my will. What is it in me that makes that choice and in another person makes them reject God? Is it personality? Environment? Their past experiences of Church? Does it just boil down to the fact that I want to believe in God and so am happy to make that leap of faith? Maybe the other person did not want to believe in God and getting to that point gave them the freedom to not to believe.I don't suppose I will ever know the answer this side of heaven but it puzzles me and also makes me eternally grateful that I have chosen faith in God. 

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Why did I become a minister of religion in the first place

I have been thinking about why I became a minister of religion in the first place. Did I really have noble aims of 'reaching the lost' and 'introducing people to Jesus' or was it something else? Maybe it was a mixture of things.

I think part of it was responding to a call from God to be involved in full time ministry of some kind. I spent much of my nursing career (I was a nurse before I worked for the church) terrified that God would ask me to go to some developing country where it is really hot and they have scary creepy crawlies. In fact when the call came it was to minister to the people of Britain not anywhere else. I was hugely relieved I can tell you! My view of God was 'if you dread doing something, that is always what He will make you do'. I remember being challenged and hopeful at the same time, when I read something by Gerald Coates  in which he said, 'your ministry is probably something you enjoy doing'. It was the first time I had seriously thought that maybe God would not make me do the very thing I dreaded.

On the surface I was feeling 'holy' and wanting to 'serve God'. Maybe a part of me was feeling proud of the fact that I wanted to do these things with my life. That in itself is not a good start! The more I have thought the more I realise that I was trying to earn favour from God. I thought if I was in full time ministry then God would be more likely to really love me and give me what I wanted. 

Although on the surface I was saying all the right things about why I was in ministry underneath it all was a little girl trying to earn love from her heavenly Father.  I was trying to prove to myself, and to God, that I am loveable. It was like I didn't think the cross on its own proved that God loves me.

Virtually all of  my understanding of God was head knowledge not heart knowledge.  I could say the right things, I could teach others the right things. I taught about the grace of God, His unconditional love and acceptance. But at a heart level I was still trying to earn His love and acceptance by being a 'good girl'. 

Obedience is a reaction of gratitude to God's grace, not a way of earning His love.  John 14:23 says, "Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me."    When I used to read that verse I would see in my  mind an angry God wagging his finger at me, saying petulantly 'if you loved me, you would obey me', implying we don't really love him, and that to prove our love for Him we must sacrificially obey Him.  That is what I was subconsciously thinking when I went into ministry.

Now I see that verse  in a different light. I am beginning to realise that Jesus is saying 'It is your love for me that will give you the ability to obey me'. The more we love someone the easier it is to do things for them. The love we feel for them motivates us to do things and make sacrifices for them. Obeying Jesus' teaching is the same. The more we love Him the more we will automatically want to obey Him.

I am at the stage now where I need to concentrate on my love relationship with Jesus. I want to learn to really recieve His love and have a genuine relationship with Him. For this reason I think it is vital now that I don't rush into anything at all. I just take each day and each moment as it comes, learning once again to hear God's voice.

 ©Charlie Mackesy      www.charliemackesy.com
The picture to the right is called 'The Prodigal Daughter' and is by Charlie Mackesy.  I find it deeply moving to look at and have a small copy of it in my lounge (copies are available to buy on his website - see under the picture). He also has done one called 'The Prodgial Son' as well.  He's also done a scultpure of the prodigal son as well. If you are ever in the Brompton area of London, then Holy Trinity Church Brompton have the statue in their church. I could sit and look at it for hours!www.charliemackesy.com

Monday, 17 January 2011

A step of faith

"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole  staircase, just take the first step."
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
 I am definitely on the way back to finding some kind of faith again.  The relief is huge!  Following on from my last post, I finally realised the futility of trying to work out with just reason if there was a God. By excluding faith, Scripture, personal experience, others' testimony, and tradition I am saying in advance 'there is no God' because I have excluded most of the ways He uses to speak to us. I am left with reason and how I see the universe around us and how it started.  It was almost like I had to work out what I believed before I started looking at evidence so I knew whether or not to include or exclude certain types of evidence. I wanted to remain totally open to there being a God or not being one.  I decided I wasn't going to exclude evidence simply because it assumed an existence of God.

It came to me that it's a choice. I can't prove it  one way or the other. I have to take that first step of faith into the unknown without being completely sure. I did that last week. I just decided as an act of my will, and not feeling it, that I was going to believe there is a God. It was a conscious act of my will and my mind. Once I made it, I felt a huge sense of peace. 

I am not going to rush things though. It would be too easy to rush into a Christian life as it was before which would be a mistake. It is important to me that I take each step one by one. I've decided there is a God. I never really doubted Jesus being the Son of God, if there was a God. For me I always knew throughout my time of doubting that if there is a God then Jesus is the Messiah, he is the Son of God.

I've been reminded of when the Israelites crossed the Jordan river. The river didn't part until after the priests at the front of the line stepped into the water. They had to step in before the miracle occurred. "Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away" Joshua 3:15-16. 

 I think I will just live with that for now and enjoy where I am without trying to rush into anything else. One step at a time.