October thoughts

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October began with a Song after Suicide – my first ever video post. The group Twelve 24 wrote their song: Turn the Page in response to the death by suicide of our friends’ daughter (which I blogged about back in September).

From thoughts of loss and grief, to thoughts of thankfulness. In my job, it’s impossible to avoid harvest at this time of year – and, anyway, who would want to avoid it? This wonderful annual festival led to some harvest thoughts  about those things we might each be thankful for and whether we have any surplus to share with those in need.

Having had the blog up and running for a month I posted on the bloginning experience so far before moving swiftly on from blog to bog with a brief thought about the lack of basic latrine facilities faced by so many people in our world today. This far from bog-standard post provided the perfect opportunity to include a shout out for one of my favourite new charities this year: Tearfund’s Toilet Twinning.

A review of a fairly typical Sunday in this urban vicar’s life made it possible to showcase the true messiness that is Messy Church. October’s messiest activity award went to the extremely popular grape-crushing activity – carried out much as it might have been done in Jesus’ time. And the churchwarden drank the juice to prove just how delicious it was. Yes, really!

There was a Blog Action Day around the middle of the month with a focus on inequality, which provided a real opportunity to highlight some of the inequalities in the lives of the youngest people in our world with a call to remember, in the face of such poverty and inequality of opportunity, that Every Child Matters.

I was delighted to accept a nomination for the One Lovely Blog Award – not bad going for a newbie blogger whose stated aim at the outset was simply to journal a few thoughts on the journey through life.

Anyway, buoyed up by this recognition, I took up the Daily Post writing challenge to produce a Genre Blender which resulted in an attempt to combine something that might very loosely be called the genre of historical fiction with the form of an open letter. And so I found myself writing to Paul, aka Saul of Tarsus, and asking him a few questions I think many Christians today would love to know the answers to.

On the book front, I continued with my two long reads – one fiction, and one non-fiction – actually begun back in September.  But there was also time to fit in a couple of shorter reads, including the Book of Boaz which really impressed me.

A few days’ family holiday created a bit of a gap in my posting, and so here we are now at the end of the month. The blog bloginning may be over but the blogging journey has only just begun. I’m already excited to see what thoughts November will  bring?

And how was October wherever you are? I’d love to hear a few thoughts about it.

Blogging Jeremiah: the first post

Blogging Jeremiah – I must be mad! He’s one of the longer Old Testament/Hebrew Scripture prophets and the weeping one to boot, so he’s not usually a barrel of laughs to read. But that’s what I’ve decided to do, starting here and now.

Why? Why this book? Why now and why blog it all?  Well, a whole heap of reasons come to mind:

Firstly, I have a blog – for the third time of asking – yes, three attempts to make a bloginning on the blogging front this year. And I’ve now been posting regularly for a couple of months and am starting to test out a bit more what the blog’s purpose really is or should be. Blogging about Bible readings has been on my mind since the start.

Jeremiah because someone prayed with me earlier this year and prayed words from this prophet as they did so. At the time, I committed to re-reading the book but I still haven’t made time to get beyond chapter 2.  I think the challenge to write a daily post will help me stick with my commitment and will also help me really think through what I’m reading and the message I’m hearing.

Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve come across NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) where bloggers take up the challenge to post each day for the month of November. I’ve been wavering about whether to join in, but now I’m thinking, ‘Why not?’  Here’s the perfect opportunity to read and blog through a book of the Bible – though unless I read more than a chapter a day, it will take me a lot more than a month to read right through Jeremiah’s 52 chapters.

And finally, it’s worth just saying that I’m setting out simply to write my thoughts as I read through this ancient text for myself. These blog posts are not intended to be a new scholarly commentary on Jeremiah – others have that ground covered in ways I never will. Nor am I trying to tell anyone reading my posts what this text might be saying to them. This is pretty much a vicar preaching to herself – aiming simply to answer the question: What is this bit of the book of Jeremiah saying to me in this place at this time? I may well draw on things other people have written, but the idea is simply to blog a few of my own thoughts each day and to encourage comments and discussion from anyone else out there who happens to read my various posts.

Each day I’ll start my reading by answering three basic questions, that I find a helpful way in to any Bible reading:

  1. Which word or phrase particularly grabs my attention?
  2. Are there any bits I don’t understand or feel I need to know more about?
  3. What do I sense God might be saying to me through this reading today?

Jeremiah 1 coming to More thoughts, vicar? from 1 November. Watch this space!

The Book of Boaz

Asylum is in the news a lot today, and has suddenly been looming large in my own life too, so I took a break from my current reading to find time for the recently published The Book of Boaz. Definitely time well spent!

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It’s a challenging but very readable account of asylum in the UK and tells the story of how the author, Dave Smith, came to set up a charity – Boaz Trust – with the specific aim of serving the needs of destitute asylum seekers.  The content provides wide-ranging coverage of the issues – the legalities and asylum processes, its indignities and injustices, and its people. And it’s the real-life stories that are seamlessly woven throughout the account that bring a deeply human face to an otherwise hard-hitting message.

One chapter after another I found myself confronted with irrefutable evidence that much is wrong with the UK asylum system in place today – so much so indeed that I would be surprised if any reader of this book could honestly disagree with the idea that the current system damages so many already very vulnerable people.

The Book of Boaz is a book I would highly recommend for very wide reading.  Whatever your starting point on the question of asylum, Dave Smith’s style is very straightforward and readable and he is thorough in his coverage of the system, whilst also incorporating the human touch, and even managing to inject some of his own wry sense of humour – perhaps a coping mechanism for those times when the policies and their implementation seem to make no coherent sense at all.

Wherever you currently stand on issues of immigration, and particularly the whole question of asylum seekers and refugees, I would urge you to read this book for a comprehensive and thoroughly up-to-date overview of the UK asylum process.  It is a superb eyewitness account written by someone who has worked for and among asylum seekers in the UK for more than a decade. Dave Smith gives voice to the voiceless and it is a voice that cries out to be heard.

Open letter to Paul aka Saul of Tarsus

Dear Paul

I write to you as a 21st century vicar – vicars are deacons and presbyters/priests, so that should help you understand an unfamiliar word. I’m a church leader in the north of England – the Romans hadn’t made it this far in your era – suffice to say it’s quite a long way beyond Rome if your starting point is Jerusalem! Things are a bit different now in the world than you would remember – most of us do a lot less walking and donkey riding but we whizz around in these things called cars and other forms of transport that would make a Jerusalem to Damascus trip last just a few hours. We can even get the eagle’s eye view by flying from one place to another high up in the air – I know that’s pretty hard to imagine, but it’s true. But there’s also plenty of stuff in our world that would be only too familiar to you. Boats still sail the seas and even still occasionally get shipwrecked like you did. And we still have tents as well, though I don’t know if they’re as well made as yours and Aquila’s would’ve been. Some of us use tents for our holidays, but some people end up having to live in them for months or even years when their homes are destroyed in natural disasters, or they have to escape to another country because of war and other horrors like that. Even today, there are cities of tents accommodating thousands of people not very far from places you once knew like Antioch and Damascus. You see, what you’d also recognise is the violence and evidence of man’s inhumanity to man (and I’m afraid to say it is still predominantly men in that role!). Some of this is the kind of persecution you once meted out yourself to those you disagreed with. And it’s those familiar things that would probably make it nearly impossible for you to retrace your old Jerusalem to Damascus journey, though you’d likely still find a friendly, helpful Ananias-type along the way, if you could only get through the border restrictions, police checks and so on.

I’m guessing you’d find it a strange old world here in the 21st century but I think you’d be encouraged by the number of followers of the Way – fellow believers in Christ still proclaiming the good news of his death and resurrection to the ends of the earth. In other words, we’re still carrying on that work that you and the other early Christians first started. You see all your amazing travels, and details of the new church plants you got going and other stuff, has all been written down. Those letters you sent to the Galatians, Corinthians and Romans all got included in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The scriptures you knew like the back of your hand, that you had learned at the feet of Gamaliel, and quoted left, right and centre – we call that the Old Testament. Actually, while I’m on the subject of your letters, I do wish you could’ve been a bit clearer about which ones actually were all your own work because we’ve since had 2000 years of people arguing about the authorship. And students still have to write essays and organise debates entitled: Did Paul write the Book of Ephesians? and so on. Well, did you? Because the thing is, we’re no nearer getting a definitive answer than we ever were – there are just more and more books being written about it all and conferences where it all gets debated again and again. One British theologian has just recently had a massive tome published on what he thinks you thought about the faithfulness of God – all 1680 pages of it. I wonder what you’d make of it? His name is Tom (or N.T.) Wright if you want to look him up – I’m assuming there’s a way of doing that wherever you are with all the other ‘saints in glory’ as we like to call you. I must admit I haven’t read the book myself yet but it looks pretty comprehensive – looking at the world as it was when you lived in it, your mindset and theology, and how you’ve come to us down through history as well.

And I have to say, it’s not only the question of which of the letters in our ‘final’ version of the scriptures you actually did write that keeps us talking about you, it’s some of your other stuff as well. Some of it’s turned out to be really controversial and Christians have been taking sides for centuries to try and get everyone to read and understand you the way they do. I don’t know if you meant it to cause us all so much hassle as we wrestle with interpretation, but I have to be honest and say a bit less ambiguity would have been handy. I know you can’t do much about it now, but I thought I’d mention it because debates about the role of women in church and society and what you were actually saying at times on the subject of sex go on and on. And believe me, a lot of this debate is so heated and people hold onto their views so passionately that it continues to threaten to divide the church even more than it’s already been divided since those first early churches you and the other apostles set up.

Anyway, I just thought you might be interested to hear how things are going for those of us who have come after you. I hope you’re encouraged to know that when you wrote to the Corinthians, encouraging them to:

Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14

I think it’s fair to say that most of us are still trying to follow these instructions, and while lots of us, including me, feel just as unworthy as you often did, God’s grace still means we are the body of Christ and there’s still plenty of fruit to be seen as we continue in obedience to God in Christ, working by the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

Thanks for all your hard work back then – and for all those words that still both confuse and encourage us today!

God bless

Your sister in Christ,

Levy Rector

This post has been written as an open letter very loosely in the genre of historical fiction in response to the Daily Prompt weekly writing challenge – it’s something different and intended only to be a bit of creative fun!

One Lovely Blog Award

The lovely Bookish High Jinks for Fun & Profit recently nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award, which was really encouraging after just a couple of weeks of blogging when I was starting to wonder if I should be blogging at all.  So I’m really grateful for both the nomination and the timing – I’ll keep on blogging for a bit longer at least!

Here’s how it works:

The One Lovely Blog Award nominations are chosen by bloggers for newer or up-and-coming fellow bloggers. The goal is to help give recognition and to also help the new blogger reach more viewers. It also recognizes blogs that are considered to be “lovely” by the blogger who chose them. This award acknowledges bloggers who share their story or thoughts in a beautiful manner to connect with their viewers and followers. In order to “accept” the award the nominated blogger must follow several guidelines.

The guidelines for the One Lovely Blog Award are:

Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
Add the One Lovely Blog Award logo to your post and/or blog.
Share 7 facts/or things about yourself.
Nominate 15 bloggers you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog

OK, it was a bit of a struggle to get the logo into this post but now I need to come up with 7 facts about me – that’s even more of a challenge!

  • I hate having to come up with stuff about me for lists like this!
  • I love travelling to other countries
  • I have loved learning languages ever since I can remember
  • I was born and raised in Robin Hood country
  • Being born where I was means I support Nottingham Forest football club
  • My favourite views have water and mountains in them – somewhere like the Lake District or Lake Garda
  • I’m a real introvert so even sharing a few facts like this feels like way too much information for way too many people!

And now I’m supposed to nominate 15 bloggers.  I’ve been finding and enjoying so many good blogs since I signed up for Blogging 101, but lots of them are well-established blogs with lots of followers so I’m just going to list five that seem newer and belong to the much bigger group I would describe as ‘lovely blogs’.  I realise some of you have probably been nominated for this award already, so I really don’t mind if you prefer not to complete all the guidelines that go with accepting the nomination.  But thank you for all your lovely blogs and for the things I’ve learned from reading them and being inspired by your designs.