Mind Your Language

download (2)

Some of my readers may recall a situation comedy that was on TV in the mid to late 1970’s called “Mind Your Language”.  It was about a tutor faced with a class of foreign adult students learning basic English at an evening class.  Thankfully, this sort of program would no longer be made.  It’s racial stereotypes and prejudice are not acceptable.  However, one thing we can learn from it, is that we are all in danger of taking the language we speak for granted.

Let me try and explain what I mean.

I became a Christian in 1983.  I became part of a church and, you soon learn, that there is a language that is peculiar to Church.  Many of the circles I moved in (and still move in) speak a sort of “Christianeese”.  I have heard of “salvation”,”sanctification” and many others besides. Over the years I have learnt what these words mean and I value them and would not want to demean them in any way.

But something really struck me today as I was praying.  I often pray that God would use me in certain situations.  As I prayed about one particular situation, I felt God say to me “what do you mean?”. 

I stopped.

Thought

and prayed “you know Lord, use me”.

God said “I don’t know, do you?”

The truth is, I didn’t know what I meant.  I was using language without fully understanding what it meant to me.  I began to explore what it was I was really asking God and also, how my language reflected my understanding of God. So, I began to play about with the word “use” and it occurred to me that, it is only two letters short of “abuse”.

The more I have mulled it over I realise that God doesn’t “use” people He invites us to work alongside Him.  I read this, written by Benignus O’ Rourke;

God respects the dignity of each one of us.  He respects our freedom.  He does not use people. Rather, he works with us.  His wish is to draw us into partnership with him. God invites.  We respond.  He works alongside us.  His love releases our talents.  In all good things we do in partnership with him our gifts shine, our personality blossoms (Benignus O’Rourke – Finding your hidden treasure – page 146)

That thought, really changed what I prayed for and, maybe, it will,change the way you pray.

Tearing My Hair Out!

mad-man-pulling-hair-out

Have you ever felt like tearing your hair out?  I don’t have a great deal left but, this morning, that’s how I felt!  I felt completely overwhelmed by things today.  A lot to do, in fact, I dare not look at my to do list, a full diary and if there is any light at the end of the tunnel, it’s probably going to be a train.

In the book of Psalms, there are some words known as the Deo Profundis

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.                                                                                      Lord, hear my voice!                                                                                                                          Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!                                                (Psalm 130 vs. 1 – 2) 

Okay, to be fair, I get like this from time to time.  It’s one of my weaknesses and it’s an indication that I need to take a bit of time off and restore some perspective.  Sometimes this happens because I have said “yes” too many times.  Sometimes, it happens because I am faced with an enormous decision and I don’t want to get it wrong and I become aware of the responsibility I carry.

On this occasion, I think it is because I am facing that enormous decision.  I know that whichever direction I go in, will carry with it some major implications.  This decision is making me feel “out of my depth”.

This led me to think about something that I know worries many people.  What is the right choice and, how do I know I am making it?

There are times when I wish I heard a voice from heaven directing me “choose this way” and I would feel confident that, I was at least in God’s will.  Or, if I threw open the Bible and words “leaped off the page at me”.  I have even prayed that God would send somebody who moved in the prophetic who could come into my office and say “thus says the Lord…”

29799253-This-Way-That-Way-Which-Way-Right-Way-words-in-a-question-on-arrow-road-signs-showing-many-choices-f-Stock-Photo

None of this has happened so, what am I to do?

I began to wonder, are there times when God doesn’t give us a direct lead?  Are there times when, God doesn’t mind which path we choose?  Are there times when what God is looking at is the attitude of our hearts when we make the choice?

Perhaps, as I face this decision, that is what God is challenging me with “Sean, what is your attitude in this?”

The Deo profundis ends with the words;

O Israel, hope in the LORD!                                                                                                             For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.      (Psalm 130 vs. 7)

As I read these words again, I personalized it.  Maybe you need to hear these words too

O (your name),  hope in the LORD!                                                                                                 For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.      (Psalm 130 vs. 7)

 

 

 

 

Fireworks!

gun-727167

It’s the 5th November as I sit at my desk to write this reflection.

I love bonfire night!  The big kid in me gets excited by fireworks – sad I know but, I cannot resist the colours and noise of this ‘celebration’.  You see, I am not sure if celebration is the right word when you consider what it is that we commemorate;

Remember remember the 5th of November                                                                            Gunpowder, treason and plot.                                                                                                             I see no reason why gunpowder treason                                                                                 Should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes, Robert Catesby and others plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in retaliation and protest against the laws that were specifically designed to punish Roman Catholics for their faith.

This week has also seen the commemoration of 500 years since the reformation.  Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of All Saints Church,  Wittenberg and began a chain of events that led, eventually, to the Protestant separation from Rome.

In England, this led to many years of violence by Catholics against Protestants and Protestants against Catholics, all in the name of religion and none of it truly representative of the teachings of Christ Himself.

I come from the Protestant tradition, my particular grouping tracing it’s origins back to the Elizabethan Puritans and Separatists.  Many Baptists suffered from persecution, not only in England but, throughout the world (as many Christians are still persecuted today). 

However, one thing that has always concerned me about the Reformation is the danger of “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.  In our quest for “purity of Church” we have labelled people and ideas as “sound” or “unsound”.  I believe that Christians from the Protestant tradition have a lot to learn from Christians of the Catholic and Orthodox Traditions and vice versa. 

In fact, I am not always comfortable with the labels we are given by the Church we attend and the only label I am content to wear is the one of “Christian” as I simply seek to be a follower of Jesus.

So, why bother with the ‘celebrations’ of bonfire night and the Reformation? 

I, for one, hope that the Christian Church learns the lessons from its, sometimes less than glorious, history.  I hope we learn to discover, accept and encourage Christian thinking from the spectrum that is the Church.  I hope we rediscover some of the great thinking from the past and encourage the following of Christ in our present age for the age yet to come.

I have committed myself, and I encourage you to join me, in praying as Jesus prayed

That they may all be one                                                                            (John 17 vs. 21)

(John 17 vs. 21)