Love is allowed … wow!

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This weekend will be the first weekend of enforced (or voluntary) isolation.  For many still working (remotely, on-site, or any other way) these two days are when we “do stuff”.   Stuff usually outside the home – stuff together – the stuff of getting-together and being together.

Usually.

This week has been frantic!  A week of work trying to find assistance for the temp-team we pay week after week after week.  Who were told there is no more work as London offices shut their doors (literally).  A bunch of wonderful (and skilled) human beings whose contracts are for “services provided” rather than for “employment”.  And so are left without any financial aid.

As they have watched those who ARE employed OR self-employed being helped.

These are real people we “employ” in all but contract.  Whose tax we sort out, whose sickness we sort out, whose work problems we sort out, whose names we know, and whose lives we are part of.  People who look to us to “fix this” for them as we fix things every week.  People we know as colleagues, friends, and superstars.  People we have seen grow in their “temp career”.  And yet all we could do was work feverishly behind the scenes trying to bring their plight to the notice of those who can offer aid.

We were not alone in that.

Temp workers (with contracts “for services provided”) number many thousands.  Yet “our temps” are not numbers.  Every “temp” is a person who knows us as we know them.  What a privilege that is!  What a compliment to be more than a source of income.  What an honour to be part of their lives in a personal relationship.  And – in times like this – what a responsibility to provide more than “our doors are now closed”.

>>> On Thursday we called every client to find out how they were coping.  I came away humbled.

Every organisation has done we have done: dispersed its staff to their own homes with the equipment and connectivity to carry-on.  Almost every organisation is “business as usual” – just without any confidence things will stay this way.  Expecting and receiving the trust that – even though now “out of sight” – each person continues to bring the same commitment – that people were expected to do the right thing and are.

None of that has made the news.  Just as no organisation has bitched at the cost of money, time and energy to make THIS happen.   And THAT is unprecedented – that is GOOD NEWS – that should be recognised because that is ALSO each of us helping each other.

These five days have seemed a month.  But yesterday we were told our temps would be supported the same as the employed and self-employed.  So the next five will be as frantic making that happen for these real people.

THIS is not about making a profit (although it soon will be).  This is about helping each other survive and perhaps even thrive (in “non-balance-sheet” ways).

This week I have walked our dog to the applause of strangers on their doorsteps acknowledging the human beings of our National Health Service.  I have witnessed queues an hour-long of “socially distanced” human beings waiting patiently for their turn (and beginning to find shops fully stocked again).  I have seen billions (of every currency) committed to supporting almost every sector of society.  I have walked under skies free of the usual vapour trails down streets quietened of their usual traffic through parks where we each say hello (as we keep our distance).

And I read of death coming ever closer to our front door.
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I wonder if this is a time for faith rather than a time for love. 

Because I see love in every sector of society … “#clapforcarers” spread from Europe just as this pandemic spreads … recognition that THIS is about all of us is spreading FASTER than any pandemic … Love is being displayed in so many ways!  So if I have faith and you different or none …

Does THAT really matter? 

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I look out and see so much kindness being ALLOWED!   

By street and community … by country and continent … by this culture and that …

Kindness is being allowed … LOVE is being allowed!  

And, whilst I have nothing against “faith” (and live-streamed services and fellowship), isn’t THIS bigger than THAT?  Isn’t THIS when “the greatest of these” CAN be unleashed AS the greatest of these (just without the usual small-print)?

Some see the end-times.  Some see gathering in church to be immune.  Some believe immunity because of faith.

I see Love.

I see Jesus seeing Love as I see Love everywhere right now.  I see the bible as inviting each of us to pick up Love in preference for our comfort-blanket of faith.  I see this not as the end-times but as a time where Love is Allowed.

Death will always be us.  And I am taking all the precautions I can to be of Life.

Life that sees video calls allowing a new silence.  Where filling the silence is irrelevant.  Where hide-and-seek with a wee one can be played by pointing the lens at a wall before “suddenly” appearing with a “BOOH!”   Where “being” is becoming fashionable again.  Where “virtual-being” is becoming the same as “face-to-face being” … gentle and unhurried.

I am learning how to be the me I want to be even in these new and changing times.

And that is a precious gift!

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paulfg

Wrong shape, wrong, size, wrong “something”

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I can think of a handful of people who changed me.  Outside of immediate family that is.  People I met.  People I hadn’t known before or knew after.  Who came into me life and left leaving me changed.  Family I think of – in this context – as the soil, the air, the sun and rain.  But those who enter and leave again – they are sowers of seed.

Jesus is a sower of seed.  The bible is a seed.  Church and church life, all the fellowship, community, programmes and “service” are the environment.

Those people who changed me didn’t know they had or did.  Sowers of seed don’t start with that expectation.  They live with hope.  Hope that something good might come of what they sow.  Hope that some might allow that seed.  Allow a personal fermentation and sprouting.  Because a seed can live for years in a sterile environment.  An environment that keeps a seed a “seed”.  Never taking root, never dying as a seed to become something greater.

Sowers of seed cannot dictate the environment that seed finds.

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I think that is where we struggle with church life and “religion”.  We confuse seeds with environment.  We think we can grow crops, we think we can modify seeds to produce greater fruit, we think we can count the seeds we offered as plants that we grew.  But no one has ever “grown” a seed in me.  I do that.  I am the environment in which a seed lands.  I am a sterile environment or not.  And sometimes seeds can rest within me for years untouched and unnoticed.  Until I am the right place and time for that one small and tiny seed.

For me the bible is a seed.  And when I try and live in that “seed” I confine both myself and the seed.  When I live for the bible and of the bible I don’t become the great big tree in which others live – I become tiny like the seed itself.  Scared of change.  Scared of becoming something bigger than I think I could or should.  Scared of being something that looks different, that smells different, that thinks differently – that is different from the seed.  That must be different if the seed is to be anything other than a “seed”.

I see that same confusion with the coronavirus.  We are scared of change.  Scared of the unknown.  Even when the unknown is not that different to the known: that those who live with less health and greater age live a more precarious life (despite medical science and miracles).  But our usual repressed fear sprouts in such times.  We are scared we might be without.  Scared we might not have all the comforts we regard as essentials.  We remain seeds scared of what might “get us” – scared of all that is outside our comfort zones.  So we withdraw (prep and panic buy) and isolate ourselves (literally in some cases).  We pull-in and focus on “me me me” even more than usual.

That has comparisons with the church life and religion I have known all my life.  Because against all the taught “advice” of a lifetime … the more I don’t read the bible – the more I know the bible.  Just as the more I don’t read all the panic news about coronavirus – the more I know the virus (and I am one with “underlying issues” and “age category” against me).

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Just as against all the taught advice of a cultural-Christian lifetime, the more I don’t go to church the freer I am.

Free of the constrictions of guilt.  The guilt of am I doing enough – am I a good Christian … ?  Free of the constriction of faith – a constriction of believing the same as others  … do I fit-in (so that I can make a difference) … ?  Free of the need for compromise between family-who-won’t/don’t and church-life-that-does/must … How much do I give and to whom and how and when … ?  Free of a diary always being double-booked and massaged …  Free to allow “seeds” to grow as big (and as weirdly) as they allow.

As I allow.

I read that @ 30% of farm produce never makes it off the farm and into our shops.  Wrong shape, wrong, size, wrong “something” … all because it won’t look the same as “proper shaped and correct size” stuff (we do see on the shelves). 

I find that horrifying. 

That we talk about saving the planet and climate change and plastic … yet 30% of the very fuel of life we keep out of sight and discard.   And yet that 30% comes from the same seeds as the “proper and correct” ones.

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The seeds I have allowed make me who I am.

I have no idea if I am of the 30% (wrong) of 70% (correct and proper).  But why is that even relevant?  I am who I am.  And more and more I find the moment to be seeded with all I need. 

For that is where Love lives and growth happens.

If I allow.

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Binary choices

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I was taught that computers work in binary – 1 or 0
I was taught computers can do stuff but not like we can
I was taught we are far superior to computers in so much
I was taught computers do the bean-counting

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Yet the more I see, hear, and feel
The more I think it is not that
The more I see, hear and feel the more
I think we choose to become computers

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We love binary.
We love either 1 or 0
We love black and white
We love a yes or no “issue”

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We are either right or wrong
Correct or incorrect, false or true,
Saved or unsaved, lost or found,
Good or bad, church or unchurched.

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We have stopped saying “I Don’t Know”
We have a problem with saying “Sorry”
We reject the in-human-ity of computers
Yet copy so much of what we program.

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And if it be true that we become what we think …
I think we fearfully choose to become

Artificial (1) 

Intelligence (0) 

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Letting the rest “rest”

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What might Christianity look like if the Gospels had become ink before the Epistles?  … “The Good News” – Andrew Blair

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I have heard many “let’s go back to The Early Church” exhortations.   I have thought it myself.    Seems to me that replacing much of the “Temple Industry” practices/preferences still endemic in religion today with a “pure” faith (like what Jesus taught) to be an exceedingly good idea.

Except at what point do we drop the flagpole of The Early Church … ?

Before or after The Cross … Before or after Paul … ?  If before The Cross where would the “The Big Reveal” of evangelising be?  And if after … would that be before or after The Ascension – and if after how much after – and if before … why?

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What might Christianity look like if the Gospels had become ink before the Epistles?

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What a profound question from my blog partner!

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For The Early Church was riddled with as much dissent as we have now – just that we prefer to paper over the cracks as we do today.  The Early Church writings have as many tellings-off and “scandals” as today.   The same “role model” churches as today.   As much missionary work as today.   A Head Office structure just like today.   And – just like today – it was (and remains) a numbers game …

“How many have you brought me?”

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I think it another good reason for going bible-blind.  For being selective not in finding proof-verses that kill debate, but in finding the essence of the bible and letting the rest “rest”.

We are addicted to bible study, bible teaching, bible preaching.  We have created an academic-theological language more complex than the most difficult of The Difficult Verses.  We have idolised the verses of burden and sacrifice and hardship and persecution – idolised the verses of soul-saving-counting – made it all such hard work!

We have gone bible-blind in the same way as we have gone Love-blind –  we read the bible and prefer to see darkly – we cannot live without sin and choose to Love sparingly.  And we have that wonderful mantra written on the hearts of every believer:

“We are all but sinners saved”

Which is the get-out-of-jail-free-card used again and again as an excusing of our own weaknesses (or addictions) – along with the superstition at the end of almost every prayer “… in the name of Jesus we ask, amen”.  Or else we won’t get what we ask for!

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What might Christianity look like if the Gospels had become ink before the Epistles?

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I think worth thinking about.

Thank you, Andrew.

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What is sin?

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Is perhaps, for me, now the most irrelevant question to debate.

We have The Law and the Old Covenant.  We have The Cross and the New Covenant.  We have this Book and that Book.  We have the Scales of This and by the Grace of That.  We have prayers of intercession and repentance.  We have The Garden and our unworthy impregnated genes ever since.  We had the ability to NOT sin taken from us (allegedly) … and if that isn’t enough – we make  the ability to Love (without condition) part of the sin package – so make the ability to Love (without condition) also beyond our wherewithal.

In fact – if I was to believe all the religious teachings I have been taught – I would think myself stripped and neutered of our Creator’s intended template and very much faulty-goods.

I used to think that.

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But then I got to thinking.

Why do we excuse ourselves … ?  Why is it that Love (without condition) is the remit only of God and not me … ?  Why must I wait until I die before I experience/become Love Without Condition … ?  And it’s all because of what I was taught.

So either I was unlucky and had a load of false teachers – or The Teaching I got has the seal of approval from God.

It can’t be both.

But more than that – I got to thinking that Sin is the fuel on which religions and faiths (of all creeds and colours) run …
* All require me to be indebted to a God.
* All require me to seek forgiveness (on a regular basis).
* All demand my obedience and sacrifice.
* All promise – in return – that I will live for ever.
* And all because of Sin.

Take away Sin and there is no reason for all the embedded/correct transactions and conditions.  But keep Sin embedded/accepted … and Love (without condition) becomes unattainable because of Sin.  Because “Love (without condition)” I was taught requires no Sin.  And as we are all “sinners” (I was taught) I cannot Love (without condition).  Catch-22 (or biblically correct).

Now call me unqualified in God, but the God I know hasn’t a bad bone in his vaporous body …

I haven’t been baptised … I don’t pray (in the taught way) a great deal … I am known to use the odd swear word or three … I am not perfect but neither am I imperfect BECAUSE of sin … I am “imperfect” because there are a load of different ways of seeing/doing the same stuff – a load of different conclusions/actions depending on who you ask.

So whatever I do (or don’t do) someone else would do it differently.  And when I am deemed to have been “wrong” or “bad” … ?  It’s a hop-skip-and-jump to “I have sinned”.  Because I always will.

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And then we are straight back to “what is sin?”

“When I was bad doing that – was it sin” … “When I was wrong to think that – is it sin … ?”  And then what level of involvement do I need from God … ?  One hundred Hail Mary’s or a spiritual slap on the wrist and don’t do it again?

And so I walk this earth confused AND convinced both at the same time.

Confused as to will I ever get out of this “sin-quicksand” I am taught that I am in – Convinced I never can get out because God says (allegedly) that I must live in this sin-quicksand my whole life.  Is it any wonder I consider myself incapable of Love (without condition)?  Is it any wonder that “I” cannot stop reaching for “my” selective proof-verses that prove(!) why “I” cannot Love (without condition) – and that “I” must sin?

It’s because God says – that’s why.

I am unqualified in God.  I have no pieces of paper from any earthly seminary or theological college.  I cannot speak Greek, Arabic or any other “biblical language”.  I don’t read the bible much, I don’t pray much, and I don’t go to church much.  I tick many boxes of a sinner of the Lost World – perhaps worse than that – perhaps a false teacher.

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But the God Soft Hands Jesus I know never sees me that way.  Never judges me that way.

GSHJ seems content to walk my wayward walk.  To be with me on Sundays when we both should be in church.  To talk with me about the bible without ever opening a page.  To celebrate the good in me and comfort the bad I can and am from time to time.  God Soft Hands Jesus has all the time in the world for Love without condition.

But has little or none for sin.

Isn’t that The Way?  Isn’t that being a disciple? 

Isn’t that what he spent three years teaching and living?  Isn’t that why he took the established “church” to task so often?  Didn’t he find being “biblically correct” something incorrect?  Didn’t he question “privileges of service”?  Didn’t he focus on Love (without condition) with ne’er a “how many times have your prayed” …read the bible … attended church … volunteered for this that and also the other … how much have you tithed … are you dressed appropriately … are you a man (you are welcome) or a woman (cant lead I’m afraid) … ?

We see Pharisees only in the bible.  We see The Law only in others.  We think we are correct in our bible understanding.  We buy-into being a mature or immature Christian.  We love our Christian celebs and writers.  We praise ourselves for our ecumenical broad-mindedness.  We think the pews in church should be full to overflowing.  We think our church better than their church.

Even when we read the bible we don’t “read the bible” it seems.

But we do worry about sin.

We don’t think we can ever escape it.  Nor do we think we can Love without condition.  Which means this wonderful planet will always be a sin-riddled-cess-pit to us.  All because we obsess over sin.

All because we need sin more than Love.

Thank you.

Paul

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Religion like in the good old days

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HEADLINE: “In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace”

OPENING CONTENT: “The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade.”

Who thinks Christians are a Resource …?

The samples from these political polls are not as large as the Landscape Studies (even when all of the political polls conducted in a year are combined), but together, 88 surveys from 2009 to 2019 included interviews with 168,890 Americans.

So let’s slice and dice …

Religious “nones” are growing faster among Democrats than Republicans, though their ranks are swelling in both partisan coalitions … Furthermore, the data shows a wide gap between older Americans (Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation) and Millennials in their levels of religious affiliation and attendance …  The data suggests that Christians are declining not just as a share of the U.S. adult population, but also in absolute numbers …  Catholics no longer constitute a majority of the U.S. Hispanic population …  There is still a gender gap in American religion …  Religious “nones” now make up fully one-third of Democrats …  The religious profile of white Democrats is very different from the religious profile of racial and ethnic minorities within the Democratic Party …  The share of U.S. adults who are white born-again or evangelical Protestants now stands at 16%, down from 19% a decade ago … 

 

In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace

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Is this what it’s all about?
The labels and percentages.  The numbers and the affiliations.
Keeps them from seeing Love.
Keeps you from being Love

You think you are persecuted?
You are a Resource.

 

 

Just like the good old days.

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I was confusing care with treatment

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“I was confusing care with treatment”

A post with that in the middle is worth a read.  Confusing “care” and “treatment” – and this from a qualified practicing professional?

“People who we had believed weren’t able to speak started speaking,” Thomas said.

This post is about one working with older folks-dementia.  That familiar “the lights are on but no one’s home”  fear which many have at some point:  Will that happen to me? … Will I die to those I love before I die? …  Will I know those I love will still love me?  …  How will that happen? …  How does that work?

The title of the post … “Making lives meaningful in old age”, Otrazhenie … is too specific for me.

Smacks of function and form.

“Meaningful” suggests value is only found in contributing, in functioning as we expect (whatever that means).

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But “I was confusing care with treatment” applies to me and how I live with others right now.  Not as a qualified professional but as a human being amongst human beings.  As one who is the same more than I am different.  One who needs no qualifications to “meet you where YOU are”.

One whose “qualifications” can often get in the way.

Confusing care with treatment is something I do right now every day: “You have a problem, let me fix it … You look distracted, let me refocus you …. You are bored, well get off your butt and start living again … You just want to be “heard” – that’s it? .… You don’t want to talk about it – well I can’t help you then … Open up to me – I am on your side … How dare you treat me like that – you make it hard for me to love you … I think you owe me an apology!”

I confuse care with treatment fixing things.

Fixing things is what we do: “Problem, solution, outcome … Don’t thank me – it’s what I do!” And we move on to the next problem.  And where there are no problems to fix we I so often find one: “Are we really as happy as we should be … We seem to be plateauing here … We don’t talk like we used to talk … Are you bored with me us?”

“They laughed their butts off,” Thomas said…. They were so patently incompetent that most everyone dropped their guard and simply pitched in – the residents included… “

Being qualified in God is accepted as a calling, a vocation, a necessary step into being a pastor, a shepherd, a priest , a vicar a minister – one able to lead (those who want to be led).  But what about those who don’t.  Who see no reason or need to be “led” from a Lost World of sin and depravity to a “woke” world of salvation and service?  A world wherein burden and sacrifice figure highly.  Where “fitting-in” becomes even more important than before.  Where “treatment” of the lost soul takes precedence over “care” of another human being.

Religion trains “treatment” – trains fixing things – trains leading the lost to salvation.

“People who we had believed weren’t able to speak started speaking,” Thomas said.

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We can all speak.  But we are taught to remain silent.  And (if we are being really honest) the training of qualifications in God demand silence.

Demand the leader leads and the led listen.  For what use is a shepherd if the sheep are all over the place?  Isn’t that where the old anecdote about a shepherd breaking the leg of a rebellious flock-member so the rest of the flock can be kept safe comes from … ?

That is “treatment”.

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None of us have to be qualified to be “qualified” …

Love IS the great leveller.

Which is why Love is ALWAYS the greatest of these.

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