Bible

A Red Letter Day

Are you on social media? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok ? The options, it seems, are endless.  

But once upon a time, even before the invention of the telephone, if people wanted to contact their business contacts, friends, or family when they were apart, the best way was to write a letter.

I love letters. I love handling them, thinking of the person who has taken the time to pick up a pen and write down their thoughts.  Cards also work for me and it’s about this time of year we file away or recycle last year’s Christmas cards.

The letters people have written to each other in the past are also accounts of history, of facts and feelings handed down to us from people who have long since departed our world.

A few years back I even wrote a book based on the love letters exchanged over nearly 40 years in the 19th century between the founders of The Salvation Army - William and Catherine Booth. I have to say, reading their letters, which are held in the British Library in London, and writing 'William and Catherine' not only helped me to understand their personalities and motivations in life, but also to get an insight into their deep Christian faith and how that helped to create what is now a global church and charity movement!

But back to the point of today's 'thought'.

It was on January 10th 1840 that the Penny Post was introduced in Great Britain. This meant that mail was delivered at a standard charge. Until that point every letter was paid for individually by the recipient and it was a cumbersome system.  It was at the end of the 1830s that a chap called Rowland Hill published a pamphlet entitled ‘Post Office Reform’, which proposed a uniform postage rate of one penny, wherever in the country the letter was posted or received.  To prevent postage fraud, he came up with the idea of an adhesive label to pre-pay the postage. So the postage stamp was born.  

The 'Penny Black' was that first ever stamp and its inventor was eventually knighted by Queen Victoria and became SIR Rowland Hill.

Red post box (edit)

Today we can still find old red postage boxes dotted about, and whenever I spot one it draws me right back into history. It's a link with the past!

Not so many people use ‘snail mail’ today, but every time we place a postage stamp on an envelope perhaps we can think again of those who have left  their impact on the world through letters.

In the New Testament we hear accounts of the life of Jesus Christ, and the early church through epistles, or letters.  Letters which contain wisdom which is as true today as when it was conceived and written down a couple of thousand years ago.

Like St Paul’s words to the early church in Corinth - ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love!’ (1Corinthians 13:13)

If that’s not a great blast from the past handed down to us in a letter, what is?

Note - http://www.victorianweb.org/history/pennypos.html


Not to Worry!

“Worry retards reaction and makes clear-cut decisions impossible.”

These are words attributed to  Amelia Earhart  (1898-1937) who was a pioneer of aviation, as well as an author and decorated pilot.

We know her as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, which she achieved in May 1932 –it took her 14hrs 56mins by the way – but Amelia also set many other records, including on this day - January 11 - in 1935 becoming the first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean between Honolulu and Oakland, California (2,408-miles). This was also the first flight where a civilian aircraft carried a two-way radio but flying in those days was still a tricky and dangerous business.

It was in July 1937, during an attempt to fly solo around the world, that Amelia disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. She was eventually declared dead in January 1939.

In her short life, Amelia Earhart achieved much and received many awards, including being honoured by her own country and becoming the first woman to receive the US Distinguished Flying Cross. Apart from flying for fun and competitively, she was also an early advocate of Equal Rights and encouraged women pilots in particular. At one point she was (the first ever) aviation editor for the magazine Cosmopolitan and she also wrote best-selling books about her flying adventures.  The book she wrote about that first (very dangerous) solo Atlantic flight was entitled ‘The Fun of It’.  What a woman!

If you are someone who collects ‘quotes’ from famous people, you may have seen quite a lot of great sayings and adages attributed to Amelia Earhart. Some of these are on Amelia Earhart - The Official Licensing Website of Amelia Earhart but this one about worry rings bells with me.

Anxiety – worry – can be really debilitating.  I’ve learned that over the years.

Worrying about things that haven’t yet happened, things that could happen or might happen if circumstances go one way or another, even worrying about things that have ALREADY happened that you can’t change. Being anxious can rob you of sleep, of peace of mind. It can make you physically ill and incapable of functioning normally. I know, because over the years anxiety has sucked the joy out of my life at times and has sometimes prevented me from going for my dreams and with my gut instinct!

In addition, as Amelia Earhart suggested … “Worry retards reaction and makes clear-cut decisions impossible.” When we worry, we can and do make mistakes, and then our worries are almost self-fulfilled prophecies. And when our minds are full of anxieties and ‘what might be’ and ‘what could happen’ we may find it hard to make sensible decisions for ourselves and for others.

Coping with worry and anxiety can in itself be stressful, but there are things that can help. Deep breathing is a good one for me. And meditating on the moment I’m living NOW rather than the one that is past or the one that is to come.

In the New Testament of the Bible, in Matthew Chapter 6, Jesus said …

 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

It’s something I need to remember every day! And then, who knows, I might still have adventures to enjoy without worrying about the consequences?

Amelia Earhart - The Official Licensing Website of Amelia Earhart


More

Following on from yesterday's post about Happiness and Joy, here's something I wrote a little while back which summed up how I was thinking then and what is still in my heart. 

Suffice to say, I'm a bit of a 'work in progress' 

 

MORE

Money, love, recognition, image, security

Clothes, house, car, holidays,

All the ‘Stuff’ which controlled me, which I thought defined me

All the ‘Things’ which I desired yet left me constantly dissatisfied, unfulfilled

Always comparing myself with others, always wanting MORE of what THEY had

MORE of what I thought I deserved

MORE and MORE and MORE...

 

NOW

AT LAST

I finally understand

All the Stuff and Things are insignificant, unimportant

Compared to Jesus

And now the MORE for which I yearn is only

MORE of Him, His Love, His Presence

MORE of Jesus in my life

MORE and MORE and MORE ...

 

Cathy Le Feuvre


I arise today

I've been wittering on a bit over the last few days, so today I just bring you a prayer.

I love the Celtic Christian tradition and this won't be the last time I bring you a prayer or blessing from this heritage.

Today here's a blessing to start the day. This is a prayer that has probably been spoken for more than a thousand years, because it dates from the first millennium and attributed to an Irish saint called Brigid of Kildare, otherwise known at Bridget of Gael. 

Have a great day!

 

I arise today
Through a mighty strength:

God's power to guide me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's eyes to watch over me;
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to give me speech,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to shelter me,
God's host to secure me.

 

I Arise Today (St. Bridget) – A Collection of Prayers


Blessed are the Peacemakers



We live in a tumultuous world, don’t we?

Even as we’ve entered this new year, and so lately have been wishing each other ‘Peace and Goodwill’, we only have to switch on the news to see so much that is not peaceful. PEACE

In homes, it stands to reason and human nature, that there are bound to be arguments even today over trivialities, siblings bickering, relationships disintegrating. Between friends there are quarrels over meaningless nothings, petty jealousies.

Nationally, politics is often an excuse for perceived contrary views on just about every issue. Media's job is to tell us what is happening in the world but some outlets do unfortunately feed on divisions, like vultures over a decaying corpse on the savannah, making what might have been inconsequential disagreements into bigger disputes. 

Riots, insurgency, unruly behaviour - that's just the start of it. On an international scale we face some of the least peaceful times in the history of the world, with terror and fear being fed by megalomania and warped interpretation of religion.

We're living through a global pandemic, and that's certainly not peaceful. It's a source not just for community effort, but also for division as people have varying opinions on where the virus came from, how bad it is, and the efforts being taken to keep the world as safe as it can be. I do believe the majority of people do understand the seriousness of what the world is facing and are working hard to keep ourselves and loved ones and others healthy. Staying isolated, wearing masks and keeping our distance. There are some, I'm sorry to say, who have contrary views resulting in behaviour which others feel put us all at risk. It's a source of discontent, there's no doubt about that. 

And let's not forget social media, which in my experience can be such a power for good, but invariably is also an opportunity for people to express hateful ideas, and a chance for people to vehemently express their opinion in the strongest possible language. And often being the source of further division where they might not have been disagreement before.

Yet in the midst of all this there will be those who strive for peace, however hopeless it may seem. These are the people who dream of a world where people, although different, coming from different perspectives and even with different beliefs and opinions, can learn to live in harmony.

On this day, in 1920, a group of men sat down in Paris as part of the first ever Council Assembly of the League of Nations, an organization born out of the horror of the Great War of 1914 to 1918, a congregation of people, and countries, who wished to ensure that the world would never again be embroiled in global conflict. The League had been officially founded just the week before on January 10 1920, but this was the culmination of years of negotiations, primarily between the allies who had won what is now known as the First World War. The first full meeting of The Assembly of the League of Nations wouldn't happen until November 1920 but today in that year was a significant moment in the march towards anticipated peace.

Of course, in hindsight, we know that aim was thwarted. There would be another world war in 1939 and plenty more wars and conflicts to follows.

And today, although it's certainly not perfect, the United Nations, which grew out of that League of Nations after the Second World War, still works to find ways of bringing peoples together and trying to ensure that peace which I think, I hope, we all crave. Among other things, UN agencies exist to help people out of poverty and ensure good health and education, often some of the causes of conflict. 

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke to his world, and to ours.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’ (Matthew 5:9) he said.

Not all of us can be part of an international summit on peace. We can’t all sit in a parliament or be part of an advocacy group encouraging people to see the things on which they can agree rather than always to be looking for the negative in others’ policies.

But we can be ‘peacemakers’ where we are. In our families, in our communities, in our churches, at work and in the world where we might have some influence. In our relationships, in our behaviour and in our conversations in person and even virtually via social media. 

So, today, I don't know about you, but I want to be one of those ‘peacemakers’ which Jesus so highly regards.

It might start small, but who knows where it could lead, if we all give it a go.

http://www.onthisday.com/day/january/16


Changing the World!

It’s 17 January 1829 and in a place called Ashbourne in Derbyshire in England, a baby girl is coming into the world.

Her name is Catherine – Catherine Mumford – and little did her parents John and Sarah know, but their daughter would grow up to change the world.

I’m not understating that. Really!

And if you doubt me then I need to tell you one more thing. Catherine Mumford young

Catherine grew up to marry a man called William – William Booth – and together they would go on to found a Christian ‘movement’ that would eventually become The Salvation Army, the global church and charity organisation that today supports and cares for millions of people, many of them disadvantaged and unable to help themselves.

People with addictions, homeless men and women, children, people who don’t have enough food and who are ill, people who yearn for education, those who are seeking work, and those who are exploited including the victims of human trafficking or modern slavery. Today, The Salvation Army is in over 130 countries and responds to need wherever they find it. And although the history dates back more than 150 years they remain relevant. During this COVID-19 pandemic, local Salvation Army churches and other associated groups are working to help people in over 100 countries!

The Salvation Army makes a difference to people’s lives every day … and it is ultimately all down to William and Catherine Booth, who’s Christian faith, vision and inspiration started it all back in 1865.

I think Catherine was an incredible person. She grew up in a Methodist household but quickly developed her own Christian faith and although she was a sickly child, she apparently read the Bible voraciously and immersed herself in spiritual things from an early age. She wasn’t a healthy person all round, it’s thought among other things she suffered from a curvature of the spine. But in her spirit she was bold and brave, and determined in her Christian faith.

When she met William Booth, a fellow radical Methodist, in 1851 – it was almost love at first sight. He was a poor would-be evangelist who would struggle for years to find a place in a church. She supported him through difficult years, and after they married in July 1855, despite her ill health they went on to have eight children, all of whom survived into adulthood and who would all become part of their mission. Catherine was also a Christian evangelist and writer/theologian, and a sought after preacher in her own right, at a time when women preachers were not only rare but frowned upon by ‘polite society’.

Catherine Booth preaching

In fact, it was ‘polite society’ to whom Catherine often preached  - middle class and upper class ladies in particular.

And in 1865, after the family moved to London for one of HER preaching engagements, William finally found his purpose, preaching to the poor and uneducated, those who 'polite society' and established churches of the day often disregarded and even excluded. From this grew a mission to reach out and support those who could not look after themselves and who others considered unworthy.

Between them, William and Catherine Booth founded the (East London) Christian Mission and then in 1878 the name was changed to The Salvation Army, adopted uniforms and a military structure, and the mission really took off. Yes, it was and is still ultimately about preaching the Christian gospel, and 'saving lost souls' but it became more. What was the point of preaching to a person who was hungry - perhaps food might be a good idea?  The Salvation Army wasn't and isn't just about a 'hand out', helping people to survive their day, but also about a 'hand up', assisting people to help themselves, providing accommodation, skills, work and helping to rebuild their confidence. 

I know what you’re thinking – Cathy seems to know a lot about this woman and her husband and the movement they founded!

Well, I should. My first ever book – published in September 2013 – was a biography of the couple.

William and catherine book coverDrawing on letters which they exchanged from the time of their first meeting until Catherine’s death in 1890 from breast cancer, I learned so much about the duo, and how they came to create the worldwide Christian movement which today is their legacy.

Much of what The Salvation Army stands for today is down to Catherine, her interpretation of scripture and her personal and professional influence. The teetotal stance which The Salvation Army still holds to, the equality of the sexes in ministry – both men and women are ‘ordained’ and 'commissioned' to preach and lead - and even the work with victims of human trafficking which dates back to Catherine and other pioneering women from across society and church denominations to advocate for the raising of the age of consent and the protection of girls and women lured into the sex trade. This was just one of the campaigns for the betterment of poor people at a time when poverty blighted British society.

My book is called ‘William and Catherine – the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army, told through their letters’ (Monarch Books 2013)  Weird I know, but true! If you fancy reading all about them then I invite you to do so! The book is still available on many online platforms.

And I hope you will be as inspired as I am, not just by their joint passion for God and people but also by the life of Catherine – a complicated, strong Victorian who was truly a woman before her time!

When she died (or in Salvation army parlance, when she was 'Promoted to Glory'),  The Salvation Army was still  a rather peculiar notion to many who still did not understand it,  but it was gaining credibility.

The Methodist Recorder paid tribute to he as ‘the greatest Methodist woman of this generation’ (9 Oct 1890) and the Manchester Guardian newspaper wrote in its obituary ‘She has probably done more in her own person to establish the right of women to preach the gospel than anyone who has ever lived.’(18 Oct 1890)

All that - and The Salvation Army!

What a legacy!

Historic images from The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre

The Salvation Army UK

William and Catherine - the love story of the founders of The Salvation Army, told through their letters - on Amazon


My Tribute

There are times when a song or a piece of music takes you by surprise, or  unexpectedly reminds you of something in your past or takes you back to a moment in time.

That happened to me last weekend. 

On Sunday at lunchtime in the UK the BBC broadcasts its long running and very popular television programme called Songs of Praise, a religious show which features Christian hymns sung in churches of different denominations across the country, and interesting interviews and features about the life of faith of the nation.

Even during the coronavirus pandemic, when they haven't been able to go out and record big congregations singing at the top of their voices, Songs of Praise has kept alive and vibrant. They have recorded soloists, and small groups and choirs singing at safe distance,  and new interviews are interwoven with some of the highlights of congregational singing recorded in recent years, before churches were all locked up to keep us safe.

I've been involved with Songs of Praise for several reasons down the years. I've sung in a few big congregations. As a PR working for different churches and faith charities, I've helped provide guests for the programme. And many years ago, I was actually a guest myself when the programme came to Jersey and I was interviewed for the show. 

In addition to the church based programmes, every year Songs of Praise also hosts 'specials' like 'The Big Sing' and competitions like 'Gospel Choir of the Year' and 'Young Chorister of the Year' which enable the whole nation to enjoy some amazing singers and performances.

This year, for the first time, Songs of Praise is hosting a new contest - 'Gospel Singer of the Year' - and last Sunday (Jan 31) they held the semi-finals. The top three will be in the final today.

But that's not really why I'm writing this.

I'm inspired to share a song with you this Sunday. It was sung last weekend by one of the semi-finalists in the Gospel Singer of the Year programme. And it brought back a particular time in my life and a poignant memory.

In May 1985 my darling Dad died. It was way before his time. He was only 63.

He and mum were living in the UK at the time, ministering in a Salvation Army corps (church) in Kent, and when Dad passed away - or as we say in The Salvation Army ... when he was 'Promoted to Glory' - we held three memorial services. One in the UK church that he was leading at the time of his passing, and then ten days later, the main funeral and an evening celebration service at home here in Jersey, in his 'home' church.

In the celebration service I sang a song for my Dad. How I managed it I'll never know, and I am aware that I missed some of the top notes because of my tears, but I did it for him.

The song meant a lot to me but I have to admit that I haven't listened to it much in the intervening 35 plus years and I certainly haven't sung it in public again. In fact, I don't really sing solos much anymore.

But it was THAT song I heard on the Songs of Praise Gospel Singer of the Year. It was sung beautifully and I was pleased that the performer is in the final. It brought a tear to my eye and caused a lump in my throat, but it's been going through my mind all this week.

So - just for you - I share it with you this Sunday.

The title of the song is 'My Tribute - To God be the Glory' and it was written by the amazing singer/songwriter Andraé Crouch, who also sadly is no longer with us. He mixed his own words to the eternal poetry of hymnwriter Fanny Crosby to create this beautiful song.

'My Tribute' has been sung by many artists down the years, including one of my favourite singers - Sandi Patty. But in the 1980s I also listened a lot to a Christian singer called 'Evie' ... and it's her version of this amazing song that I was inspired by.

It took me a while to find it online, and in the process I discovered that Evie is still performing, including this song, and looking and sounding amazing ... but this is the original recording I fell in love with.

Enjoy and be blessed!

 

 

 


Keep Left

We're fortunate here in Jersey.

Luckier than many parts of the world, we know.

Although during the Covid19 pandemic we've had some big numbers relative to our small population, and we have been locked down, with no family or friend visits, schools closed, businesses shut, cafes and restaurants and hotels not open, we are in a good place right now. Or at least, we're beginning to get there.

Numbers have fallen, people are being vaccinated and gradually our island is beginning to re-open. 

And that's why non-essential shops re-opened a week ago and we are beginning to see a relaxation of the restrictions. Schools are already open, next week we expect hairdressers to open their doors again and soon we will be able to go to eat out, indoors, at a very safe distance and with all the safety measures in place.

We've been here before. We were doing well last autumn until some people decided to forget that we were in the middle of a pandemic and organised parties, and then coronavirus numbers shot up and restrictions had to be imposed again. Everything closed on Christmas Eve and it's only now we are beginning to see things easing.

So hopefully this time around people are being more cautious. Keep left

It's been more than a month since I ventured into 'Town' ... Jersey's capital of St Helier ... but I had to do so this week and that's when I experienced the Keep Left system in the main shopping area - King Street and Queen Street.

I was, I have to say, rather disappointed that not EVERYONE was keeping to the  left, and lots of people weren't wearing masks outside of the shops, but I didn't feel unsafe. Because I was keeping to the rules, wearing a mask and even had gloves on ... woollen ones because it was freezing!

But it got me thinking.

We all need some 'rules' in life, don't we?

If we are living in community, we need to know what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behaviour. We can't all just do as we please because by doing that, although we might make life good for ourselves we risk making life unbearable for others.

Most societies have rules for living - laws - and mostly they are in place for the common good. Many of them are based not just on consensus but also have their basis in shared culture, history and even in religious/spiritual tenets.

Think of the Ten Commandments handed down to us from early Biblical times. The first few are about the relationship between humans and God, but most are about living in family (honour your father and mother) and living in community - you shall not steal, commit adultery, murder, lie against your neighbour or 'covet' what they have and you do not. It's just basic stuff, common sense really, but on this set of rules many laws of lands across the globe are based.

I understand there are some people who just don't like to keep to any rules. In political terms that's called 'anarchy' but most people who make a decision to pass on the rules set out by their community would not call themselves 'anarchists'. They might think of themselves as 'individuals' or 'free thinkers', but imagine if we were ALL just determined to do our own thing, regardless of others.

If there were no rules of the road, and we all just drove on any side of the track, there would be chaos, and probably some accidents. If there were no speed limits then people could just drive as fast as they wanted and risk killing people ... and yes, I am aware that speed limits are some of the rules that many many drivers tend to ignore! If we just took whatever we fancied from a shop without paying for it, knowing that we would not be changed with theft, what would that do to the economy?

Anyway, you get my drift.

Not that I want to live in a highly controlled society, but there is a need for some boundaries for our behaviour. And whether it's because you're a free thinker or just basically selfish and think only of yourself before others, one thing that this pandemic has taught us is that we DO all need to behave responsibly and follow the set out guidelines if we are to beat this virus.

SO - for all those in Jersey planning to do some Saturday shopping in Town.

Please ... Keep Left, keep your distance, wear your mask and sanitise endlessly.

Yes, I know I know ... lots of rules and some of us might be getting a bit bored of it all.

But if we don't do it, we could well find ourselves indoors, stuck at home, no seeing family members, with no retail therapy, or sports or eating out for much much longer. 

Not sure about you but I'm happy to stick to the rules if it means that I won't have to do so forever and ever, until the end of time!

Thanks everyone!

 

 


Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday.

It's the beginning of Lent, the period running up to Easter.

And it's a peculiar name for a day isn't it?

So what's it all about?

Ash Wednesday is marked every year exactly 46 days before Easter Sunday. Now I know what lots of you might be thinking - Lent is a 40-day season isn't it? Well it IS, but Sundays don't count during the 6-weeks (ish) preparation for the Christian festival.

The 40-days of Lent represent  the time that Jesus Christ spent in the wilderness, before he began his three year ministry. Before starting that awesome task, he took time out to think and prepare himself. In that desert, he fasted and when he was at his weakest he was tempted by (and he resisted) Satan. For Christians down the centuries the same period of time has been set aside for fasting, reflection, repentance and, finally, celebration on Easter Day.  Lent is a time for believers to contemplate the life of Jesus, his ministry, his death and resurrection. Central themes of Christianity. And to consider their own relationship with Jesus, the Son of God, and how that impacts on their lives.

Lent has also become a time when many people, including those who wouldn't say they are religious at all,  also give stuff up ... but more of that another day.

What about today - 'Ash' Wednesday? Why is it called that?

Well the title comes from the fact that on this day certain Christian denominations follow the tradition of placing ashes on the foreheads of worshippers - usually in the sign of a cross.

Today is all about repentance at the start of the sacred season which will culminate in the weekend when first we commemorate the death on a cross of Jesus Christ, and three days later we celebrate his coming back to life - his resurrection!

The ashes for today's special church services are made by burning the palm leaves or crosses from the previous year's Palm Sunday celebrations. There's something significant about that, isn't there? The palm fronds were waved by a crowd as they welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem at the start of the final week of his earthly life, but within a few short days that same fickle crowd was yelling at the authorities, calling for Jesus to be put to death, to be crucified! The fact that these symbolic palm leaves become the focus of repentance on Ash Wednesday is something powerful.

Ash Wednesday services are traditional mostly in the Roman Catholic and some Anglican churches. They are usually solemn masses or church services which include long periods of silence for private prayer and reflection, and Scripture responses in which the congregation is invited to participate. Much of the focus is on confession, communion is taken and then worshippers are invited to come forward for the imposition of the ashes. 

Ash wedensdayThe priest will dip a finger into a bowl of the palm cross ashes and then the ash is rubbed, in a cross pattern, on the forehead of the person receiving them, accompanied by these words ...  "Repent, and believe in the Gospel" or  "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

I don't come from a Christian tradition where Ash Wednesday is marked in this way, but I'm told it's a very moving service, a time when one can really look into oneself, really reflecting on the purposes of life, and the things that need putting right in yourself. The congregation, I'm told, leave the church in almost complete silence, taking that confession and reflection into their lives outside of the building. 

And the most amazing thing is that people don't immediately rub off the ashes which have been placed on their foreheads. They bear the mark for the rest of the day. That's a witness to the world of the start of this holy period of Lent, and a reminder to us all that sometimes we need to stop, and consider what God has done for us and what we are doing for him.

So, if today you spot someone with a dark mark on their forehead ... you'll know what it's all about.

And I, for one, will take the opportunity today to start my Lent journey with reflection, confession and prayer. And even if I'm not bearing the mark of ash on my forehead, I hope I will walk through today, and indeed through the Lenten period, with that spirit in my heart, in my behaviour and in my relationships.

 


Audacious Questions

If you've been following my threads of thoughts this week you'll know that we've started our journey into Lent - the 40 day or 6-week preparation for Easter.

During this holy season it's all about reflection ... to prepare us for thinking about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Good Friday, and the celebration of Easter morning when he defied death and was resurrected.

That's the point of Christianity really, this belief in a God who is a living being, not just a sculpture or an icon, or even just a concept or way of thinking that can make us 'better people'. Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and that by dying and rising to life, death itself is conquered so that we can all live eternally, even when we die, if we have faith and belief in him.

It's BIG stuff - so that's why during Lent there's a good deal of self-reflection and prayer going on.

In the very early days of Christianity, when believers were constantly under the threat of persecution from the Romans, being a Christian was counter cultural and 'conversion' had to be carefully considered, so those wanting to be baptised as Christians often spent loads of time studying and preparing.

Many chose Easter as the date for their baptism into the faith, and the 40 days running up to that important step in life were often set aside for preparation and study. Others in the 'church' joined them by observing the season in similar ways, to support their new friends and sometimes to renew the commitment of their own baptisms. And so the traditions of Lent were born. 

Traditionally, there are three things that Christians did and still do during Lent - prayer, 'almsgiving' (or giving to good causes and those less fortunate than ourselves) and fasting ... and the last point is where the idea of 'giving up something' for Lent comes in.

During Lent even if believers don't fast and deprive themselves of food and drink, it has been common to give up something that is important to them for 40 days, as a way of putting priorities in place, experiencing 'sacrifice' and drawing closer to God.  It's part of the 'conversion' experience of Lent. 

And nowadays, even people without faith have taken up this idea of giving something up for the season ... maybe trying to part with a bad habit, or not eating meat, or giving up alcohol or chocolate for these 40 days. Some take the money they save and give it to charity. Very much in the spirit of Lent. Others do it without realising why they're doing it! It's become a trendy thing to do!

After the year we've had with the coronavirus pandemic, where many of us have had to give up so much anyway, it might be a stretch too far to deprive ourselves even more during Lent, but there is another way we might think of getting involved in the Lenten season.

For a couple of years, instead of giving things UP I have instead taken a different route and have given something AWAY.  In my case, I ended up with 40 items of clothing/books/bric-a-brac in a black plastic bag which I then donated to charity.  

This year I may have to think a bit more laterally because after filling quite few bag loads of clothes, I'm not sure I have many good things to give away now  ... but hey... I'm up for the adventure!

Or maybe the idea of starting something this Lent, rather than giving something up, is the way to go?

Perhaps instead of depriving ourselves of things we love, we can use the next six weeks to improve ourselves. Maybe do some reading that inspires our spirit or perhaps do some volunteering?

Lent is down to us really. The journey, the adventure, has just begun. Question mark

 

So - here are some audacious questions  

        How will you spend your Lent?

Are you planning a 'spiritual journey' over the next 40 days?

          Are you 'giving up' something?

   If so, what that might be? And will that be a sacrifice? 

Or are you planning instead to start something new this Lent?

Over to you!