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Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

The Joker is teaching Junior Church tomorrow. If we have some kids in… Yes, we have got to that stage of life here – where the teenagers are taking up leadership roles. The Joker and the Engineer and their pal Miss Clean all teach at our Kids’ Club on Wednesday evenings. The group is thriving – recently they’ve had almost twenty kids most weeks. All three of them run games, give short talks and take responsibility for the group in many different ways. It’s a real pleasure to see them maturing into service – and enjoying themselves in the process

And the Joker and Miss Clean also teach the small (but perfectly formed) group that meet on Sundays. It was a bit of a shock for them both when they started. Instead of a good size group of kids that includes every age from 5 to 11, we normally have a couple of small girls, aged 3 and 5. Although sometimes we get others. But we still teach them a proper curriculum. And tomorrow is the final session of a short series in the book of Esther. Which happens to be the Joker’s favourite book of the Bible, ever since he developed a serious crush on the VeggieTales Esther at the age of five.

VeggieTales Esther

I guess she’s pretty for a spring onion

And the theme of tomorrow’s session is how God does the impossible – saving his people from certain death by sending his saviour – for such a time as this, at just the right time. A truth that gives us hope for today and for all the days to come, even when facing uncertainty and global turmoil. For entertainment in the Vicarage this evening, the Joker practised the opening illustration – cutting up an A4 piece of paper so that he can walk through it. Impossible, you say? But look! Ta-daa!

Teenager stood in paper cut up so that you can step through it. In messy living room

The Joker does the impossible

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So, I’ve found that when your head is messy, you can barely read the Bible, you can barely pray, you can barely think of God at all. It’s a struggle to think straight about anything. My brain is a mad butterfly at the best of times, so regulating my thoughts at all in a time of trial was almost impossible.

But I do know that one way that the Lord has provided for his people to fix their eyes on him is through songs and hymns and spiritual songs. I know that a good rousing anthem can tempt me to do the housework I loathe so much. And so throughout the most difficult days I listened to music to soothe my soul. I would go off to the local park with the Vicarage Hound with earphones in, looking at the trees and grass – God’s good creation – and reminding myself of Jesus.

During that time, a friend tweeted an album of music into my timeline. She’d created the artwork for it, and it seemed my sort of thing – folky, bibley. And it was exactly what I needed to listen to. A short album (half an hour’s listening) of gospel folk – Salve by Land and Salt. The songs are quite repetitive – but that was a blessing because I couldn’t remember anything! They have some quirky videos too:

I love the line in this first song:

I may cleanse my hands before I eat

When I’m done, Jesus washes my feet.

I so often felt completely ‘done’, and needed that frequent reminder that Jesus was there to wash my feet. These songs have been such a blessing to me – a gift from the Lord at just the right time.

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I blogged for four whole days! In a row! More blog posts than in the whole of 2017, 2018 and 2019. I wrote on Ash Wednesday and then all the way to Saturday. And then it was the First Sunday in Lent and I had small rest. A lifting of the fast to feast for the Lord’s Day.

And a very good Lord’s Day it was too, thanks for asking. We had more people than usual at the All Age Service, with more songs than usual and a great feeling of joy as we read through God’s Very Good Idea together:

This is God’s very good idea: lots of different people enjoying loving him and loving each other.

God MADE it.
People RUINED it.
He RESCUED it.
He will FINISH it.

One of the final pictures in the book is of a church family eating together. A good illustration, because is that is what we did after we went through this story. Because the first Sunday of the month is our Community Church Day.

gods-very-good-idea-feasting

We didn’t have pink tablecloths but otherwise this is a pretty good depiction

Community Church Day is when we invite people who attend our midweek church groups (toddlers, kids club, Open Church) to join our Sunday congregation for lunch, with crafts, games and a Bible story in the mix. Other members of the community are also invited – we always try to take some invitations around to neighbours.

A few of us bring food to eat, and everyone pitches in to help with putting up tables, serving food, wrangling toddlers, playing games, clearing up and sweeping the floor at the end. This Sunday we had chicken curry, a yellow dhal, roast gammon, a huge lasagne, a vegetarian pasta dish and carbs in pretty much every form (including an enormous pile of chapattis). The glorious mix of food was matched by the mix of people, a reflection of the wonderful variety of God’s good creation.

A day like that is part of God’s Very Good Idea: lots of different people enjoying loving him and loving each other. And our next Community Church Day is not on the first Sunday, because we’re going to celebrate Easter Day together: the very best part of God’s Very Good Idea.

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Things have been tough in parish life lately. Tougher than usual. I am bad at concentrating on things in the normal run of life, but recently I’ve often struggled to find a way to rest my mind.

I have found some things that have helped though. So I thought I’d share them in case your life is also causing your head to scramble like the only version of eggs that the Engineer will eat.

First off, I found that, of course, my pattern of daily devotions had gone completely to pot. I can’t even remember what I was doing – some large chunk of Scripture a day I think. And since I couldn’t think, I just couldn’t absorb a thing. And even turning the light on in the mornings was a challenge.

Last July, before the Church Society podcast took a break, I’d had to read A Tender Lion – a biography of Bishop J C Ryle – for the book review slot I’ve been part of, alongside our good friend Song. And since reading that I’d been thinking of going back to Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels. I remembered reading them as a student and finding them heartwarming. And reading the biography reminded me that Ryle had written and preached in an accessible style – in short sentences with simple vocabulary. And I wanted to read a gospel – to go back to basics.

So I downloaded a copy of Ryle’s Expository Thoughts onto my Kindle (other e-readers are available). My version had the Bible passage as well as the Thoughts. And I read through Mark, blessed by the good bishop’s clarity and simplicity, and also by my Kindle’s backlight that meant that it helped me to wake as I read. I really got quite boring with friends, and the poor Vicar, telling them (rather too many times) how much I was enjoying Mark with Ryle’s help.

Ryle portrait

The refreshing Bishop Ryle

I also have three of Andrew Case’s prayer books on my Kindle – and when my head can’t get into prayer, written prayers always help. This is the value of liturgy too – to ‘pray until you pray’, as Don Carson puts it in A Call to Spiritual Reformation. So I would read Mark with Ryle’s help and pray those prayers, and I wouldn’t be distracted by my phone, which would happen if I went to my PrayerMate app or opened the CofE’s Daily Prayer app. So I would pray a prayer for me, one for the Vicar and one for the kids. Then I’d pray the Lord’s Prayer. And sometimes I’d pray some more. And sometimes I wouldn’t. But I was still hanging in.

It was simple. And it was something. And so I’ve been able to slowly reconnect to the Lord and anchor my thoughts in the truth of the love of Christ. Reading a gospel in the company of a clear thinking bishop, some written prayers to use when I couldn’t think of words. I’m thankful.

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In my week and a bit of Doing the Next Thing, I have failed to do various admin tasks. They are glaring at me from the planner and I will need to make friends with them next week. I’m not even going to mention the ironing.

But I do seem to have a genuine, not-seen-before, result. I managed to get my head around the term for Junior Church. That means that the other leaders will have their planning notes ahead of time. I’ve done a little of that before. But my completely new achievement is a set of visual aids for the new series (on Elijah and Elishah). They always suggest them in our On The Way materials. But when I’m planning on a Saturday evening, there isn’t usually time (or energy). I am also quite pleased with the discovery of wooden skewers to make the pictures into puppets. They slightly remind me of the characters from the Victorian style puppet theatre I had as a child.

I think we’re going to have fun with these on Sunday morning. I’m going to give different children a couple of puppets each and see if we can act it out as I read the passage. Who shall I cast as the bowl of flour, I wonder?

junior Church characters

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The turn of the year brings suggestions of bible reading plans, especially whole bible plans, all over social media. I’ve tried a bunch and usually fail to complete them. But as I take a more eclectic approach to my bible reading this year (I’m with Warren Wiersbe in Matthew at the moment), I’m going to keep track with this chart from Visual Unit – and maybe ensure that as 2016 progresses I read some books of the bible that I have neglected in recent years.

bible_reading_chart

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We’re off to camp in a couple of days. No, we’re not actually camping. But we call it that because it’s always been called that. Maybe because people used tents when they took young people away in the 1950s. Who knows? We’re actually off on a CPAS Pathfinder Venture – taking 76 11-14 year olds from youth groups round the country to a boarding school in Devon for a week of fun, adventure, beach trips, crafts and learning about Jesus. The whole of the Vicarage are going, even the Engineer, who is still too young to be an official Pathfinder, but will buddy along with the rest of us and join in where he can and hang out with the Task Force team (who do all the practical stuff) when he can’t.

Also round the country are about 40 leaders of all shapes and sizes getting prepared. Here in the Vicarage we have our part to play. So what essential things do we need to get done before we leave?

1. Reply to the gazillion emails about transport, bible studies, menus, equipment. The inbox tends to heat up red hot in the days before we land in Devon.

2. Concoct suitable costumes for the theme. (France this year). Personally I’m hoping that stripey t-shirts will cut it. Although I know that there will be a few people dressed as baguettes and the Eiffel Tower – the team is a pretty creative bunch. Me, not so much.

3. Prepare the Bible study for the dorm. Although miraculously this year I have done mine already *smug face*.

4. Receive, check, price up and then repack the bookstall. This will take a day or so. There are a lot of books (I just counted and I think we have ordered 251). It will involve post-it notes and patience. It’s arriving from 10ofthose tomorrow!

5. Acquire all the sweeties, craft items and other bits and bobs I have agreed to bring for our dorm times. After first checking through the email that itemises them. If I can locate the email in amongst the gazillion.

6. Sleep for as many hours as possible. Sleep is in short supply in Devon what with early morning leaders’ meetings and late night dorm patrol. My aim is to arrive there *not* completely shattered.

7. Find my shorts with the capacious pockets. And the flip flops. And a raincoat and a couple of fleeces. Doncha just love a summer holiday in the UK?

8. Fill out all the health forms. For me, for the Vicar, for the children. And possibly for the cat aswell; I’m losing track.

9. Obsessively monitor the weather forecast for Barnstaple, praying that we won’t have to book out an entire cinema for an afternoon like we had to that year that Devon was subjected to sheet rain for the almost the entire week of camp.

10. Pray for the team, the kids, the families who send them, the home churches and the Ventures team at CPAS, who all work together to provide a fantastic week of holiday and happiness that can be so important in the Christian walk for so many. My own faith came alive on a CPAS venture in 1981 and I’m praying that all our Pathfinders will grow in faith in Christ next week.

Thankfully we have people staying in the Vicarage whilst we’re away, so we don’t have to work out who’s going to feed (and clear up after) our arthritic cat. I’m leaving early on Friday with Dreamer and we’ll be with the advance troops setting everything up before the kids arrive on Saturday. Then it’s all go until we land home on the following Friday, filled with tales of faith and fun and starting the plans for next year.

We get to go to a lovely beach on camp. We make it a lot busier than this one though…

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The Vicar is out at Midnight Communion, aided by The Shropshire Lad, who has stayed for Christmas. The small(ish) boys are asleep (I think) upstairs. The Queen has gone to the midnight service for the first time – a couple of other teens from church are also joining her for the first time. My parents are staying and headed for bed. All is quiet and the fire is still hot. Time to wish you all a Merry Christmas – may you know God’s truth and grace – and see his glory – now and in the coming year.

Grace and truth

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Shared by a friend earlier, this is from A Charlie Brown Christmas and was made nearly 50 years ago. Good stuff never grows old. I’ve not read a Peanuts cartoon for years (my parents had loads of the books when I was growing up) but this has made me want to revisit them.

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If you have been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know we are fans of Seeds Family Worship here in the Vicarage, especially their kinetic typography videos. I just came across a couple of new videos they’ve done. Maybe not quite as fancy as the early ones, but still brilliant for teaching memory verses – at home, in Junior Church or Kids Club, in school assembly or even with the full church family on a Sunday.

The first one is John 16:33 – Take heart

 

And the latest production – just out this week- is Hebrews 4:12 – The Word of God

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