Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Women in the Church

Guess what! This is a topic for the Conversation, and we haven't even talked about it yet! I'm being early! The reason I know about it ahead of time being that I'm kind of doing tomorrows. So. I'm throwing my thoughts up here to try and make sense of them ahead of time, which might just be a good idea.

There are no women bishops in the Church of England, and as far as I know, there aren't any women priests in the Catholic church. In an era of equality, this seems a little strange, and the church has been criticised for it. On the other hand, people in the Church of England have threatened to leave if women are appointed as bishops.

The justification for this is taken from Paul's teachings that women should be silent in the church and ask their husbands at home, and that women should obey their husbands. Sure, Jesus taught equality, the arguement goes, but Paul, well, he wrote something like a quarter of the new testament, was a real man of God. So we ought to follow his teachings.

I really struggled with this at first. I couldn't reconcile the idea of Jesus who went to the oppressed, the despised, and lifted them up, with the idea that women should be oppressed in the church. My original idea was that Paul was writing with regard to his times, that there was a culture thing in there, that, well, he wasn't Jesus, was he?

Doing RE at GCSE, I discovered the second part of the women obey your husbands. I think it was first at Devoted. Anyway, wherever it was, it doesn't really matter. The second part goes along the lines of husbands honour your wives. The idea was that the husband would not ask the wife to do anything unreasonable, and that the husband would be prepared to lay down his life for the wife.

I also learnt that the reason it's thought Paul told the women to shut up in the church was because they were sat at the back of the synagogue (bearing in mind that the early church often borrowed the Jewish synagogues for their services), and they were shouting down questions to their husbands who were sat at the front, while the teacher was speaking. Obviously this was a bit of a nuisance. It didn't show a good image to those outside of the church either. A lot of Paul's teachings were concerned with Christians being kind to everyone, with Christians acting like the ideal. They were accused of cannibalism, so you can see why he wanted them to be nice to people.

An interesting thing I learnt very recently was that at the end of Romans, when Paul sends his personal greetings, a woman was chosen as his first in line to greet. He also said she had been a great help to him, elevating her to almost the status of an apostle. Also, he proceeded to mention various other women in his greetings, and put the woman first in a husband and wife pairing. Women traditionally weren't mentioned in Jewish writing (just look at the geneologies earlier in the Bible if you don't believe me).

Also in Romans is a section where Paul says you've not to use his teachings to create disharmony or oppression.

Like I said earlier, one of the reasons this issue has been something I've struggled with is that I don't see how the idea of oppression and preventing certain groups of people from partaking fits into the universal nature of Jesus' love. God's love is for everyone, not just select groups. I think this has been ignored by the church in a lot of situations, not just with regard to gender. Anyway, that's my take on it. If you're coming to the Conversation tomorrow, well, that's a sneak preview. Although it's more a writeup of just about everything I plan to say.

Remember: God made you special and he loves you very much.

Sunday, 29 March 2009


I've said it before, I'm a bit slow at putting things up on here. This was the topic at the Conversation before last.

Sin is anything that separates us from God. In RE we said it could also be understood in a secular sense as things that separate us from other people.

The person leading the discussion had some statistics. What amazed me was how many people thought that sex before marriage was just fine, but very few people thought that having sex with someone while being married to another person was wrong. What's the difference? Ok, so in the first instance you have not made that vow yet, but still. I think this is a longer topic which I should go into in greater detail at a later point, so I'll leave it at that for now.

Another one that interested me was the number of people who thought that drinking any alcohol was a sin. I'd like to point out that Jesus turned water into wine. I'm not saying go out and get drunk, but I can't see justification for giving it a blanket label as evil.

Something that Paul said in one of his letters (Romans I think), is pretty relevant here. "Everything is permissable, but not everything is beneficial". This is the nature of free will. Think of it this way. It's permissable for me to do absolutely no revision for my exams. However, it's not going to be beneficial to me. It's permissable for me to go sleep with anyone I feel like sleeping with, but is it really beneficial? Well, no.

Gossip is listed as a sin. I'm sure that most people are guilty of that at some point or another. Why is it a sin? Well think what harm gossip can do to a relationship with someone. If I go around telling people that such and such is having troubles in this relationship, but keep it quiet because I'm not really supposed to know, doesn't that damage my relationship with such and such? And if it isn't true, and it gets back to the other party in the relationship, that could cause the problems in the first place.

Just remember. God made you special and he loves you very much.


Lukas spoke about this at church the other week. I'm behind, I know, but at least I am putting it up eventually.

The gist of it was: it doesn't matter what paths you've taken up to now. You may feel you've strayed off the correct path, that may very well be true. But God doesn't just work with perfection. He acknowledges that we aren't perfect, that we do make mistakes. God uses these mistakes to build from, to work with. It doesn't matter what paths you've been on up till now. God still wants to work with you, to lead you
along the path he chose for you before the world began.

Remember: God made you special and he loves you very much.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

A Guide

This is another thing they were talking about at Quiver.

If you ever decide to walk across Morecambe Bay, you can't just set off on your own. There's a heck of a lot of quicksand out there, and you've no way of knowing where it is. You might remember the story of the Chinese cockle pickers who were out and drowned when the tide came back in. You see, the trouble is not only the quicksand, but also the fact that the tide round there comes in very fast. I watched it once, because they have a thing that goes off about half an hour before it comes in (don't quote me on that, might be ten minutes, it was a while ago). It was incredible. One minute, there was nothing, no ocean, nice flat sand. Next minute whoosh and there was water everywhere. If you find yourself doing ok, out in the middle of the bay, prodding at the sand as you go, pretty confident, and then you discover the tide coming in and you start running, well, you're not going to be checking so careful and you're liable to stumble into a patch of quick sand. That's why there's a guide.

Life is a bit like Morecambe Bay. There's a lot of quicksand out there, a lot of danger, and when you start getting a bit flustered and stressed, you're more likely to fall into it, and then whoosh, in comes the tide or down you sink and you're gone. If you set off out there alone, there's nobody watching your back when things get rough, when the tide looks like it's gonna come in at any minute and suck you up, you're liable to get stuck in the quicksand. If you go with a guide though, well, that's a different matter. You can avoid the quicksand because you've somoene there to say 'step where I step, do what I do'. Jesus is the guide. I was saying this to one of my friends at school and she was like 'yeh, but what if you're the first person to do something'. How different was being the first person to fly to being the first person in space, feeling wise? How different is being the first person to do something ot being the first person to do just about anything else? And bear in mind that Jesus went through stuff similar to what we're going through. Maybe not identical. But being mocked stirs up pretty much the same feelings no matter how it's done. Unlike the Morecambe Bay thing though, God is there. You're just not choosing to follow him. But if you find yourself stuck in quicksand, no reason you can't turn round and say 'help!' and God'll come and fish you out. Maybe it won't feel like it at first, it might take time and work to get all the gloop off've you, but it's a start, isn't it?

Remember, God made you special and he loves you very much.


Ok, I'm slow, I know. We talked about this the Wednesday before last at the Conversation. So, here's my thoughts:

The first thing we did was split evil into natural disaster type evil and suffering to moral evil (as in people doing bad things which hurt others).

A lot of people use the existence of evil and suffering as an argument against the existence of God. They say that how can an all-loving, all-powerful God not step in to alleviate suffering. And how come the world has been created flawed.

Now, I'll start with the moral evil. It's a bit simpler in my mind. The whole thing is, God gave us free will. That means the ability to chose for good, or for evil, the ability to say yes to God and God's laws, and also the ability to go against them. When people go against God's laws, suffering results. Oppression results. Evil results. It's that simple. I'll take a couple of the ten commandments, you tell me if you think they're reasonable. Do not kill. Well, I think you can see where that's coming from. If you kill people, you're obviously hurting them and people who love them. And you're hurting yourself too, because you have to live with the fact that you took a life. Do not steal. Again, this does hurt people. If you take from a shop, that shop loses out on the profit, the owners don't get what they need to live on. Now, you might say 'oh, it's different to steal from Tesco, they can afford it, I can't'. If you really were stealing because you were completely starving, I do think that's a slightly different matter (same with killing someone by accident in self defence, but that's not really what we're talking about). But let's face it. If you steal from Tesco or anywhere, you are breaking the law, you are doing wrong, and if you have the ability to read this, I highly doubt that you really are starving. It's still just as wrong to take from Tesco. What would happen if everyone did it?

Now, on to natural evil.

One of the things we were saying at the Conversation was that if we didn't have this suffering to alleviate, we wouldn't get anywhere. If there wasn't something to work against, there would be no point in working. Much as I hate it, some of the greatest innovations have come during times of war, originally for a military purpose. They were created to defeat opposition, but they have come into use in everyday life to help to save people's lives and make things easier.

Another theory was that suffering was the world's way of making sure that there weren't too many people on it to sustain. I can agree with that too. In an eco-system, if you get rid of the predator, you get an explosion of the prey. While this might seem nice and you might think it's wonderful that the cute little rabbits are spared from the ravages of the nasty foxes, the rabbit population will explode. When that happens, they're all going to suffer. If people didn't die, callous as it sounds, there would be no room on the planet for any more.

Another thing that was said is that if we didn't have suffering here, we wouldn't appreciate the perfection of heaven. I don't think that's the primary reason for it, I don't think it's even really a very good reason. However, I'd like to throw in a little perspective. Some people think they're suffering because they have a rotten teacher. Others see themselves as suffering because they have no teacher. I'm not saying that other people suffer so that we can appreciate what we have, but if you don't suffer some hardship, you don't appreciate just how much you have.

Famine was thrown in a lot as an example of natural suffering. There is enough food in the world for everyone. In fact, I dare say we even have the technology to get that food to everyone. The trouble is, we're too greedy. I think this is one of the primary causes of suffering. Our own greed and selfishness means that we don't help those in trouble. And another thing with this natural suffering. No offence to those of you in California, but I have very little sympathy for millionaires who moan that their wonderful mansions have been damaged by earthquakes. We know now that there's a fault line running under California. So loads of people go and live there and fear the big one that's bound to come. Volcanoes are not intrinsically evil. Earthquakes are not out to get you. They're there. We have the knowledge now to avoid them, but we decide to live right on top of them. Volcanoes, you have to admit, are pretty amazing to watch. You can't say God's evil for creating volcanoes. He put them there because they're spectacular, and then people just decided to go live on them. What was He supposed to do? I admit, that knowledge wasn't always around, but as a response to earthquakes, volcanoes etc, people have done lots of research into them. Wouldn't life be boring if there was nothing to be curious about?

A final point on natural evil. The world was created perfect. Humans then proceeded to sin. That put flaws into the world. That's where a lot of suffering came from. You know in movies when someone does something terribly wrong and the whole thing starts exploding and having mega problems. Thing of that being what happened when sin was introduced. A perfect world rebelling against the imperfection that had been inserted into it.

Just remember: God made you special and he loves you very much.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Love does not envy

Envy is a longing for the possessions, advantages, success, qualities of another person. It's uneasiness when you see another person excelling or doing better than you, often with some hatred attached to it. An obsolete meaning is malice, spite, and the desire to injure someone. Sounds pretty nasty. You can see, I'm sure, why Paul said that love does not envy, and why it might be a smart idea not to give envy a toehold in this lifestyle of love he was speaking about.

I'm sure everyone gets envious sometimes. I know I do. What's wrong with it then? In a mild form, isn't it ok? I mean, everyone does it.

Well, no, not really. It's not ok. Everyone does it isn't a good excuse. A majority based morality is not the greatest idea in the world. What if the masses are wrong? A majority based morality is what Hitler created in Germany. Everyone hated the Jews. It was just fine to hate the Jews. Look what that led to. And that stemmed from envy, envy that while Hitler was a young, broke artist trying to make a living he would see Jewish people walking around his native Austria, foreigners in his land, and they were doing well for themselves. Now, that's an extreme example, I'll agree with that.

But envy doesn't just lead to hatred. It stops you appreciating who you are. Every single person in this world is unique. Even if you just go off fingerprints, you are different to the person next to you and the person next to them and the person on the far side of the world. Nobody has exactly the same experiences when they grow up, not even identical twins I'm sure. That means that you are unique and special. You can give something to the world that nobody else can. But if you sit there, wishing that you had somebody else's gifts and talents, well, where does that leave you and your own appreciation of your gifts and talents? Pretty well stuffed really. If you're wishing you could sing like the finalist on X-Factor, you aren't exercising your own talents, whatever they might be. So envying doesn't only lead to hatred, it also stops you fulfilling your potential. Another of the old uses of envy was emulate. If I spend my time imitating other people, I'm not going to grow and develop further as an individual. I'm handing over my uniqueness in favour of something that looks good.

Envy in love is a real nightmare. You can't love someone if you're constantly comparing yourself to them and coming of worst. You can't love someone and want to have what they have. It doesn't work. And if you feel envy towards someone other than your boyfriend/girlfriend, then you're blocking them out and denying them access to who you really are. Honesty is a very valued quality in relationships. If you can't be honest about who you are, then how can you have a meaningful relationship with someone else?

This passes into the 'love your neighbour' kind of love too, and the friendship love. It's very difficult to love someone when you're sat there wishing that they hadn't done better than you on that test, that they didn't have the new TV you want.

So how do you get round it? It's very difficult to obey a negative command. If I tell myself not to think about something, I'm automatically thinking about it by telling myself not to. I guess part of it is counting your own blessings (which is probably impossible). If you want to start it of: you're alive. I know you're alive, because you can't be reading this if you aren't. It's nearly spring, the daffodils are coming out. You have access to a computer, a lot of people don't. Look at your own talents. Maybe you can't sing like the Spice Girls, maybe you haven't got as good a mark as your friend, but what can you do? Look for ways to develop that, not to attempt to do things that you weren't built for. It's like using a mobile phone to hammer a nail and a hammer to try and ring someone. Neither is going to work very well at all, but both are useful. Paul says elsewhere that no part of hte Body is any more important than any other part, and that since you don't get eyes saying 'oh, I wish I was a foot', so too good singers shouldn't say 'I wish I could draw'. I'm guilty of it, I admit it. But it's possible to work at it. Why don't you?

Remember, God made you special, and he loves you very much.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Where you going?

While we were at Quiver, one of the speakers was talking about where we're going. She used this example:

We're at a bus station. There are only two buses that ever go from this station. One of these buses looks quite exciting, fun maybe, from the outside. Lots of partying going on in there. The other one looks quieter, not so exciting. Most people are on the exciting bus, you can see them, looks like they're having a great time, laughing, dancing, drinking. You get on that bus, join in. But there's something missing. You realise that there's a lot of arguing, a lot of fighting, people drunk and falling over, being sick, the bad stuff, the consequences, that you can't see on the outside. There's oppression, there's fear. But you're enjoying yourself, mostly. You stay on. Then you look at the driver's face. You realise it's the devil.

The other bus, the quieter bus, is calm, peaceful inside. You leave the first bus, get on this one. You feel complete, whole, calm. As you get on, you look at the driver. The driver of this bus is Jesus. He smiles at you. And the best thing about this bus, is that once you're on, no matter what you do, you won't get kicked off. You're on the bus to heaven.

This kind of links to a dream I had, a while ago. It inspired the first novel I ever finished (which is going to be published soon :D), but it fits well.

In this dream, I was an angel, and I was at a theme park. I was stood next to a slide, and nearby was the devil, also stood at a slide. He was encouraging people to go down his slide, trying to get them to go his way. I was desperately trying to stop them, because I knew if they went down there they'd end up in hell. A friend of mine came up, I said 'come down my side'. She wanted to go down the other, I told her she'd end up in hell, she said she didn't care. So I desperately tried to get her to go down mine first. I knew that if she went down mine first, at least she'd be saved, she'd be fine, no matter what the world threw at her.

You might be wondering what the heck that has to do with anything. Hope you're not, because I thought they were quite good illustrations, but anyway, here's a bit more of an explanation.

In life, you have two options. That's the nature of free will. You get a choice. Each day, each decision, you can decide to go God's way, or you can opt for your own way. You can choose which bus you get on, which slide you go down. I'm not saying that if you get on Jesus' bus/slide it's going to be easy. I can testify that it isn't easy, so can other Christians I know. God never promises it'll be easy. Jesus says that you'll have to leave things behind, that it won't be easy. But all the way through, if you're on the God bus, you've got someone to back you up ,you've got someone stood behind you, there for you, ready to give you the support and encouragement you need exactly when you need it most.


I promised over on my other blog that I'd write about this on here, so I will. But I think I might divide it up a bit and mix it in with some other stuff I want to say with regard to what they were talking about. So I'll write about the general experience now and then give the specifics later because I want to mix it in with some other stuff.

Basically, Quiver was a youth event for 18-25 year olds that a bunch of us from Fresh Manna decided to go to. Really good fun, it was great all going out to Blackpool together on a mini bus. We may have given the variety club a bad name, apparently the children Norma usually takes out are much quieter than we were... Anyway, I sneaked onto it (I'm only sixteen, but it was ok), and we got there a bit late, but it was fine. The worship was really, really good. Totally got into it. Almost disappointed when the speakers came up, but they were good too, so that was fine.

Going home was amusing too. Seemed a good idea to Lukas to start doing some drive-by evangelising as we went through Preston. Shouted 'Jesus loves you' to a random guy. Quite amusing, but also very true. So there you have it. Our trip out to Blackpool to attend the Quiver conference. Great fun.

Love is Kind

This seems a kinda obvious thing to say. Love is kind. Well duh, if you love someone, you're gonna be nice to them, right? Well, think about it I love my brother (in a non dodgy sense I'd like to point out). but if people saw us, would they think that? Am I really kind to my brother, do I treat him nicely? Well, not really, not all the time certainly.

Often we hurt those we love most. Often you argue most with those you're really close to. Two friends of mine would constantly argue, bicker, fall out, but everyone knew it wasn't going to last long, that within a day or two they'd be friends again. I never really thought of them separately, they were that close. I know it's not always the case, but think about it. Aren't you often kinder to strangers, more polite to those you hardly ever see or speak to?

Why is that I wonder? I think part of it is that we feel you can be more at ease with friends, but is arguing really being 'at ease'?

Having said that, kindness doesn't always mean not arguing. Being kind can involve discipline and forceful words, and yes, arguments. If I saw a friend doing something I knew was going to hurt them, I'd be unkind if I didn't tell them, so don't think the idea is that you should be a doormat. That's not the point at all. The point is that we rarely show people how much we care about them, and that we're rarely all that kind to our friends and family. One day, and you're probably fed up of various people throwing this at you, you're liable to wake up and they won't be there. And then will you regret that you didn't show them the kindness that says you love them.

In 1 Corinthians 13 (you've probably heard it at weddings), Paul talks about love as a way. Love is a way of life. Being kind to people is part of htat way of life.

How can you show it? You don't have to buy flowers to show a loved one you care (and in case you hadn't realised already, I'm not just talking about loving your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse here, I'm talking about hte friendship kind of love too, and hte loving your enemies kind of love, but more on that bit later). It comes more from your actions, from the words. Out of hte overflow of hte heart, hte mouth speaks. If you care about someone, give them a bit of encouragement. Say, 'hey, that's cool', tell them they're a great person. Even if you don't feel it, you can change your heart, lead your emotions, by speaking it out. The tongue is like hte steering wheel of a truck. It's pretty small by comparison, but it decides which way the whole thing goes.

God's crackers about you.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Love is Patient

Sorry I've been absent for a while, I've been doing other things. Not an excuse really, but it is a reason. So, we were talking about what love is at Blest the other day, and I thought I'd do a little series on what love is, based on Biblical scriptures. This is coming from one you're probably familiar with, it's read at a lot of weddings, regardless of whether they're Christian or secular. (1 Corinthians 13, love is patient is in verse 4).

Love is patient. Patience is taking the time to listen to someone. It's giving them the chance to air their own views. It's taking a deep breath when someone says something that annoys you and giving them a chance to continue with their train of thought, even if you don't agree with it. Patience is: (and this is according to the Oxfor pocket school dictionary since the big one's downstairs) being patient. Ok, not much help. Patient is: able to wait for a long time or put up with trouble or inconvenience without getting anxious or angry. I think that's an interesting bit, the 'anxious' part of the definition. Not getting worried when things go wrong. Allowing things to work out in their own time. So loving someone means letting things work out how they should, rather than forcing them. It means listening, taking time, it means taking a deep breath and counting to ten.

If there's anyone out there you know who gets on your nerves, why not try giving them a bit more time to talk this week (I'll try it too, promise).

Patience is a virtue, that's somewhere in the Bible (sorry, can't remember where exactly, I could look it up, but I'm typing this in a rush). Therefore if love=patience=virtue, love is also a virtue. But I think that'll have to come under another topic.