Child’s Talk

I had a conversation with a child recently. It started during a group conversation about favourite foods.
One of the children said: my family are becoming vegans actually.
And I said: awesome
(Because when talking to children it’s important to take an interest and to be enthusiastic about what they are sharing.)
Then I said: that means you won’t eat certain foods doesn’t it?
(Because when talking to children it’s important to be curious. To understand what that child understands.)
And the child said: yes, I won’t eat chicken or bacon
So I said: will you eat eggs or drink milk?
He shook his head. Then he said: did you know…
(Because children will continue a conversation once you have shown interest until they run out of things to say… Sometimes they will repeat the things they want to say because they just want to keep that conversation going. Sometimes you wonder if they are talking to you because you’re the first adult in a long time who has shown some sort of interest in what they are saying.)
He said: did you know that the eggs you get at a supermarket… You can hatch them into a chick.
And I said: no you can’t
(Because you can’t and it annoys me that people think they can. It also worries me that people base life choices on incorrect information.)
He said: yes you can. If you get a supermarket egg and crack it and put it in a warm place then it will become a chick.
I said: no you can’t
(Because that’s just not how eggs work.)
I said: if you get the right sort of eggs and keep it warm it might hatch but you don’t crack it and the eggs you get at the supermarket aren’t the right sort
And he said: that’s how you do it. Crack it and it will hatch. I’ve done it.
So why am I telling you this? I’m telling you this because when you’re working with children they already know. Whatever it is, they already know and don’t need you to tell them. In fact they will need to teach you because you are old and don’t know anything.
I could have argued with that child for ages and never changed his mind. I would have needed to take him to meet some chickens. I would have needed to get some eggs and hatched them or watch them not hatch. Through experiment and experience that child would have learnt more about eggs than he could have wanted to know.
Maybe with diagrams and explanations about chicken reproduction (that I doubt his parents would have been happy about) I may have been able to explain why cracking supermarket eggs would not lead to the production of a chick.
Maybe a pokemon walk would have helped him to understand that pokemon stay in the egg until you walk them long enough for them to hatch and that’s the same with chickens….apart from the walking bit.
But this isn’t really about eggs. Google is your friend if you want to learn about eggs. Because learning, changing your mind about things, is about your experiences. If you have experience of one thing, if you have always believed something and it’s never failed you, why would someone else coming along telling you something different change your mind?

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Star Trek, Faith and the EU

After freeing themselves from the Cardassian occupation, the Bajoran’s asked for support from the Federation so that they were able to rebuild their economy and move forward in their development. Although they had broken free by themselves they recognised that there was safety within a union of other societies. However, Bajor did not join the Federation. They applied, they were accepted but they delayed their joining because of the possible damage to their planet if they became an enemy of the Dominion. Instead, they remained neutral. This led to an occupation by the Dominion, except they called ‘allies’. For a planet who had just escaped occupation, they could see an occupation by another name was still an occupation.
They refused to join the Federation because they didn’t want to lose their identity but they ended up losing it without a choice.
For years, there has been talk about ‘Britishness’ and ‘British Values’. There is concern that too many people who live here do not conform to what it means to be British. There is a fear that Britishness could be lost. That there are too many of thems coming over here and destroying this way of life which we love.
I’ll be honest, I still haven’t fully worked out what British Values are….apart from queuing and tea….and we don’t grow tea here. Maybe British Values are the ones that led us to defend other countries against inequalities which led us to war. Maybe British Values are the greed which led us to swap people for sugar. What would I prefer?
But my identity isn’t rooted in the country I was born in. It is rooted in kingdom I was born again into. My identity is rooted in the ideas of defending the weak and the poor, of setting captives free, of going to all peoples and declaring good news of a God who saves. My identity is about a world where all are equal, all are priests of the Most High God.
My identity is in being called to put my neighbour first. So who is my neighbour and how they can best be helped?
My neighbours include those in the UK who suffer at the hands of austerity. They also include those in other countries. Those who my British grandfather’s went to war to protect. My neighbours include those who enter Europe daily, leaving the countries they love because they have been destroyed by wars. My neighbours include all of those in need. And I don’t think that isolating myself away from their problems is the best way to react to their problems. It may be easier for me. It might be best for me. But is it best for my neighbour?

Living Life

There is an episode of Red Dwarf in which the crew wake up and find that they have been in a virtual reality game and that everything that happened on Red Dwarf was part of the game. As they talk to the technician who is helping them out of the game, they realise that they have been playing it wrong. Instead of having happy, successful lives with all their dreams coming true, they having been living in isolation, struggling through.
Sometimes, I think maybe that is what life is like. At the end of time, you look back on your life and realise that you did it wrong. You wasted too much energy on hate and negativity and missed out on all the joy that was there for the taking.
CS Lewis asked how solid would you be if your life was separated into all the moments of your life and only the moments where you were really you, only those moments where you grew and helped others grow were kept? How much of you would be left if the hate and anger and bitterness were removed? Would there be enough of you? Would you be solid enough? Would you be a ghost?
There was a man who said that he wanted to provide a way for people to live life…fully live it. Not just exist in it and have life happen to them, or have life happen around them but to have live life. To have all of their moments to be moments that would be saved at the end of time.
Sometimes I do things which aren’t me. They aren’t going to be featured in the moments of my life because they have nothing to do with my life. They are the moments when someone else’s life has been imposed onto me or when I have taken their life and prioritised above who I am. I think that I am helping them, I think that I am being supportive but I’m not. I’m not helping them to be them and I’m not being me. No one is benefitting.
Sometimes, it is easier to be someone else. Easier to forget that to be you means fighting against something, someone, everything. Sometimes it is easier for the bits of you that cause problems with the bits of the world to go away.
But there was a man who wanted all of everyone’s moments to be moments when they were fully alive. And he showed us how to do it. How to be fully yourself even when the rest of the world wants you to crumble under the weight of their priorities. Even when you feel buried under all the other things you think you should or ought to be.
Bad things will happen. Good things will happen. But to be you in all situations is living.

What if I stumble

At work, we have hot desks which means that although we mostly sit in the same sort of area we don’t have an allocated desk. This is because we are in and out of the office so often that it doesn’t make sense for us to have allocated desks. I am based in one location for four days a week and another for one day a week and then I do visits throughout the day with some occasions hours/days at the third office base.
Because of this there are some people we may only work nearby once or twice a week. There is one woman who sits near me about once a week, but not always. One time I was debating with another colleague – one who I sit by regularly. I won the debate and my colleague said ‘will there ever be a time when I argue with you and win?’ I responded that I only got involved in arguments if I could win. The woman laughed and explained that the last time she had sat near me I had said the same thing to someone else.
I suppose it is something I do throughout my life – I am successful in things because I do them knowing that I will be successful in them. I am currently undertaking a masters with the open university in childhood and youth studies. I’ve had no problems with the modules directly related to working with children and young people, however, really struggled with the unexpectedly not children focussed module about continued professional development.
I know that I am excellent at working with children and young people. I am able to build relationships quickly, take an interest, remember things and challenge behaviour. I have studied and have the relevant book knowledge. I have no doubt in my ability to work with children and young people in a variety of situations.
However, I have no idea what my abilities are. I don’t know how it is that I build relationships quickly. I don’t know what it is in me that means that when I took a week off work a young person refused to talk to any of my colleagues and instead, waited for me to return. I don’t know what I’m doing.
Perhaps, that is the reason why I found the module on continued professional development difficult. How can I develop myself as a professional if I can’t reflect on what I do? How can I develop strategies when my most successful experiences seem to have come out of nowhere? How can I continue if I don’t know where it is that I have started?
When I was a teenager some WEC missionaries visited my church and were involved in the youth club that I was volunteering at. They were shocked to find out I was only 15/16 and said that I should consider a gap year with WEC when I was 18. I think it was the first time that I realised that maybe what I was doing was something, was a skill, a talent, a thing.
In some ways I think it is important that I continue to recognise that I have no idea what makes a visit with a young person effective. I have no idea when my words will resonate. In the end, the skills, talents, success isn’t down to me. How can it be when I don’t know what I’m doing? There is something greater at work, something more than me that leads to an easy rapport.
However, that doesn’t mean that I should just walk into visits and hope that whatever it is will do its magic and everything will be ok. I don’t understand how it works so maybe it works better when I have a plan, resources, knowledge. And that is the reason why the boot of my car is full of resources and activities so that I never walk into a visit empty handed – even if I never use them when I’m in there. That is the reason why I put so much effort, research and planning into each visit. To make sure that whatever it is that helps me working with children and young people has the best chance of getting used.
And sometimes it is the game of top trumps or table top bowling that opens discussions, sometimes its a willingness to discuss minecraft, vampires or lego. Sometimes its my nails, my shoes, my hair. Sometimes its nothing, just a case of being in the right place at the right time and being willing to listen.
I think sometimes, it’s saying I don’t know what it is that I’m meant to be doing, I don’t know why I’m here but I’m here and I’m willing to do my best in this situation. I’m in the debate and I don’t join if I can’t win.
There are gifts that are given by God. There are situations that are used by God. There are things that are made sacred by God. It is my responsibility to make sure that the gifts I was given are in the best condition to be used. It is my job to make sure that I have gone into the situation and it is an honour to be able to reveal the sacred to others.

Creation Expo

Today we visited the Creation Expo in Portsmouth. It was not good. However, one of the pamphlets we got said:

‘Why shouldn’t homosexuality be regarded as acceptable if what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah is just a folk myth?’ Pamphlet no. 327 by Barbara Lambeth

This irritates me a lot. It irritates me because here are people using bits of the bible when they obviously haven’t read the commentary included in bible about that particular passage.

Ezekiel 16:49 (KJV as the Creation Expo seem to only like this version)

‘Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.’

Pride, fat and lazy. Ignoring the poor and the needy. These were their sins and so often christians ignore these sins in favour of focussing on the sin of homosexuality.

I think often because it is easier to point out other people’s sins than to examine our own lifestyle and consider if we are guilty of any sins. These sins, of pride, gluttony, laziness and not caring for the poor and needy are ones that we in the western world need to be standing up against. It is these sins that we should be preaching about – and yet, the christian media spends its time fighting against homosexuality.

In a week where we are receiving news from around europe about the migrant crisis, showing people who have left their own countries due to war, extremism and famine, we need to be preaching compassion. We need to be preaching about love, acceptance, about putting the needs of others before our own needs.

And these are scary things to preach about. These are scary things to live out because these things require us to change. To say that we should share more means that I will have less. To condemn others is easy because it requires nothing from me. To take the lessons of Sodom and Gomorrah and use it to demonise a minority is easy because it puts the blame onto someone else.

When Jesus died, he took everybody else’s sin onto himself and then he called us to take up our cross and to follow him. To follow Jesus we need to be saying with Paul, that we are all sinners and that I am the worst of all. To be looking at the evilness of the world and saying this is because of my sin, not looking to others and saying they are to blame.

It is our sin, our pride, our gluttony, our laziness, our failure to help the poor and needy, that is causing the problems. It is us, not them, and we can change our behaviour, and we can change the world.

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Go

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

I’ve been thinking about this passage a bit recently. It is used a lot. A verse that describes the mission brief that Jesus left first for those who had followed him and then on to each generation.

And it is a crazy thing to be asked to do. Therefore go. Go. Go away from this holy land that your ancestors took so long getting to and building. Go. Leave the land you have been promised. Go away from the temple where your God lives. Go from your homes, from your families. Go.

And make disciples of all nations. No longer is this message just for one nation. Go to all nations and all people.Leave not only the place where you are comfortable but also leave the culture you are comfortable with. Go to all nations. You have been blessed to be a blessing.

There are then stories about how the disciples went about carrying out this command. They sold everything they owned and shared everything. They practiced equality among people from different backgrounds. They equipped and sent out missionaries. They took opportunities that they were given to share the gospel with everyone they came across. They spoke to leaders, they spoke to groups of women meeting at the river, they met in the homes of the wealthy, they sang praises in jail.

They changed. They adapted. They moved.

They disagreed and held meetings to seek God’s will in new situations – decisions about big changes to things they had held onto as solid parts of their faith such as circumcision. And then they left it behind.

And then I think about this generation, about me. Sometimes we think about where it is we have to go but sometimes I think where do I need to go from? What do I need to go away from? What is it that I hold dear? Can people still be disciples if they don’t believe or do something I feel is important? Can I change? Can I adapt?

I don’t need a saviour

‘I don’t need a saviour.
I don’t need to be rescued from my sin
What have I done that’s so wicked?
Why should I be born again?’

People tell me they live good lives
They don’t murder, lie or steal
They ask what sins of mine were laid upon this so called lord of yours?

Maybe I’m unique
Maybe I am strange
But I don’t need anyone to tell me what I’ve done wrong

There was no need for God to convict  me
I tried and judged myself
I knew that I was guilty
No evidence was needed

Every single day I do and say things wrong
I know they’re wrong because they hurt people
I know they’re wrong because I know
I don’t need anyone outside of me to tell me how I behave

So when I heard about the saviour, about the one who took the blame
I didn’t him to list my sins and make me feel shame

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But when he looked at my life
When he looked at my sin
He took my list of wrongdoing and crossed each one off
He took ownership of my bad parts
He gave me freedom from myself
Why would I not be grateful?
Why would I not decide to follow him every day of my life?

So when you say you have no need to be saved
When you tell me you don’t need to be rescued
Then I want to know how you have found freedom from yourself?