Archive for August, 2012

August 29, 2012

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus

This was the title of a book published in 1992 authored by John Gray. It was very popular in its day and had many spin-off versions. John and I both read it and found some of its advice extremely helpful in understanding the ‘other sex’. Especially helpful for me was the chapter on ‘the man cave’. John Gray explains that when men have a problem they retreat to their cave where they try to ‘solve the problem’. They have no interest in seeking help until they have done this. John Gray explains that woman ‘instinctively’ sense the emotional retreat of the man and take up residence at the cave entrance. They periodically yell into the cave ‘WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?’

In contrast when women have a problem they like to share it with a friend or with a group of friends.  If they share the problem with their male partner  they can easily put on there ‘problem solving hat’ instead of empathetically listening. What’s the answer here?  John Gray advises women to recognise the behaviours of the man who has retreated to the cave and then leave him alone. The woman needs to go out with friends, have a bath, or read a book. Eventually, he will come out of the cave with either a solution or a need to seek counsel to solve the problem and that person may not be you.

When a man is listening to his partner share a problem he should not weigh in with ‘advice’ but listen, smile and nod with encouragement. The woman usually knows the answer to her own problem.  She is mainly seeking understanding and a listening ear – but rarely advice.

Over the years I have made some observations about the opposite sex. While I am no John Gray I think they are practical, realistic and helpful. One of my first martial insights was to cease ‘threatening divorce’ when I got angry. Marriage should be a safe environment in which to work through your problems and the ‘threatening of divorce’ is like the hanging up of a phone or the slamming of the door on your way out – it has momentary satisfaction but it is deeply immature and a poor attempt to gain control over the other person, especially when you don’t mean it. The continual use of it is only breeds insecurity and hostility. Better to completely drop it from your vocabulary. I truly believe marriage or partnership is the backdrop and ever-present context in which to work your crap out. I had a huge issue with rejection when John and I married. Over the last 13 years John has created a safe and loving environment in which I have been able to address this problem. While residual elements of it probably exist in my psyche I really feel as if this issue is no longer a player in my emotional reactions. That is really something to celebrate.

Have you ever had a fight just before bed and then tried to sleep? I end up tossing and turning all night. I rehash the conversation over and over again thinking up brilliant one liners I wish I had said. I seem to awake in a similar emotional state. The bible says ‘do not let the sun go down while you are still angry’ and a recent study by sleep researchers at the University of Massachusetts suggests that if you go to sleep immediately after a negative interaction it’s as if your sleep protects the negative event. When you awake and are confronted with the negative situation again – your negative feelings and response are still there. Sleep neither lessens nor dulls your negative response, it has protected it as you slept. No matter how late it is I encourage you to talk it out.

I love sharing my life with you through this blog but I would really like it if you could extend yourself to share with me your best marriage/relational advice. You don’t have to be married to work through relational issues either – plenty to be had with friends, family and life partners – so no excuses. Please share – I want to live the best possible life I can and I know that many of you carry great secrets of success for me!

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

August 27, 2012

The Middle Class and the Downtrodden

When I read the gospels I see that Jesus had a remarkable ability to attract those who were outcast, rejected, despised and on the fringe.  That stood in stark contrast to groups such as the Pharisees who were so filled with pride and self-righteousness that they were the least likely companion of someone “sinful”.

That’s cool – I appreciate that Jesus was like that.

I try to be like that too, but I have a problem.  I am middle class.  In fact I am the very epitome of middle class.  I was brought up in a 3 bedroom brick home in suburban Sydney.  Dad worked in an office.  Mum worked in an office.  We had a Toyota.  And a cat.  If you looked up a dictionary for a definition of middle class then you would probably read “see John Warren”.

I have come to Christ and spend Sundays hanging out with his people.  At my church most of the people are middle class.  And when I say “most” what I mean is “almost all.”  Of course there is nothing wrong with being middle class.  That’s the life that God gave me.  Jesus died for middle class people just as much as anyone else.  Praise God that there are middle class people in Australia who have heard the message of Christ and joined his church.

But how does a middle class church go about attracting the outcast, the rejected, the despised?  Because people who are on the fringe generally don’t like hanging out with middle class people.  They don’t dislike them, they just don’t feel comfortable around them.  And when I am around someone who is on the fringe I generally struggle to know what to say.  I can have a conversation, but it is just not as smooth as with someone that I have so much more in common with.

One of the great things about the local church is that it brings people together who would otherwise never come across each other’s paths.  There is no doubt that a church which is faithfully preaching Christ can attract and hold people from a wide variety of backgrounds and mould them into a united, close, loving family.  God’s arm is not too short to reach out to a wide variety of people.  His Spirit is not too weak to transform their lives together.  He can do it.

That is true but I have never really seen it.  I guess it is part of living in a large city (which is what I have done my whole life) – there are so many different churches and everyone finds one where they feel comfortable.  It is a good thing that there are lots of churches with different personalities close to each other, as I argued in this post here.  That usually results in the middle class going to churches a, b and c, and those on the fringe going to church x, y and z.  Maybe in a small town it might be different.

Over to you – how does a middle class church attract the poor and the marginalised?

John

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August 22, 2012

The Monastery

At present I am reading “A Short History of Christianity” by the noted Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey.  Blainey is an absolute pleasure to read – he is entertaining as well as highly regarded in his field.

As a Christian I am conscious of where I stand within the history of the church.  I am thankful for the time and place that God has put me in, and very excited that I have the chance to serve him in this generation.  I think that the churches that I have been a part of in my life are doing very exciting things – I think they understand the gospel well and are committed to living it out.

But I’m not so proud that I would look down on what God has done through other parts of the Christian church in other centuries.  It is easy to look back and with the benefit of hindsight say that the Catholics had it wrong here, the Orthodox had it wrong there, this denomination was wrong everywhere.

So I must confess to really struggling through the various chapters that covered the rise of the monastery (and the convent).  For most of the period between 500 and 1500 AD the most spiritual activity, the most biblical study and the most devout people were found mostly in monasteries.  Europe had literally thousands of monasteries and convents.

But in my mind the whole concept of a monastery is a complete mistake.  Jesus did not say, “You are the light of the world.  Take that light, erect walls around it, and keep the world out lest they pollute it.”  Jesus said, “let your light shine before men.”  He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”  He said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”

What I don’t get is the fact that monasteries were started by people who were deeply committed to Jesus.  They were willing to give up everything for the cause of Christ.  And yet to my mind they completely got the whole concept of following Jesus wrong.  How can you love your neighbour by removing yourself from them?

A possible explanation is that they regarded themselves as living in a Christian nation, where everyone was baptised as infants.  There were no non-Christians to reach out to.

Monasteries are still around but the thinking behind starting them has certainly gone out of fashion.  Obviously within the Protestant Church they are not encouraged.  And yet that does not mean that there is no longer Christians putting their light under a bowl.  In my experience the whole Christian life is a balance between spending time with the church and time outside it.  I think that Christians have to be very careful when doing something together that can be done in the world.  Examples that come to mind are Christian sporting teams, Christian schools and (in North America) Christian universities.  Those things are not inherently wrong but I think there is the possibility that they will turn into monasteries if careful attention is not paid to being in the world but not of the world.

John

August 22, 2012

Confessions of a Teenage Wobbler

After leaving home at 16 years old I came to live in the garden shed of a school friend (with her parent’s permission). I came up to the main house for meals and showers but I slept and socialized in the shed. It was very small but very, very cool. It seems ludicrous now but at the time it was safe, it was home and it was all mine. I loved it and so did most of the teens in the neighbourhood and wherever teens congregate so do stupid ideas.

One of the best of those stupid ideas was Wobbling. It was our once a month Friday and Saturday night activity. A small group of us numbering about 10 would all sneak out of our homes (if required) and we would gather at Wobble Corner (Banks Rd and Wattletree Rd, Eltham North.)  Back then there was a very thick and deep pine forest on your right as you drove down Wattletree Rd.  It is important to note that the road changed cement types about half way down and if you were listening you could easily hear when the car got to this point. The change in noise was distinctive and important especially for the commencement of Wobbling.

I have no idea whose original idea it was but here is the story of the Wobble’s of which I was known as the ‘Head Wobbler’. We were an alien species which had landed from another planet. We were a nocturnal creature whose gait was more like a wobble than a walk. A Wobbler was a person under a big blanket who would squat and jump up and down and also wobble back and forth in a random pattern. We would situate ourselves at Wobble Corner on the top of a cement drain. As a car travelled south along Wattletree Rd and veered to the left at Banks Rd. it was possible for an observant driver to just see this random colourful shape wobbling around the perimeter of there peripheral vision. Each Wobbler bought personality and individuality to their blanket choice and signature Wobble moves and I personally lay claim to perfecting the ‘bouncing wobble’.

The reward was instanteous. Drivers would toot and often turn around to come back for a second look. Everyone not wobbling watched out for the safety of the Wobbler on deck.  If there was any hint of danger they would yell out to the Wobbler and all would run into the pine forest. Sometimes the Police responded to complaints about us and  they would come out with this big search light and beam it into the woods, but we would just laugh at them – safe in the woods we all knew well.  The coup d’état of our whole adventure came when a couple of camera men from the Mike Willessee show came back a couple of weeks in a row trying to convince us to be part of a piece on current teenage activities.  We declined. We were of course a secret organisation till now. The most dangerous moment for any Wobbler came one night when a flat-bed tow truck coming from the south end of Wattletree Rd skidded to a halt in shock at seeing the Wobble and the smashed up car on the back which was clearly not strapped down properly started to slide off.  As I peered out from underneath my blanket I could see the undercarriage of half a car hanging over the top of me. Scary!We primarily wobbled for cars travelling down from the  North end of Wattletree Rd for this very reason.

Wobbling came to an abrupt end when one rainy wet night a car lost control after getting a scare after sighting a Wobble and then nearly crashed but for a well placed driveway it drove very rapidly up. It was the first time anything like that happened and the last. We abandoned wobbling for other probably more self-destructive activities instead. In many ways wobbling was a clean activity. Excessive alcohol made you slow and an easy target for police or bad people so we rarely drank and wobbled.

What possible point could I draw from sharing this experience? It was fun! Being a committed Christian for the last 25 years means that people put me into this nice conservative, boring box and they think I have no idea what a good time is. Yes, I don’t drink or smoke or do drugs anymore but I do enjoy life – do you really think that someone who found great joy in wobbling could not find a way to enjoy a life in service of God? I truly feel like I am living the ‘abundant life’. Are we not made in His image – doesn’t our love of laughter, happiness and joy truly reflect the very nature of our maker within us? Or did a dour and sour faced God create a people not like Himself! Please don’t put me in a box because I’ll just have to break out of – in my Wobble blanket! Take care of your front yard you might just see me there.

Over and Out,

Catherine xo

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August 15, 2012

Love Wins!

Recently I started reading a book called “Reveal: Where are You?” which is a collection of results from a survey that the good folk at Willow Creek Community Church did of their congregation.  Willow Creek, in Chicago, is one of the great churches of the USA.  Under the leadership of Bill Hybels has had a big impact not just on its own city but across the Western world as well.

They found that a lot of their programs were well run, well attended, and operating smoothly.  But were producing no fruit.  They actually were not helping people grow closer to God at all.  The book goes on to describe what they did to address this, and how they got back into the main game of making disciples.

The book describes how they realised that they had what they call the “Church Activity Model of Spiritual Growth”.  That sounds dry and technical, and you were possibly more bored at the end of that sentence than you were at the start.  But this is the concept – they thought that the more people attended church programs, the more would become like Jesus.  And when I read that I instinctively recognised that that is what I have believed all my life.

When I think back to my first involvement in leadership in my early 20’s that is completely what I was committed to.  The only thing that mattered was getting people to attend church programs.  If they did that I assumed that spiritual growth would follow as certain as night follows day.

It has taken years for the realisation to dawn that it’s not like that.  And I owe a great deal to Catherine in this regard.  Catherine loves people – really loves people.  And I have seen her over the years meet with people, pray with people, catch up with people, and speak into people’s lives.  The result is that they have been transformed.  And all of it has happened without anyone participating in a formal church program.

Relationships of love, truth and commitment are what changes people.  There is no doubt that church programs can help, and that plenty of good things result from them.  But the bottom line is that they are overrated.  Certainly I have overrated them.  They are not the solution that we often think they are.

Fruit requires love.  When there is no love there is no fruit, regardless of how smooth the program is.  Love is what a church needs, not more resources for slick programs.

Programs are of course a neutral thing – they are not a problem that needs to be removed from church life.  It just has to be understood that for them to have any positive impact at all there has to be love oozing from those running them.  Love is what is paramount.

John

August 15, 2012

The Roommate Syndrome

Today is our 13th wedding anniversary.  John and I met and married within a year of laying eyes on each other for the very first time. Right now we are in the midst of a beautiful season of our marriage. It just feels like we are humming along but the last few years have been the hardest of all the years.

I identified a trend in our marriage that seemed to move us toward a relationship that was more like roommates with the very occasional benefit. I think they used to call this the 7 year itch? We slept in the same bed but I felt like we were leading parallel lives. We were just doing life next to each other rather than with each other. I realised this was not what I wanted as I saw a day far off  in the future when Poppy would finally leave home and I would turn to my husband to enjoy the twilight years and realise he was a stranger. We talked about this disturbing trend and decided to take some steps to tackle it.

A key part of the solution was going back to the beginning. Why did we fall in love? What did we like about one another? What interests and passions did we share? We discovered that we had two major interests that had been consistent our entire marriage. We both shared a deep passion for God and for playing games. We have always loved talking about all things God, the church and the Christian life. Starting this blog was probably a perfect expression of our mutual passion for Him. We also both love games. We love to play them and we share the belief that one should always play for sheep stations. On our wedding day I tucked a requested wedding gift of a Sony Playstation under my arm as we got on the plane for our honeymoon. We barely left the accommodation as we played Tomb Raider from dusk until dawn. We recently purchased Mario Kart for our Wii and we have found that the youngest Warren has inherited our delight in games. We gave time and energy to re-discovering the joy of these two mutual passions – which worked.

There was one key area of our relationship that had really suffered from the roommate syndrome.  Our sex life had become boring, predictable and perfunctory. As a woman I made some decisions to restore the intimacy – no matter how I felt – I enacted three things; I  would initiate once in a while, do something unpredictable every now and again and I practised not saying ‘no’ every time he initiated. Banning iphones from the bedroom helped too.

The longer you’ve been married the harder it is to fend off familiarity and that oh-so- comfortable feeling – you know the one you get from wearing that old t-shirt to bed.  Making an effort to be intimate, talk about things other than the kids and spice things up takes a big effort, but the rewards are there for those who choose not to become roommates instead of lovers. Sometimes it will feel like a lot of hard work but eventually the whole thing begins to bear fruit and you will enjoy being married to one another more than ever.

Any thoughts, comments or advice of your own. Has this been your experience?

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

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August 8, 2012

Does Jesus care who wins “The Amazing Race”?

I love the TV show “The Amazing Race”.  I have watched it on and off for at least 10 years.  If you’ve missed it, what you are missing is teams of 2 basically doing a car rally with a really big budget.  They race and fly around the planet, and the winning team collects $1 million.  (Well that’s the US version.  In Australia Channel 7 are a bit more strapped for cash.)

One of the things that stands out about the various contestants in how much praying they do.  It is completely common, especially in the final few legs of the race, to see people standing at a counter waiting for the last few tickets for a flight saying, “Please God, let there be 2 more seats”.  They pray everywhere for everything that they might win.  When they are driving through a traffic jam it seems that heaven is bombarded with requests.

One series in 2007 featured a lesbian couple, Kate Lewis and Pat Hendrickson from California, who are both clergy members within the Episcopalian Church.  It is fair to say that the Episcopalian Church and I differ in our interpretation of what the bible says about sexuality.  But that’s a big topic that I’m not dealing with today.

What was interesting about Kate and Pat was that they didn’t pray that they would win, or that God would help them.  They said straight up, at the start, that in their view God doesn’t care who wins The Amazing Race.  God’s concerns are elsewhere.  So whilst others were praying, the ministers were not.  Unfortunately they didn’t say what they thought God did care about instead.  Actually it is more likely that they did say, but the show’s editors did not put that comment in.

Are they right?  Does God actually care who wins a TV show?  A TV show with a very big prize?

In short, I agree with Kate and Pat.  I don’t think that God cares.

If you want to know what God does care about then here are some scriptures:

• I desire mercy, not sacrifice.

• Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

• And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

These verses show to me that God has higher priorities than the winner of The Amazing Race.  Even the big prize does not interest him greatly – he created the entire world, and all its wealth.  I think what God wants from the people who compete in The Amazing Race is that they do it in a Christlike way.  The world says to be selfish, to race without a thought for the people who you meet on the way.  To keep oneself from being polluted by the world is to run The Amazing Race as Jesus would run it.  It is to love the people who you meet – both fellow competitors, taxi drivers, and even those strange people who stand on the mat at the end of each leg.

No doubt God is sovereign over the events of our lives.  He might even have it in his plan for some of his people to the win The Amazing Race.  But he really wants all his people to run whatever their race is in a Christlike way.  He wants holiness.  He wants his kingdom to come on earth.  The outcome of reality TV shows is secondary to those things.  And I think Kate and Pat have worked that out.

John

August 8, 2012

Something Smells Bad!

I have a really sensitive sense of smell. I almost vomited when my husband John ‘described’ the smell of the Banyule Tip once. Have you ever opened your fridge door and been confronted by a ‘smell’ that screams ‘you really don’t want to know what I am’?  You’ll do your first reconnaissance of the fridge – piffing week old leftovers,  the half used containers of yogurt, sour cream or cream cheese – smirking to yourself that the you’ve got ‘the culprit’ only to be assailed the next morning by ‘the smell’ again. ‘The ‘smell’ builds momentum overnight and like a bout of morning sickness it hurls itself out of the fridge at you – sliming your nostrils,  smirking ‘you wish you got me that easy Warren…come and find me’. It dares you to play hide and seek and it’s taking prisoners.

Next goes a ‘few jars of this a few jars of that’…you want to cry because you know the lids are containing those miniature mould experiments and they aren’t ‘the culprit’. It is now that I’ll find the liquefied tomato I used half of three weeks ago. The next morning – ‘the smell’ is hideous. It runs out of the fridge and begins to invade your home. You feel like ‘the smell’ is in your clothes and your hair. That’s it – you mount a full-scale expedition to clean out the entire fridge. I call in reinforcements “Joooohhhhnnn  I need your help with something.’ (said in my best ‘Heidi come down from the mountains’ sing song voice’)

John stands with a garbage bag. I’m so serious that I’ve prepared myself to throw away ‘Tupperware’ – not crappy Ikea containers people but Tupperware!!! The strategy is clear ‘the smell’ must be found and eradicated. The kitchen top counter is clear, the sink is ready and John stands with a garbage bad ready to ‘rope and tie’ this beast. I am steeled against the smell – armed with vanilla scented spray, gloves and sponge, I go in. Out comes a small container of innocent looking milk that was hidden all the way at the back– oh yes, we have a contributor people, but alas not ‘the culprit.’ Ahhhhh another contributor – a small piece of blue cheese that has fought off ‘glad wrap suffocation’… leftovers from a great dinner party two months ago. Finally a piece of feta submerged in briny water – bye, bye tupperware, I love you.

My eyes alight on the ‘vegetable crispier’. Nooooo, not in there Lord. I can see an orange liquid about half a centimetre thick on the bottom of the drawer. I know I have to open it. I know ‘the smell’ is in there. God help me, I’m not sure I can do this. I’m not sure at all. I’m too curious though – I have to know the truth. I open the draw and besides some very ‘sad rubbery leprous carrots with massive black spots’ there is nothing else. I know, that I know, that I know that it is in there though. But wait, what is in that green plastic bag tucked under the carrots. It might as well have ‘CULPRIT’ written on it. I found the ‘CULPRIT’…what is it…..it is …..

…..some ancient brown slimy ‘lettuce’ that has died a very slow and painful death in the vegetable keeper. How can something that looks and tastes so benign smell so bad?

There is something ‘smelling very bad’ in the Earth right now and God is opening a fridge door that no man can shut. Inside is the stench of ‘human trafficking’. Wikipedia defines ‘human trafficking’ as the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of reproductive slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, forced labour, or a modern-day form of slavery. Human trafficking is a lucrative industry. It has been identified as the fastest growing criminal industry in the world and is second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable illegal industry in the world.

Moldova is the poorest country in Europe. It is landlocked between Romania and the Ukraine. The nation has 14,000 orphans who live in 59 government run orphanages across this small country. At the age of 16 a teenager is thrust out of the orphange with the equivlant of $30 and a bus ticket. They are easy pickings for human traffickers. Phillip Cameron is the founder of ‘Stella’s Voice’ which runs an independent orphanage in Moldova. Stella was a young handicapped orphan who was kidnapped and sold to sex traffickers. Powerless to defend herself against evil men she was used and abused till she died of HIV at 19 years of age.  This organization is her voice to the world. ‘Stella’s Voice’ is the voice of the Moldova orphan.

A kidnapper will sell a girl for as little as $3500 to human traffickers and she is likely to make about $300,000 as a sex slave. Moldova is considered to be the source engine for sex trafficking/human trafficking in Europe. Possibly ½ a million young woman have been abducted from Moldova alone – it is difficult to substantiate the numbers because no one cares and no one notices when an orphan is taken. The US Ambassador called it a “Silent Genocide” of the countries young women.

Personally I am not willing to tolerate ‘the smell’ any longer. About 10 years ago I watched an episode on 60 minutes about Thai children forced into prostitution. I couldn’t cope with what I saw. I felt helpless. I despaired at the depravity of humanity to do such things and I just buried my head in the ground. Many people are pulling their heads out of the ground and there are many organisations today that are making some headway tackling this problem. One that I have come across which is doing some brilliant work in this area is the A21 Campaign. It is spear-headed by a dynamic speaker called Christine Caine who suffered sexual abuse as a child.

Maybe you’re able to live with ‘the smell’ a little longer. But maybe you’re like me and you just don’t know what to do to help. No one can make you resource yourself but if you follow either of the links provided to Stella’s Voice or The A21 Campaign they give some helpful and practical solutions about how you can help. Please avail yourself of these resources and start to help to clean out the fridge because it STINKS!

Catherine

August 1, 2012

You are Welcome

My church no longer hands a bulletin or weekly newsletter at the door on Sundays.  For most of my Christian life I have walked into church with one in my hand.  A year or 2 ago my church printed a monthly bulletin which they would give out on the first Sunday of the month, and have with them to give out if someone didn’t get one for the rest of the month.  It produced this sort of stand off.

Most Sundays you would walk up to the usher and they would look at you as if to say, “Weren’t you here last week?  You should already have one of these.  They cost money to print you know.  If you put your hand out I will give you one, but it all seems a bit suspect to me.  I’ll be watching you…”

Well I might be embellishing a bit.

It is a good thing if a bulletin can make people feel welcome.  American blogger Jon Acuff had a friend who attended a Catholic church (I’m guessing in the US) who printed the following in their bulletin:

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.  

We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.  

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.  

If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.   We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both.

We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!

That is genius.  Because that truly makes people feel welcome.  That is grace, and it is highly attractive.  It’s exceedingly welcoming to everyone because although 99% of people reading it did not blow their offering money at the dog track, it makes you think, “if people who have done that are welcome here, then I probably am as well.”

It is one thing to have a welcoming building, and smiling people on the door, and the air con set at the right temperature.  But if the grace that oozes from the bulletin I have just quoted oozes from the hearts of the people in the church then new people will feel welcome.  They will feel very welcome indeed.  In fact you will be well on your way to having the sort of church that Jesus did – a group where the outcast, the “sinner” and the broken felt right at home.

John

PS Check out Jon Acuff’s blog here.  He writes some humorous pieces and does the odd serious piece, many of which are quite profound.  It is very popular, and with good reason.

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August 1, 2012

Sticks and Stones Will break your Bones

Poppy and I visited a new park near our house a number of years ago.  One of this park’s feature pieces of equipment is a large swing that hangs down from three metal poles that stand in a tee-pee formation. The swing itself is a very heavy saucer-shaped basket. Three or four kids can lie down in it. You sort of push it up and out and it adopts a very unpredictable orbital trajectory. I had Poppy and two of my friend’s kids in the basket happily swinging away. In my peripheral vision I noticed some movement. When I looked I could see a boy aged about 3 running toward the swing. His mum was jogging slowly behind him well within reach. At any moment she could speed up and stop him which I thought she would, but she didn’t. He just got closer and closer to the swing. It dawned on me that the mother was not going to stop him from running into the path of the swing.  Being hit by the heavy metal and plastic basket with three kids in it would be the equivlant of being hit by a slow moving car.

While all of this seemed to unfold slowly those last few seconds seem to go so fast. As the little boy was about to run into the path of the swing I jumped in front of it and tried to stop it from hitting him. I succeeded but in the process my little finger on my right hand was snapped backwards by the swing. I turned to the mother of the boy and said ‘why didn’t you stop your child? I’ve broken my finger saving him from being hit.’ Incredibly she responded with ‘it’s just dislocated’. Before I could argue with her I realised I was in a great deal of pain. I went to my friend and we both decided it was worth going to the nearby doctor’s office. I got in the car and drove there but it was closed. By now I was in so much pain I was screaming and crying with every move of my hand.

Blinded by pain I drove on to the hospital.  Forever the Scrooge when it comes to paying for parking I couldn’t bear to park in the hospital parking so I drove around looking for a spot. Luckily I got one quickly. Thank God I left Poppy with my friend as I was screaming so much and so loudly it would have scared her.

Upon arrival at the emergency department I was ‘triaged’ to the top of the list, that is I got in immediately. I was offered happy gas which I quickly accepted. I loved it. I made a number of very funny stoner calls. By the time the doctors tried to pull my dislocated finger back in to place, which failed miserably, the discovery was made by x-ray that the bone had been diagonally snapped into two pieces. I had surgery to put a pin in to hold the two pieces in place while it healed.

Recovery was slow and small. To this day I have an obviously crooked little finger but the greater injury was to my spirit. For many months following the accident I struggled with intense feelings of hatred toward the woman at the park. I hated her neglect, her misjudgment, her blasé attitude to my person. I hated her ignorance, her understated diagnosis. I hated that she didn’t care and I hated that she didn’t know what I had done for her son. I hated that I could never yell at her and make her apologise for her stupidity.

I wanted someone to pay. I wanted to blame and shame someone for what happened.  The whole thing was eating me up. I replayed the event in my mind continually, always ending up in the same place – angry and resentful. It took me longer than it should’ve but I finally chose to forgive the woman, not that she knew. I often wonder if she ever even thought of me again.

No one is immune to these things. We are all vulnerable to pain whether it be physical, emotional, verbal or sexual. We all have a choice to harbour the offence or forgive. My hatred became a prison. I became chained to the offender and the offence reliving the event over and over. When I finally forgave her I got out of jail. I was free. Forgiveness is never about the other person – it’s all about you. I know this is the second time I have beat the drum of forgiveness in a blog post but I dare say I’ll need to beat it again – not for your sake but for my own.

Over and Out,

Catherine xoxo

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