What #meditation is teaching me about #faith

I have just completed the book Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Prof Mark Williams. It has been of real benefit to me. Like many people I have tended to live in my head, always thinking about what I am doing next or worrying about what might be, rather than being present to the life I am actually living.

And like many people, it made me ill.

Not just through the depression I have had a running battle with for years, but also making my faith life unwell, causing me to struggle to grow with Jesus, who I have handed my life over to.

Meditation has taught me how to pray again. The two can be the same, but often are not. I meditate on my breath and body, when I pray, that being present is turned towards God.

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And that’s what meditation is teaching me. How to rest my full awareness on God. He who is ever present, while I have been absent, to my own life and to His central place in it.

I feel like I have come home again.

And my mind begins to heal, I find my spirit is waking up to the presence of Jesus, right here, right now, because as C.S. Lewis says:

For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity

A good word about #RobBell

My husband and i have benefited greatly from the work if Rob Bell, and right now we are loving his and Kristen Bell’s new book The Zimzum of Love.

Its nice to see a sensible word about him, take a look:

http://danielleshroyer.com/2014/12/02/rob-bell-better-evangelical-evangelicals/

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Photo via Relevant Magazine

#Christians on the left: Statement on the plight of Christians & other minorities in Iraq

Original here: http://www.christiansontheleft.org.uk/statement_on_the_plight_of_christians_in_iraq

Christians are suffering and dying in Iraq. The terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) is killing them, displacing them and seizing their properties. Now Iraq’s ancient Yazidi community is experiencing similar abuses.

This is a catastrophe for the people of Iraq and the region and if left unchecked it could also have profound implications for freedom and democracy across the globe. Religious freedom is a fundamental right that has been described as a ‘litmus test’ for the depth of democracy. That’s why attacks on this right cannot be ignored.

We believe that if Western governments allow groups like IS to persecute populations with impunity, it will set a dangerous precedent in global affairs. The situation in Iraq is particularly important because Western governments were complicit in creating the vacuum into which the terrorists have now stepped. It is unacceptable for Western governments that embarked on the process of bringing freedom and human rights to Iraq to continue neglecting this situation. It is vital that all of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities are guaranteed a future in their country.

The UN Secretary General and Security Council have urged international assistance for the Iraqi government and people. Therefore, we call upon our own government to provide practical assistance for those displaced by the current violence who wish to remain in their country. We also echo the call of the Church of England for Iraqi Christian refugees and those from other minority communities who wish to escape persecution to be granted asylum in the United Kingdom in accordance with the international refugee convention.

Events in Iraq form part of a broader pattern of increasing persecution of Christians and other religious minorities. In many countries, including Syria, Iran, Nigeria, Mali, CAR, Sudan, Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya, Somalia and Afghanistan, well-armed Islamist extremists are not only persecuting Christians severely, but are also violating the rights of all who do not share their restrictive dogma. The international community must unite and take action to stem the seemingly inexorable advance of violent insurgencies that use religion to justify their severe violations of fundamental freedoms and their wanton disregard for human dignity. Western governments have a responsibility to play a leading role in this action. And taking a stand on Iraq needs to be the startingpoint.

#PhilipYancey #interview for his new book Vanishing Grace @hodderfaith

Philip Yancey in his new book Vanishing Grace looks at how the church has become to many, bad news, a bringer of judgment and a place of hypocrisy. He sets out ways in which we can bring about Grace once again, breathing the good news through our actions, particularly as pilgrims, activists and artists.

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In your book you say:

“They [secular friends] view the church not as a change agent that can affect all of society but as a place where like minded people go to feel better about themselves.”

Unfortunately I think that for many churches that is an accurate description. Good work is done for the community as long as it does not affect the Sunday morning service in any way.

One of your own Archbishops, William Temple, described the church as a society that exists for the sake of its non-members. Naturally we honor the gathering together that may occur on a Sunday morning, for that is how the faith is passed down over generations. That is how we learn of the goodnewsness of the Gospel. In the book I list some of the “one another” phrases in the New Testament: Love one another, forgive one another, pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens, etc.

Yet Jesus told his followers he was sending them out like sheep among wolves—not hiding them in the safety of the barn. We nurture one another so that we can be equipped to go out and transform the world around us. A healthy church must have this outreach emphasis, for God knows (literally) we are surrounded by human need, both globally and locally.

I like the notion set out by the theologian Miroslav Volf. In a post-Christian society, the “head to head” proclamation doesn’t work so well. We best communicate faith by hand to heart to head. We reach out in service to others, which touches their hearts and awakens in them a thirst for the kind of grace and compassion they have not otherwise encountered in our competitive, harsh society.

People who do not fit the culture or class of “the church” are managed by people in leadership and a person has to be the right fit to do anything seen as significant.

I don’t relate well to this situation, and wonder if it’s specific to churches you know about. Most churches I know of welcome volunteers and find a place for them. It’s true that some leaders become control freaks and want to micro-manage, but in my experience they are the exception, and their churches gradually shrivel away. A grace-filled church finds room for less-than-stellar members. Indeed, who’s stellar anyway?

I love Karl Barth’s two-pronged description of the church. He holds up the church’s lofty mission: “to set up in the world a new sign which is radically dissimilar to [the world’s] own manner and which contradicts it in a way which is full of promise.” No idealist (he saw firsthand the German church’s tepid response to Hitler), Barth then added a qualifier to his description of the church: “That fellowship that goes through history in obedience and in disobedience, in understanding and in misunderstanding of the lofty good God has given us.” We bear the news of that lofty good as humble pilgrims, not as haughty power-brokers.

I have witnessed power struggles between leadership and others in more than one church, which has brought about things being said and done which were truly the opposite of grace.

So have I. And I have family members who are drug addicts, who have served time in jail, who gossip, who have sexual affairs—but I don’t separate myself from my family because of them. The church is composed of people just like me, a rather scary and humbling thought. And if you read the New Testament letters, or the descriptions of the church in the first few chapters of the Book of Revelation, it’s clear they had the same problems.

When I review the motley cast of characters that populate the Bible, characters which somehow God used, I come up with a basic principle: “God uses the talent pool available.” All we can do is ask God to work though our own flawed personalities to show a different way, the way of grace.

Right now I go to a church which is a relatively new plant. It has a good attempt at showing grace as we share our lives before and during the service and eat together afterwards. Thankfully it hasn’t had the chance to solidify yet, so…

*What acts of grace do you think are most important for ordinary church people to take hold of?

Honesty is necessary. Small groups especially foster the kind of honest interchange that allow us to safely discuss our temptations, our failings, our stutter-steps toward spiritual growth. The old John Wesley model of holding each other accountable is hard to beat.

Just as important, remember that we are growing in order to attract others to the faith and to have an impact on those around us. Think of the fruit of the Spirit detailed in Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. If we truly helped each other practice these qualities, others will take note. They’re good for us, and good for the world. We need to show the world a different way to live.

We eat fruit because it’s attractive and tastes good. From the fruit’s perspective, though, it has one primary goal: to reproduce. If I eat an apple and spit out the seed, twenty years from now an apple tree will be creating more fruit in that same place.

*What teaching would you like to see in a church striving to be a place of grace?

As I look at Jesus’ style, I’m amazed that he managed to attract the kind of people that he must have disapproved of morally, even as the “good people” of his day saw him as a threat. Jesus held up ideals that no one can reach. If you haven’t murdered, have you hated? If you haven’t committed adultery, have you lusted? Be perfect, he said, as God is perfect. That’s an unattainable standard.

At the same time, Jesus presented a safety net of grace that no one could fall beyond: not a traitor like Peter or a torturer like Paul. He appealed to prostitutes and tax collectors and the least responsible citizens of his day.

Churches tend to do the opposite. Instead of keeping those high ideals of holiness, they lower them: Well, this used to be considered sin, but now, not so much. Or, some churches raise the bar of grace: We don’t want that kind of person in our church. We need to get back to Jesus’ style: no one falls beyond the reach of God’s grace, and yet God’s grace never leaves you there. It picks you up, dusts you off, forgives you, and prompts you forward. That’s the two-pronged message the church needs.

Philip Yancey

With thanks to both Philip Yancey and Hodder Faith for the opportunity of this interview.
Vanishing Grace is a book full of realism and hope, one which has renewed my own excitement at being part of this grace journey. It’s a real joy to remember that “God uses what is available” and that means you and I.
There is an infinite well of grace available to us and for us to take up and bless others with.

You can buy your copy of the book on amazon:

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vanishing-Grace-Whatever-Happened-Good/dp/1444789015/ref=tmm_pap_title_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407004493&sr=8-1-fkmr0

US: http://www.amazon.com/Vanishing-Grace-What-Ever-Happened/dp/0310342120/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407004686&sr=8-1&keywords=Philip+Yancey+vanishing+grace

#Bookreview Everybody wants to change the world by #Tonycampolo & #GordonAeschliman

I was quite scared as I embarked on this book, I mean, what might I feel compelled to do? And would I have the guts to do it?
It turned out to be a much happier read. Although this book is American orientated and because of its age, a little out of date as far as organisations go, it is still a brilliant book.
Anyone wanting to consider what it means to really LIVE the Christian life, rather than just think about it and then go back to “ordinary” life… Will celebrate this book.
As I read through it and the things I thought I might like to do began to pile up, it dawned on me that I could think laterally, and choose manageable things to do for each section.
That’s not to cop out, but instead to be wise and take on what’s sustainable… And potentially see that list grow.
Even if you are not a student, if you have a desire to lead a fuller, more productive, beautiful life, this book is worth your time.

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