Posts Tagged 'family'

Brickbat.

“I used to want to plant bombs at the last night of the proms.
But, now you’ll find me with the baby in the bathroom
With that big shell, listening for the sound of the sea.
The baby and me”.

From “Brickbat” by Billy Bragg.

 

Douglas Coupland entitled his 2001 novel, “All Families Are Psychotic”.  I think the title was memorable and connected with many of us.  It put a smirk on our faces.  It became a cult classic.

The thing is that we all belong to families.  They may be conventional nuclear families or a whole myriad of other set-ups.  You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.

I find it easy to think of church community as a family.  That has been my very real experience in the darkest hours of life or the most trying times.  My four best friends are like brothers to me.  I refer to them all as “bro” regularly.  Would we be as close if we didn’t share a common faith that bonds us that way?  Would my marriage be the way it is if I stopped reminding myself that I’ve to love my wife in the same way that Christ loves the church?  I think that means I’d be prepared to die for her.  That thought often puts tidying up after myself or other menial tasks in proper perspective…

Yesterday, however, Karl said something that really got me thinking.  I know many people find it hard to relate to the concept of God as a “Loving Heavenly Father”, because their own perceptions have been tarnished by the way their own Father’s are or have been.  Thankfully, that has not been my own experience.  That said, if our own experience of our earthly Father is the lense through which we see our Heavenly Father, then that’s a really big deal.

The thing that struck me right between the eyes is that the way in which my children will perceive the notion of Father God will be influenced hugely by how they perceive me.  Now, that’s a REALLY BIG deal!  I think fondly of happy, sun-speckled, cozy, snap shots of intimate moments with my little family unit, but I also recoil in the thoughts of those times when I’m at my whit’s end, hassled, grumpy and determined to get onto the next thing…

It’s good to have another hook to pull my attitude back into line…

No Cover Up

“No Cover up,
Just so much trouble.
No cover up,
I’m bent in double.
No cover up,
Just wreck and rubble of the person I was.

I am broken and I stand accused.
Is there someone who can let me loose?
If you find the answer make careful note.
I could use your pardon and a lot of hope.
I’m getting to that part at the end of the rope.

No cover up,
I feel the burning.
No cover up,
Nor time for turning.
No cover up,
I hope I’m learning some honesty,
some honesty.”

From “No Cover Up” by Duke Special.

The past few weeks have been draining in ways.  I’ve willingly journeyed with three sets of friends and family through some fairly major events and life decisions.  Part of my thoughts and mind has almost constantly been with them – wondering, thinking, yearning, praying…

It’s been a rollercoaster and the situations are all still unresolved.  The seeming outcome in some of them is different from what those involved might have hoped for.

The whole thing has given me a fresh perspective on family and vulnerability.  People who are not my biological family have become part of a larger extended family through friendship, honesty and the support we offer eachother. Other actual family relationships seem to have been restored to a better state of health because things have been said that needed to be said – hard things during tearful conversations.  Trite advice, passive aggression or defensive dis-interest has been replaced with honesty.  Superficiality has been removed and replaced with something real.  There has been a sharing of angst, pain, doubt and uncertainty. 

Through it all there has been a turning to the Bible and a carrying of one another in prayer.  Verses I have read hundreds of time have jumped out in different ways with the emphasis on different words or nuances.  Other passages have been illuminated and one knocked the wind out of me like a tonne of bricks and has left me somewhat weak kneed ever since.

Actually I think this is a small part of what Eucharist is about – the gift of God – to be broken and poured out.

It has been my experience that in the times when I’ve needed God most, when all of the other props are gone, that I have really let myself be found by Him.  Those are life defining moments in my story.  Maybe through sharing in one another’s stories, each day can have significance?  2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”. Galatians Ch 6: vs 2.  Or as Romans Chapter 12 declares, 9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited”

The song from which this post derives its title has been in my head on constant repeat these past few days.  I’ve provided a link to its beautiful delivery on Later With Jools Holland below: 

This Is Your Life

“Yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead.
Yesterday is a promise that you’ve broken.
Don’t close your eyes, don’t close your eyes.
This is your life and today is all you’ve got now.
Yeah, and today is all you’ll ever have.
Don’t close your eyes.
Don’t close your eyes.

This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose?”

From “This Is Your Life” by Switchfoot.

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So, this week was my birthday.  Another year and how much has life changed?  I think it’s helpful every so often to look back, not to to dwell there in rose tinted memories, but just to get some bearings.

Sometimes I smile to myself as I think about the dreams I once had.  The way I thought the future might look…

I can distinctly remember sitting in bible class aged 14 or 15 and a leader saying “the biggest decisions you’ll make in life will all take place in the next 5-10 years:  what job you’ll do, who you might marry…”  In truth it put the fear of God into me and froze me in place.  It stopped me dead in my tracks.  What if I got it wrong?  Life seemed too big – too much pressure.

I’m not that age anymore and life hasn’t always been plain sailing, but there is so much to be thankful for.

Psalm 111:10  says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.  I don’t think that means to be frozen in fear before a God who is unapproachable because of our mistakes, regrets, falling short and screwing up.  But I read that as meaning that having an awe for God and His vastness is the starting point for making wise decisions.  To paraphrase the cover of a book my wife bought me for my birthday, “Maybe we need to spend less time trying to convince God to do what we want and to spend more time convincing ourselves to do what God wants us to do?”

So, back to now. 

Who am I becoming? 

How am I growing? 

How am I being changed? 

What is God doing in my life?

I don’t feel that I’m living in the past.  Most of the time, I feel pretty comfortable with who I am. 

In a rare heatwave this week, I stripped down to my boardshorts and ran through the cold water spurting from a hose in our back garden with my four year old daughter.  In an instant I was transported back to a shared sense of childhood and, hopefully, it will be one of those happy, sun-filled, snapshots she will carry into her future.  As we sat on the garden furniture letting the evening sun dry us off, eating fajitas and nachos I couldn’t help but feel all was right in the world.  We are called to be childlike and that is very different from being called to be childish…

So how will it look a year from now?  I don’t have a clue and I’m fine with that.  I’m more convinced than ever that Jesus came to give us life and life to the full.  That is the polar opposite of paralysis or being drained of life through fear.  It’s the opposite of taking stances on the minutiae of theology.  As for me and our house, we will serve the Lord.

Rainlight

“Rain.

Smells of childhood

and tastes of walking home

and sounds of squeaky shoes.

Anyway,

here’s a photograph of us

it’s funny but I see…

two old friends life will make of us someday.

How that stirs my heart absurdly

as I write these words

by rainlight”.

From “Rainlight” by Mortal.

P6270049There’s a story told in the ancient world of man who along with his wife and two sons left his native land because of severe famine.  The man died and his two sons married local girls.  Ten years later both sons died, leaving their already widowed mother with only her two daughters-in-law.  Devastated she decided to return to her homeland as the crops there had improved.  The three women set off – the two daughters-in-law journeying to an alien land not of their birth.  On the road, their mother-in-law pleaded for them to return to their natural mothers and to find new husbands and make new lives for themselves in their homeland.  After much pleading and tears, one of the girls returns.  The other, Ruth, says “Your people will be my people and your God will be my God”.

The story is one of pain, of broken hearts, of family ties, of love, of commitment, of provision, of fresh beginnings, of restoration and of people being in the right place at the right time.  The widowed daughter-in-law remarries and both she and her mother-in-law make a new life for themselves together.

One of my best friends got married four years ago.  He had been living down in London for quite a few years and had met a girl who he was seeing.  When they got married, their wedding vows included the line mentioned above, “Your people will be my people and your God will be my God”.  There was something beautiful and meaningful in that.  To be at a marriage ceremony where two thirty-somethings’ wider circle of friends were somehow being brought together into a wider family.

Four years on both they and us are parents – each family now having a daughter.  Rather than having Godparents both of us have asked a broader circle of close friends to support us as couples in parenting and to hold us accountable.  We affectionately talk not of each girl’s “God Parents”, but of their “God Squad”.  So not only are the circles of friends coming together to form rings within rings or links in a chain, but now the next generation are spending time together.  Both our and their daughter share the same middle name.  Our daughter is four years older than theirs and is besotted with theirs. 

Having just holidayed together it is nice to think that there will be many more such happy memories still to form in the years ahead.  This holiday has also been spent with my in-laws.  It was a beautiful thing to watch new friendships develop between our friends and my in-laws – to enjoy eachothers’ company, to chat and day-trip together, to find our own space, to have a laugh together and to share something of our hopes, dreams and fears.  It reminded me of that marriage vow of theirs again – continuing to be realised four years on.

Their daughter is being dedicated today.  We would dearly love to be standing beside them as they make promises in public and a fresh commitment to parenting and to family.  Whilst not physically with them today, we are very much with them in our hearts, thoughts and prayers.

The story I started this post with is not insignificant.  The family tree which involves Ruth forms part of another important genealogy as shown in the gospel of Matthew.  It makes me see afresh, that relationships are not disposable – that blood is thicker than water, that commitment to love and marriage and friendship and family can conquer and overcome the storms of life.  It makes me ponder anew that parenthood is something to be taken seriously and that children are a gift from God.  There is order amongst the seeming chaos.

The photo at the top of this post is of a wonderful picture our friends bought us on our holiday the other week.  It is proudly displayed in our dining area – a reminder of happy times, of favourite places and cherished, hugely loved and dearly missed people.  If only the miles would shrink at times…

Hope Is Important

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“Hope Is Important” was the title of an album Idlewild released early in their career. I love that phrase.  I love the word hope and all that it means, so much so that we gave our daughter the middle name Hope.  Whilst I call her by her first name most of the time, if I ever write her name down I tend to include the middle name too because I love the way it sounds and what it reminds me of. 

Four years after she was born, my best man’s wife gave birth to their first child.  They also gave her the middle name Hope.  There’s something beautiful in that as the next generation grow up we are trying as parents to instill truth and a sense of value – to speak faith, hope and love into their lives.

Yesterday, we got a bombshell dropped into our lives.  My mother in law has discovered she has skin cancer.  She still awaits a formal MRI scan, so we have no real idea of the seriousness or otherwise of the situation.  The waiting is horrible and the uncertainty can make our minds wander. Cancer is such an awful word and one you just never want to hear mentioned about someone close to you.  That said I have two friends who have both been diagnosed with it in the past.  In both cases the doctors caught it early and they live perfectly normal lives now. 

In the storms of life, hope is important.

The Tourist

“Sometimes I get overcharged,
that’s when you see sparks.
They ask me where the hell I’m going?
At a 1000 feet per second,

hey man, slow down, slow down,
idiot, slow down, slow down.

Hey man, slow down, slow down,
idiot, slow down, slow down”.

From “The Tourist” by Radiohead.

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Today’s been one of those days.  I woke up and my mind was racing with all the things I needed to do.  I was late out the door and the bike ride to work felt rushed rather than just fast and enjoyable.  A day of deadlines and interruptions ensued.  Tasks done and a to do list just as long at the end of the day as at the start. 

A ride home into a head-on wind was endured and my mind was whirring over preparation for small group, figuring out who is around to help do music at church on Sunday, enquiries to make with the Planning Department about our house extension, stuff to do and just more of it…

Our Pastor sometimes uses a phrase about “God moving at the speed of love and that being three miles an hour”.  I think what he means is that God can move at the speed of light but often chooses to move at the speed at which we walk.  Thinking about it, the only part in which I slowed down (apart from a really good chat over a meal with a good friend tonight) was the walk home from my parents after collecting my daughter tonight.  She wanted to wear my bike helmet and help push the bike back to our house.  We talked and chatted and laughed and squinted into the spring evening sunshine as she told me about her day.  She forced me to slow down and savour something simple.  Maybe I need to learn from these moments…

Express Yourself

“Express yourself”

From “Express Yourself” by Madonna.

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“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me”. 1 Corinthians 13:11.

I’m wondering if that really represents progress?  A snapshot of our family life this week is posted brilliantly here.


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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