Tag Archives: Belief

Teacher: Today we are learning about Mary. Who Christians believe is the mother of Jesus.

Child: Who?

Me: Mary, Jesus. They’re in the Christmas story.

Child: What Christmas story?

Me: You know, the reason why Christmas is celebrated. Mary and Joseph and Jesus...

Child: Oh yeh, from the Koran. My mum read some of it to me.

Me: No. Today we’re talking about Christianity. Do you know why Christmas is celebrated?

Child: No.

Me: Which religion celebrates Christmas?

Child: I don’t know.

Me: Christians

Child: Oh.

Thus began RE day. A day in which the normal timetable of maths and literacy is scrapped and instead we talk about religious concepts. Today’s concept was Holy. In particular how Catholics see Mary as Holy.

I've seen several modernised versions of the Christmas story – my fave being Mary of the council estate. But if I’m honest I've never stopped to consider Mary. But today I realised that Mary's response to the angel Gabriel's message is amazing (actual AMAZE-to-the-ING not that over used and abused 'amazing' that we hear on every street corner used to describe everything slightly better than average).

There she is, going about her day when BAM! an angel appears – cue the angelic chorus. The angel tells her that she’ll have a baby, the very Son of God and messiah that they have been waiting for, by the Holy Spirit and she is to call him Jesus. The angel then tells Mary that her cousin who everyone knew as being unable to have kids was actually six months pregnant. The angel then finishes the message with "For nothing is impossible with God." To which Mary replies “I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

I find this incredible. An angel comes and gives her life transforming news that not only is God with her, but she will become pregnant with the Son of the Most High who will save the world and Mary responds with “I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” 

I can't imagine my reaction being quite the same.

There I am going about my day - on the packed train on the way to work/getting some exercise books from the supply cupboard/cooking dinner/chilling with friends (my life is exciting). When BAM! an angel appears. Cue the angelic chorus. I’ve never had an angel personally deliver me a message but I’m guessing it’s like one of those hinge moments in life when you become oblivious to what is happening around you. You know, like when Luke discovered who Darth Vader really was or when Elizabeth danced with Darcy for the first time. Everything else slips away and your sole focus is what is right in front of you.

What if the angel then told me that I was going to run a multinational development social enterprise that would help lift thousands of people from poverty? What if the angel told me I was going to be lead singer in a band that would be bigger than the Spice Girls, Mumford and Beyonce combined? What if God told me I would play a pivotal role in world history? What if God told me I would play a pivotal role in local history? What if God told me I would play a pivotal role in one other person's life?

I can tell you that unlike Mary my reaction would probs me much more like, "Me? You’re talking to me? Are you sure?" And then, much like Sarah (check Genesis) I would probably have laughed in fear and doubt (maybe my parents did prophetically name me after all).  I would have laughed because I feared the path described before me. I would have laughed not because I doubt God, but because I doubt myself. The immensity of the task and journey ahead would sing and dance in my thoughts more than the quiet confidence of God who can use us despite our perceived failings. 

It must have been Mary's quiet confidence that got her through the next few days of conversations with Joseph and her family that would have been so Jeremy Kyle...

Pan to Jezza “Let’s meet Mary. She’s engaged to be married and pregnant but her fiancé is not the baby’s Father. She says an angel told her to call the baby Jesus and he will be the son of God. Her fiancé, a carpenter, is sticking by her. But their families want some answers. Let's bring them out.”

Mary had a confidence in a God who can do all things. Even if those things are life alteringly big. Mary had a confidence in God who can do all things despite the immensity of the tasks ahead.

A problem shared is a problem halved, right?

And a problem prayed is a problem taken to the throne room of heaven, by none other than Jesus himself.

So what are you waiting for? Grab a friend and start praying.

Ever fallen short of the person you wanted to be? Ever been hit in the face with the reality of exactly who you are and who you aren’t? Ever made an eight year sob almost hysterically because of something you said? Been there, done it, got the t-shirt and cashing in the cheque at the bank of Should-Have-Known-Better-Ville.

I’m a pretty patient person (family pick yourself up off the floor and stop laughing – I am patient, just stop talking to me before I’ve had food. Why haven’t you learnt that yet?) so when I started working in a school I was never too worried about not having enough patience with the kids - and most if the time it's not a problem. But I did want to be one of those super freaking nice people who always spoke kindly and listened to the kids. Well this week I fell far short of that person.

Yeh, you guessed it, I fell one completely justified comment but delivered in a harsh tone reducing a child to a snivelling wreck kinda short. I didn't take the time to speak kindly. I didn’t take the time to stop and listen to them tell me what the problem was because I already knew.  I was not that kind loving person that I wanted to be. I fell far short of it, and the consequence was an overly sensitive child crying in the corner.

Ever found that you’re not the perfect friend/daughter/son/girlfriend/boyfriend/sister/brother/wife/husband/employee/baker/artist/disciple/ the-list-goes-on-so-please-delete-as-appropriate-and-enter-your-own?

You know it’s ok right? It’s ok to not be as organised or patient or kind or funny or enthusiastic or encouraging or understanding or compassionate or the-list-goes-on-so-please-delete-as-appropriate-and-enter-your-own. As long as we don’t live there, as long as we pick ourselves up off the ground, dust off our hi-tops/other comfortable shoe, hold to Jesus and resolve to do better tomorrow.

There is much grace and much forgiveness.

But whenever anyone turns to the lord, then the veil is taken away. Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is he gives freedom. And all of us have had veils removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more. 2 Corinthians 3 v 16-18

Disturb us, O Lord,
When we are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, O Lord,
When with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, O Lord,
To dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas,
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Prayer of Francis Drake, 1577

So I’m standing in my most favourite stationary store of them all (Paperchase of course), a notebook in each hand trying to decide between the two products.
In my right hand I have the Hippy Central notebook – made from recycled paper and using vegetable based inks only (although maybe a real hippy would make one out of dead leaves they found in the street instead of buying one).
In my left hand I have the notebook version of a banker – straight lines, white paper and the ink is probably made out of baby panda spleen. Not a hint of anything recycled or environmentally friendly in sight.
The hippy notebook has 100 less pages than the banker notebook. The hippy notebook has yellower (is that even a word?) pages than then banker notebook. The hippy notebook doesn’t have a spiral spine or perforated pages. But the hippy notebook costs £2.50 more than the banker notebook.
Decisions decisions.
Do I stick to my principles of trying to be environmentally friendly but pay more for a slightly lesser product? Or do I sell out and get the product that is more functional and cheaper but more damaging to the environment?
Am I willing to act on what I claim to believe even when there is a cost?
This is a question I face more than I would like.
Last week I was walking through H&M in the Eastfield Temple (the Westfield in East London – get to know!) acutely aware that most of their clothes sport labels proclaiming ‘Made in Bangladesh’ or ‘Made in Vietnam.’
Now I don’t know for sure that the workers who had to sew these labels in were being exploited but my guess is that it’s more likely than not. So what do I do? Do I buy the cheaper clothes that make a profit from someone else’s misery? Or do I save up and only get fair-trade stuff from somewhere like People Tree?
Am I willing to act on what I claim to believe even when there is a cost?
Are you willing to act on what you believe even when there is a cost?
I am pleased to say that I put the banker notebook back on the shelf and proudly took my Little Hippy Notebook to the till.
But I did get the clothes from H&M (birthday present for my brother. He will almost certainly take them back though. It’s the thought that counts right?).