A dear friend of mine describes the early years with babies and small children as “the parched desert of early parenting”. It’s a rich, beautiful time, to be sure, but those are also years where reading The Jesus Storybook Bible may be as close as a parent gets to a devotional.
When getting up before the kids is impossible and bedtime signals the expiry of self-discipline, many of us find ourselves clinging to illustrations and words about a “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love”. They’re all we have that just about convince us of the prayers we say over the tiny people we’re tucking in. This isn’t a post about improving your quiet time routine.
The idea of finding ourselves in the wilderness (and the wilderness has many ways of finding us - the baby haze is just one of them) denotes a stripping away of the familiar and safe. We may feel disoriented, anxious and alone. We may grieve a time when we didn’t feel this way. And we may discover that God is still here.
God is here when the things we thought we needed in order to assure God’s presence are stripped away. Laid bare, we may discover that we no longer have the time and energy to put up with religious nonsense.
That can propel us to make decisions that are a bit radical. Maybe we decide that we’re no longer happy to remain silent in the face of injustice when it calls itself love. We might accept that we don’t “do” small talk anymore when what we really want is to communally connect with a God willing to touch every part of us and to put us in touch with every part of ourselves.
When I became a mother, I spent a long time beating myself up for not reading the Bible more, praying more, going to small group more and generally serving the church more. The truth was, I was tired and my baby needed me so much, and I needed to melt into that for a while. I thought the doubts that were starting to surface were because I wasn’t doing the things I “should” rather than because a major life change was gifting me the space to question. I regarded doubt with alarm. She was an unwelcome visitor, best banished with repentance.
Gradually, I began to realise that I was afraid of asking too many questions of The Church because of the way I imagined God. The God I saw didn’t have time for my uncertainty. He was impatient, authoritarian and, above all, emotionally distant. I knew what we read and sang about Him but I couldn’t shake this image. However many times I heard that He loved me, it couldn’t touch me.
Then, in the parched desert of early parenting, something in me cracked and allowed love to rush in. Surely God was a mother nursing me at Her breast, allowing me to latch on in ways lay Her vulnerable, that brought me close enough that we could feel each other’s hearts, skin to skin. If I loved my children by listening to them, surely She did the same. Feeling nurtured by God, and therefore newly safe with God, made me realise that the questions were there because I needed to have better conversations about God.
So many of us find this in the desert, whatever takes us out there. We reach a point where we’re no longer satisfied with exhortations to forgive that go ahead of acknowledging trauma. We lose patience with talk of God’s healing in communities that aren’t equipped or interested in spending time with suffering. The idea of prayer feels shaky without the tools for discovering where the noise is and for taking apart our addictive reliance on people, roles and possessions.
In short, we yearn for conversations about God that go deeper and wider - to together touch something real. And that’s because God is so willing. The Divine heart is pressed against our battered little hearts, explaining gently but firmly that if that’s what we want, we’ll only get there if our conversations include everyone.
This blog was written by Adele Jarrett-Kerr. Adele and her family attend All Saints, she is a writer, home educator, breastfeeding counsellor, feminist, and Christian. Her frequently updated blog is a great source of support to families thinking about home-schooling, and also a place where ideas are shared for simply encouraging family well-being. You may also like to take a look at soulfarm.co.uk which is Adele and Lawrence's community supported farm that helps growers and the community work in partnership to develop sustainable local agriculture.
I am writing this on the hottest day of the year so far. A day that has followed several very hot days. Before I go on, please know this, I’m not going to moan about the weather. The sun is glorious, its warmth is welcome, the cool waters of Cornwall are invigorating. It can bring the best out of people (and I might add the worst too, out of the hot and bothered), but with the sun out and the blue sky stretching ahead of you, some things seem just a bit more possible than they did before. Those jobs in the allotment you’ve been putting off are there for the taking. The very delayed walk on the beach has come. Even that once lost opportunity to have a long G and T (substitute with drink of choice) with your feet up has now returned. Somehow the world feels a little bit better. Somehow more whole and more restored when the sun is shining.
Having said that, the heat can get a bit much and therefore escaping to the shade is definitely needed from time to time. Additionally, more time should be given to our loved ones who don’t cope as well in the hot weather, in the same way they don’t cope well in the cold. Which is really my point. For some the weather comes as a blessing and for others a curse.
At the beginning of May I was asked to lead a Rogation Service for a neighbouring parish. Rogation Sunday is a very special service in which the community asks for God’s blessing upon the fields, the herds, the newly seeded crops and the tools of farming. In my talk to a church full of farmers I likened good farming to good discipleship. I said, “a good farmer doesn’t just pray for rain, but prepares for it!”. I thought I’d made a strong case for the idea of preparing for God’s blessing and expecting it, rather than praying for it and wondering whether it will come at all.
As soon as I said this, laughter struck a good portion of my audience. After the service one of the farmers came to me and said, “your in Cornwall son, there’s never any need to pray for rain!” He was right, we get plenty of rain.
The bible is full of references to weather. Rain, wind, sun and snow are all described equally as blessing as well as disaster. It is one of the many areas in which Scripture and Science are aligned – in scripture and in textbooks weather is describe as chaotic, unpredictable, uncertain and indeterminate. Yes, we have the seasons, day and night, but even in this ordered creation we still know to fear the weather for its power and ferocity. Sadly, our chaotic weather patterns are more frequently a disaster than they are a blessing due to the impact our 21st century lifestyle is having on the global climate.
Unpredictable weather is also a used as a metaphor in scripture for the unpredictability of life. This was evident in Job’s life, as well as in the disciples who found themselves overwhelmed by the storm over the Sea of Galilee. In every case anchoring one’s self to God was the calming influence both over the waves, wind and thunder, as well as over life’s tempest.
Whilst we still experience one of the hottest summers on record maybe we could think about where one might go to anchor ourselves to God, and keep cool. The coolest places are definitely churches. These old stone buildings that remain open during the day are the perfect refuge from the sun. They are also wonderful places of faith that speak of God’s power over chaos, his comfort in our struggles, and his healing over wounds. Cornwall has many beautiful church buildings why not find some shade!
All Saints Highertown is open most days for prayer and some cool shade. Please pop in, you'd be very welcomed.
Rev Jeremy Putnam
I recently heard an army veteran say, “There’s no atheists on the front line”. This veteran, still a young man, had seen first-hand the power of God in the face of man’s fear, and could now say how important one’s prayer life was in the face of adversity.
In January, the Guardian newspaper had an article entitled ‘Non-believers turn to prayer in a crisis, poll finds,’ which said that for the non-religious, personal crisis or tragedy is the most common reason for praying; with one in four saying they pray to gain comfort or feel less lonely. For those that struggle to pray, and I include self-professed committed Christians in that category, it is often to do with either not having the words to say or not hearing anything back.
Firstly, God doesn’t need to hear your words spoken allowed. Prayer is something that is done from the heart and gut, not just from the vocal chords. Holding a time of silence with a candle lit, or taking a walk and listening for God, are both legitimate ways to pray. But then so is screaming at the top of your voice in lament, anger or frustration too. The point here is that God doesn’t set conditions for effective prayer he welcomes any time spent with him.
Secondly, prayer is a two-way thing. That’s why it’s so frustrating when you feel your prayers are falling on deaf ears. Listening for God is crucial to a healthy prayer life. Yes, you can give over all your concerns, requests, petitions and intercessions but like any correspondence it will always feel incomplete unless you get a reply. So how do we listen for God's reply? Maybe this will help…
A wise lady and her friend were walking near Times Square in New York. The streets were filled with people, cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were squealing around corners, and sirens were wailing. Suddenly, the wise lady stops and says, 'I hear a cricket.'
Her friend is astounded. 'What? You must be crazy. You couldn't possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!'
'No, I'm sure of it,' the wise lady said. 'I heard a cricket.'
'That's crazy,' said her friend.
The wise lady listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to where some shrubs were growing. She looked into the bushes and sure enough, she located a small cricket. Her friend was utterly amazed.
'That's incredible,' said her friend. 'You must have super-human ears!'
'No,' said the wise lady. 'My ears are no different from yours.'
'But that can't be!' said the friend. 'I could never hear a cricket in this noise.'
'Yes, you could,' came the reply. 'Here, let me show you.'
She reached into her pocket, pulled out a few coins, and dropped them on the pavement. And then, with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed every head within 5 metres turn and look to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs.
'See what I mean?' asked the wise lady. 'It all depends on what's important to you, on what you're listening for.'
So, what is important to you? If God isn’t, then you're probably not going to hear what he’s saying to you. If he is, then listening for him in the busyness of our lives is the most important thing we can do.
Luke 11:1 reads, "One day, Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray…"
What we forget to mention in this passage is that Jesus went and found a place to pray first before he gave us the Lord’s Prayer. He met with his father every day and modeled a pattern of prayer that sustained his human nature. Listening for God is made easier by committing time, energy and intent. Like the cricket in the story, God’s voice can be heard, it just all depends on what’s important to you.
May you hear the voice of God speak peace and comfort to you. Rev Jeremy Putnam.
Image is of the Bricklayers Hut in Jakarta.
A man who had been stranded on a deserted island for two years was at last found. The media accompanied the rescue team, and when they arrived they saw that the man had built three huts. When asked what the huts represented, the man explained.
"Well, this hut is my home. And that hut over there is where I go to church."
The reporters seemed moved by the revelation that he had a place of worship. But then one asked, "What is that hut over there?"
"That's the church I don’t go to!”
Life is full of preferences. Some more obvious than others, like choosing our favourite ice cream flavour, or watching our preferred rugby team. Some are more deep-rooted, predilections that we don’t even know we have. These are the kind that influence our judgements, decision and yearnings without us even noticing. Over time our environment and upbringing has its way of honing a ‘comfortable place’ for us. Consequently, as we go about our daily lives, we tend to look for reminders of our comfortable place; subconsciously searching for familiarity, comfort and safety. In many ways, this is a good thing, it can help us ‘get on with life’, without getting bogged down by decisions that in the great scheme of things aren’t that important. In other ways, it can be harmful.
Unchecked partialities and bias can lead us to become insular and narrowminded. In the worse cases, it can lead to the exclusion of others because they seem different, odd or even ‘wrong’ to us. This is where the tension and dynamic of life occurs, in all its complexity, diversity and colour. So how do we avoid the sinful reaction to the other’s uniqueness, and reflect something of the impartiality and generosity of God in our daily lives. In the Epistle of James (ch 3.17) we are reminded that there is wisdom in these things that we long to see, “but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
One of the things I have delighted in recently is seeing the enthusiasm from all churches in Truro to be more aware of the differences between our churches, but at the same time acknowledging that our preferences are secondary to a more important shared truth. That we all find our identity in Christ. And that we confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
In c.62AD Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus saying “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Paul’s letter is a wonderful reminder that the most important thing for churches is to proclaim aloud that we are united under one Lord – we may have a difference in worship style and practice, some will prefer drumkits, and others prefer robed choirs, some will cope with a 10min sermon, and others anything less than a 30min preach feels like being short-changed – these things only go to reflect God’s blessing, to be ourselves under God. Behind it all is the truth that Paul wrote in his letter.
On November 30th at 7.30pm all Christians in Truro, from all denominations and none, will descend upon Truro Methodist Church to pray and worship together. Witnessing to our single universal statement of faith that Jesus is Lord. I am absolutely thrilled that this is happening, and that it lights the second beacon for us in this year of prayer for a shared vision under Christ for our city.
I really want to encourage you to come. I’m telling you now, well in advance, so we can all make sure it’s in our diaries. Please come. Don’t let this be the hut that represents “… the church I don’t go to!”
Yours in Christ
For more information about Churches Together in Truro go to our new website www.churchestogethertruro.co.uk
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.