Being hurt is unavoidable. It’s what we do next that counts

It is a truth less than universally acknowledged, that someone in your church will let you down. Maybe they’ll promise to do something, then fail to do it. Maybe they’ll say something thoughtless, offensive or belittling; maybe they’ll misgender you. Maybe they’ll always seem to take and never give. Maybe they’ll miss that something big is going on and hurt you through their lack of curiosity, or their absence. Whatever it is, one way or another, sooner or later, you’re going to feel hurt, disappointed, let down, even betrayed, by someone; quite possibly by the pastor. Continue reading “Being hurt is unavoidable. It’s what we do next that counts”

Cartalk / Tabletalk 8: Jacob wrestles

Jacob doesn’t have to wrestle. He could stay with his women and children and servants: there is safety in numbers. He could sedate himself with wine or the web or some ancient Palestinian Prozac, and allow his encounter with the stranger to remain a blur. He could yield to the stranger at the beginning, crying ‘I give up! Leave me!’ But he doesn’t. He allows himself to be alone, vulnerable, wide awake in the dead of night. The stranger comes. Jacob wrestles; he grasps; he is wounded: and he is blessed. Continue reading “Cartalk / Tabletalk 8: Jacob wrestles”

Healing and community

Last week, we looked at how healing is about wholeness, that is, including, accepting and connecting all parts of ourselves. However, healing is even bigger than this. It is also about wholeness in a wider sense, bringing people into healthy relationship with other people and with the wider creation. We’ll look at creation next week; this week, we’ll focus on communities. Continue reading “Healing and community”

Conflict in the church

It’s true: Christians fight. Sometimes (and this is embarrassing) they squabble over money or furniture or music or the flowers; other times (and perhaps this is more understandable) they argue over who is welcome at the communion table, what age is appropriate for baptism, or whether to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Often, they have simple personality clashes. The truth is, conflict has been part of church life since the earliest days, and what marks a church is not the absence of conflict, but how it is handled. Continue reading “Conflict in the church”

The persistent widows of Liberia

A story of persistent widows, and the challenge to a middle class congregation. (Listen.)

I want to tell you about some incredibly brave and inspiring women of faith … who threatened to take all their clothes off! The story goes like this. After many years of civil war, the women of Liberia had had enough. Their husbands were being killed or pressed into the army. Their sons were being abducted, turned into soldiers, drugged, and forced into killing members of their own families. Their daughters were being kidnapped and abused. Their own bodies were being used for violence and, through this, they were being infected with disease. Their crops were burned; their villages destroyed; their society torn apart. They had to walk miles to find food and clean water. They were sick, exhausted, grief-stricken, traumatised, and absolutely fed up. Continue reading “The persistent widows of Liberia”

Mustard seeds and mulberry trees: Acting in hope despite the odds

Jesus commands us to forgive, but with no guarantees regarding the outcome.

Recently, a beloved sister of ours announced her resignation from the church. It’s the kind of thing we hate to talk about – and yet it must be talked about. Not the specifics, by any means, but the implications for the congregation. Unfortunately, people have been leaving churches since the first century: yet it never feels okay. It leaves the individual terribly isolated and vulnerable; and it leaves those who remain with strong and often conflicting emotions: sadness, anger, shame, confusion, deep concern for the one who has left; and even, sometimes, relief – and guilt about that relief. Of course, rumours abound; and they muddy the waters and damage relationships further, so this is an attempt to name a few truths and bring a few things into the light. Continue reading “Mustard seeds and mulberry trees: Acting in hope despite the odds”

A rollicking romance and a house divided

How following Jesus tore a household apart – and eventually brought it together again. (Listen.)

I’d like to introduce you to a very shocking man: my father. But to understand why he is so shocking, you first need to know about my mother. My mother grew up in a fundamentalist household which rejected infant baptism, evolution, smoking, divorce, and many other things. Because she was super-smart and good at languages, and because everybody knew that no man would marry a super-smart woman, she had been groomed from an early age to be a Bible-translating missionary spinster. So away she went to university to study anthropology and linguistics; but there she met my father. Continue reading “A rollicking romance and a house divided”

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