Face to face 

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I’m finding lockdown hard. This might not seem like much of a confession, but it has taken me slightly by surprise. After all I’m an introvert who would quite happily go several weeks without much contact with anyone. I also enjoy planning and preparing food from scratch for the family, regularly find myself telling Grace that there are just so many lovely things to do we don’t have time to do them all, and NEVER shop for relaxation or fun.

So, I find myself asking ‘Why?’ Why is lockdown so hard?

Genesis 2:7 has struck me in a new way.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”


We are physical people, made from dust even as we have the breath of God breathed into us. I am not just my mind or even my soul. I am also deeply linked to my body. While messaging people, phoning people or even seeing people on a video call are wonderful gifts and far better than nothing there is something lacking physically.

We are relational people made for face to face. A little further on in Genesis 2 God brings the woman to the man and it is as he sees her face to face for the first time that he bursts in the to first love song.

I miss face to face. I particularly miss being with my church family face to face. It is too easy in lockdown to disengage, or only to engage with the bits I like. It is too easy to only show my airbrushed, social media ready side and to not be real with my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is easy to think I don’t need others, that I can do it all on my own. But I do need others and I can’t do it on my own. We together are the body of Christ. I can’t be the hand, the eye and the ear. I need you to serve me and I need to serve you but that is so much harder without ‘face to face’.

But even as I long for face to face with people, especially being able to gather again physically as the Lord’s people, I know that that is not my ultimate hope. My hope is not only being face to face with you all, but being face to face with all God’s people throughout history in the resurrection of the dead and even more to be face to face with God. What a great day that will be! A sure and certain day that we can all hope in together.
 

Kathryn Hindley, 13/06/2020

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When it was not what we hoped... 


annie-spratt-MYa0tyV2DYM-unsplPhoto by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
 
Last night and this morning I have been surprisingly emotional.

Like so many, I was watching our Prime Minister's announcement yesterday evening. Perhaps what Boris said was what you were expecting. But it left me … well… I don’t quite know.

At the very least, there is a complex mixture of emotions.

The end of last week things seemed quite positive. The papers on Thursday seeming to announce the end of lock down (irresponsibly now it seems). The C of E announced the four phases towards normal services being resumed. With excitement and with expectation I started to make plans for those.

Some of us were looking forward to the children going back to school. Life starting to look a bit more “normal.” 
Our hopes had a focus - and it was Boris’ announcement on Sunday evening.

And now…

Well now, we’re flat. We’re emotional. We’re lost (again). Some of us can return to work. We can all go out lots and sit in the park. But the weather is cold and windy. It hardly seems worth it… 

So… what are we feeling and thinking?

There is sadness, even grief. Some of us knew what we were hoping for. Others, like me, are not quite sure what we were hoping for. Just… not that. We feel bereaved (again) and can’t quite say why.

There is resignation: more weeks of lock-down with a few minor changes.

There is frustration.

There is realisation: this really is big. Six weeks in lock-down are not going to fix this. In my head I know this is a massive challenge. But as the weeks drag into months the magnitude of controlling Covid-19 hits home emotionally and in reality.

What do we do?

In all this we come back to key truths of our faith that remind us where our hope and faith lies:

- the Lord God is sovereign. As we are told repeatedly in the book of Daniel: - the Lord God is the one who changes times and seasons.  As someone said to me, "He has got this." He was not taken by surprise last night. And he is not taken by surprise by how you are feeling today.

- the Lord is a firm foundation.  As we saw yesterday, impressive kingdoms and empires rise and fall (is this a shaking of western civilisation?), but the word of the Lord endures for ever. We might feel thrown about, but “underneath are the everlasting arms."

- the Lord is always good. The Lord God knows what he is doing. He loves you. He won’t let you go. No situation is so bad that he cannot bring great good out of it. The cross and blood of Jesus declare that: to the world and over you.

- the Lord is with us. It might not always feel like it. But he has promised to be with his people. He is close. Cast your burdens on him because he cares for you. Turn to him, tell him how you are feeling. Draw it. Shout it. Sing it. Write it [I’ve found it helpful writing this]. He already knows, but we bring it all to him because he knows we cannot carry this. Really, we can’t. But he can.

Whatever the next few weeks and months hold, we come back to Psalm 46, words that were so precious at the start of lock-down a long 6 weeks ago: 

God is our refuge and strength 
    An ever present help in times of trouble
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea


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Who am I? 

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Siora Photography on Unsplash

Hello me luvvers ow bin yer?   …translates …(Hello my friends how are you?)

This is a good question to ask our families and friends at this time, and as we know, and we have heard it said through some of our on line services, there are many answers to the question.  Our answers will vary from day to day and sometimes even hour to hour, as we continue to live though “lockdown”. 

Some of our answers may go like this…

  • I ay tew bad ( I am not too bad )
  • I’m bostin ta  (I am doing very well thank you)
  • I’m goin nuts cos cor gew ahrt (I am going crazy because I can’t go out)
  • I’m gutted cos I cor see me babbys (I am really upset because I cant see my children)
  • I cor cope no mewer (I can’t cope any longer)
  • I cor even gew shapping (I can’t even go out shopping)
  • I doe arf miss me mates and gewin to church (I really miss my friends and going to church)
  • Me ‘airs that lung I’m startin to look like an oss (My hair is so long I am starting to look like a horse)

I am sure being in lockdown as raised so many different emotions in all of us and possibly when anyone asked you or me “how are you” we may have responded with one of the above answers, but I feel lockdown has raised in us many more questions than just “how are you”, I know for me it certainly has.

Earlier this week a Christian brother and mentor asked me “how I was” and followed through with “because you don’t seem to be yourself”

On the same day Nick G asked me if I felt I could write something for this Blog, my immediate answer was to say I didn’t think I could do it as well as others have….Nick then said “Just be yourself”!

As I thought about this and pondered on the two phrases that had been used about me…”You don’t seem to be yourself” and “Just be yourself”…. it caused me to reflect on one of those deeper questions that sometimes the Holy Spirit asks you to ask yourself…..so I began reflect on just who is “myself” or “who am I ”?

Well, as you may have guessed,  I am a Black country wench” and like most of us I have many other  “titles”, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend, retired nurse/lecturer, Reader (Lay-minister) and a few others….all good titles some requiring harder work than others, but I am truly blessed by God to have been given all the family, friendships, love and opportunities to serve Him that these various titles have given me over many years.

I started to write this blog on day 36 of the governments lockdown, its day 42 for my husband and I because we started a little earlier than Boris told us to. During that time I have not been able to wholly fulfil, in the way that I normally would, any of my roles other than perhaps the “wife” one??…..  the Bible says of a good wife “When she speaks her words are wise and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions” (Proverbs 31:26)  so you had better check out my claim on that front with my husband, for I know there are “Rats in my cellar “  too (see Nick’s last blog).

It’s been hard facing up to not being able to be as involved with family/friends/church life as I usually am, and some days I have felt more than a bit useless. Lockdown has stripped us back and laid us bare in so many ways that we have never had to think about before and it would be all too easy to fall in to the “slough of despond” (the swamp of despair) that “Pilgrim” speaks of (see Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan), or with the writer of Ecclesiastes  to say “It’s all meaningless” !  So I am grateful to the Holy Spirit who led me to “get real” with myself before God and ask the deep question “Who am I?” and then, blessed, very blessed, that He further led me, through a walk in some local fields playing worship songs through headphones, to remember that my true identity is not in the many titles the world bestows upon us no matter how good they are, but that our true identity as Christians is in the title He willingly and graciously freely bestows upon each us.  God reminded me on that walk and through a worship song, and he wants to remind all of us in this time and always, that I am, and you are….WHO YOU (God) SAY I AM.  I am a child of God.

This is a song I heard a couple of years ago and one I have played much but am daily playing it now as it has come to mean so much to me. So I share it with you.  Find it on you tube here or just read the words available on that same link.

A final thought taken from my daily studies in Lectio 365 (put together by 24/7 prayer movement and available as a free app on your phone).

Covid-19 has stripped us of many “façades and defences.”  In Luke 18:9-14 The tax collector “kept it real” when talking to Jesus. Jill Weber writes

“As I reflect on this passage I think God’s invitation is to bring our real, unvarnished selves into his presence."

Anne Lammott in her book called “Help, thanks and Wow – the 3 essentials of prayer” writes:

"It takes much courage to get real, really real with God…”

But when we do He always, but always finds ways to show us, even in lockdown, we are not forsaken, but are chosen and loved and valued by Him for “just who I am”.   Let’s go on using this lockdown time to “get real” with God who longs for us to do just that, for our benefit and for His Glory.
 
Love and miss seeing you all.  Yvonne

Yvonne Binder, 05/05/2020

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