Underground, Overground – learning from a wombat

I foolishly responded to someone who asked where in the bible it talks about taking in refugees…. their point was it wasn’t a biblical principal.  I disagreed and still do!

As I answered their question directly to me, I shared verses from the Old Testament, New Testament, Jesus’ own words and the fact that He was a refugee both in terms of the Divine and Human.  I then came across this article about wombats who have been found to have taken in and allowed other creatures into their tunnels and homes during the devastating wildfires.  The reporter states she hasn’t found one single burnt wombat but in the rescue effort has seen many other species coming from their tunnels.

I think the bible has plenty for us in terms of hospitality, care and compassion but even if you don’t want to go there all of nature tells us the same – it didn’t hurt one single wombat but saved many others.

Be more wombat!

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Baby Shark Nativity Style!

Nativity Hark – Baby Shark Christmas story CLICK HERE!!!

I was challenged at work to lead devotions to Baby Shark…. not sure I will use this in that exact setting but going to use it with the children’s work and home!

We made a really simple nativity story to Baby Shark, that annoying song that the little ones love.  It obviously isn’t complete and my theological colleagues may question some of the story – but hey!  It’s memorable, simple and keeps Jesus in Christmas!

So in case you need the words –

Hello Mary (wave hand)

Hello Joe (wave other hand)

Donkey ride (donkey ears and then ride the donkey)

There’s no room (wag finger) – we added no,no,no,no,no for this instead of the do’s

Baby’s born (rocking baby)

Shepherd’s here (thumbs to self)

Wise men’s star (twinkle star hands)

Christmas time (jump and pull those shapes!)

Not the end… (clap)

My 10 year old said “But it is the end.” Which gave me a great chance to share that Jesus being born was not the end, we are all part of God’s great big story.

Hope it’s useful or doesn’t drive you too mad!Nativity Hark – Christmas Baby Shark

Confessions of the worst mum in the world…. me.

My eldest is almost 16 but I remember at toddler group a mum saying how tired she was but that she felt she always needed to play with her children – make belief, at the park, cars, kitchens, lego, whatever they wanted. All day… apart from nap times. I didn’t do that and maybe that was where the guilt began.

I went to the park with the youngest two the other day and little one asked me to push her on the roundabout – I did. But then as she moved on to the next activity I just stood and watched her, shivering. I got my phone out to take a couple of photos of the girls having fun. Pictures of my guilt.

We have Youtube videos of someone opening tubs of playdough on in our house – no I don’t get it but she seems to like it and so she watches it.

We sometimes skip mealtime for snacks in front of a movie with blankets and pyjamas on – I don’t think they got their two a day never mind about five.

This morning I took little one in her slippers to drop my daughter off at school – truthfully I would have worn mine if I could drive in them. I had no make up on and my hair was just put up in casually (translate I couldn’t be bothered).

I saw the looks from other parents walking their children into school whilst I let mine run off herself into the playground whilst I didn’t get out the car. Lazy mum, uncaring, irresponsible.

Oh my, I don’t need you to look at me like that I already know I am a terrible mum. The problem with all these things that you may look and see as terrible is that I believe that it’s okay so doesn’t that make me even more terrible?

I actually think my kids are doing okay – they have developed imagination to learn to play and create for themselves, they dare to try to do things on their own and feel proud when they manage it and have resilience when they can’t. When my little one couldn’t manage the bigger wooden equipment she looked at me and said “I’m too small for this” and ran off to something else. I followed her, she had learnt her own space in that world, her own capability for now and expectation for the future. I had just stood and allowed her.

Healthy eating is important but my kids love movie nights and have memories from them.

I ask my daughter every time if she wants me to take her into the playground and she doesn’t, she loves that she is old enough to go by herself, there are no roads to cross and I know she is going there, she is safe.

Will my children have issues? Yes. Have I done my best? I hope so.

The main reason I confess to being a terrible mum is because I am bothered by what other people are thinking as they see me stood around, phone in hand, doing nothing. I confess to letting others expectations make me feel like I’m not doing the best. I confess to believing in free play, exploration, independence, adventure and at the end of the day walking hand in hand with my child, side by side where they feel secure as they tell me what they have done. By the way that little hand is normally at least a little bit grubby – terrible isn’t it?

Who is feeding the sheep?

Apart from the very cool look on the sheep’s face I love this photo from Muddy Church at St Andrew’s, Rugby (https://www.facebook.com/StAndrewsChurchRugby/). In the bible there is an account of Jesus talking to his disciple Simon Peter (read about it in John 21) and asking him if he loves him. After Peter’s response Jesus tells him to feed him lambs, or his sheep. The theological depth within this is beautiful, but the simple message we can see is that Jesus was basing involvement on relationship not any other criteria. He didn’t give Peter a pop-quiz on his knowledge at this point, a character assessment, a skills audit He wanted to know “Do you love me?”

This picture shows these sheep aren’t worried if it’s the adult, the farmer, the trained shepherd or the small child, they see the food and trust the feeder. The little hand can fit through the fence and give the food direct to the sheep rather than just tipping it over and into the trough. We all have our skills and abilities, not that others can’t do something but that sometimes we can do it that bit better, engage deeper, be more appropriate because of who we are, our story, our journey.

This photo shows an adult helping a child by passing them the tools (the food) and a child able to get their own food for the sheep and passing it on but most of all sheep- happy to be right there and getting to eat.

Jesus wasn’t talking about his actual sheep that He’d left but about people and sometimes we can put off doing things because of what we aren’t or haven’t got – a qualification, academic knowledge, status or age. I believe God’s Kingdom is a place where all are able to make a difference, there are things we can do differently at different ages and stages but let’s take the opportunities this week to see others and release them in their skills whilst also looking for where God is using our story.

Muddy Church is a place that encourages each community to engage with it’s local area and people. For some that might be a park, a plant-bed or a mud slide. Each community is different and has spaces where people can connect with creation and explore God within our world. Get in touch for more information about what Muddy Church might look like for you.

Parents Evening TCK style

color conceptual creativity education

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Parents evening, the name (or whatever it is called locally) still strikes a fear in my heart.  It’s not that I doubt my children’s behaviour or ability – I know they are more than a school grade.  It’s memories of confusion, misunderstanding, frustration and sadness – and I’m the parent.

As the first teacher arrives he tells my son to sit in his chair and he joins me, the other side of the table and he tells him to begin.  My son is confused but also amused and so asks the teacher how he thinks he has done.  They swap back around and I hear reports of the ways my son helps hand out books in class, he gets distracted at times, generally works hard and is a good student.  Presentation is an issue, I explain it always has been and the teacher says he used to have the same problem and it’s okay, he’ll get there.  I ask my son if he has got anything to ask or say to the teacher?  “Thank you.”  My tears well up and the teacher is taken aback, humbled, amazed and appreciative – in all his years….

With that word – presentation, my son and I were both taken back to his overseas school where ‘parents evening’ was held with students and parents all together in a class.  The only foreigners the first barrier was that usual one of what happens here?  Trying to understand the fast speaking teacher whilst rushing through your head the search for the norms and expectations of this setting.  The teacher began picking out the best students and praising them, how wonderful they are, how beautiful their hair, how well they are doing (often they were paid to like this child).  They would then go around the class and pick out the faults of the others, not good at this, bad at that, not trying, no hope, waste of time.  The aim was humiliation – it worked.  As the only foreign child in the class he got no favours, he is disorganised, untidy, his writing is atrocious. There was no use trying to explain dyspraxia and it’s effects (I did once try) or explaining he was really left handed but not allowed to use that here (yep, tried that one too).  There was no mention of his friendships, the things he was good at or his kindness such as the time he took some paper and sticky tape from home and covered the broken window that had been blowing freezing winds and rain into the unheated classroom.  When he left the school after four years all his teacher could say was the general greeting of ‘safe roads’.

That was why his reaction was ‘thank you’, someone who had seen his messiness and untidiness but saw more and focused on that.  A teacher who first talked of his character and then discussed his academic life.  Every time we sit down I feel the need to explain to the teacher first that he isn’t really English, he hasn’t been through the system and has only been here for two years.  My son rolls his eyes at me but they see the funny blonde haired, blue eyed, gangly teen and don’t realise that he’s never learnt those grammatic rules or writing style – but he could do it in another language!  When they do they understand him a bit more and can take the time to explain, maybe it’s just the mum in me jumping to his defence.  But I see the miracle of his determination in sticking at school to become a student who is achieving and enjoying the experience which demonstrates the resilience of so many TCK’s.  Laughing about their history, which to others is a horror story but to them is part of who they are, and also the challenge of what sets them apart.  With his ‘thank you’ I again realise the richness of how he values and sees beauty in simple things that others would take for granted.  How easy it is to focus on the wrong things, to find criticism first or not see the full picture and yet how powerful when we touch a heart by seeing the fulness of who they are.

As a mum, I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the dread of parent’s evening,.  But just as I did as we walked down the dust road, we walk across the concrete play area and I tell my child how proud I am of them.   Each time I say it I see the fullness of their journey and it means just that bit more.  How grateful I am for a God who sits by me and listens as others declare things about me, who stands for me, who sees my mistakes and failures but also sings over me with delight.

(just to add we did also have an amazing teacher at the same school for my other son and both of them learnt well at the school – in the fullest sense).

Walking along the road and the most unexpected thing happened….

pexels-photo-343469.jpegThe story is so familiar, walking along the busy road, crowds of people, shouting, shoving, pushing.  There walks Jesus.  But He can’t manage it himself.  Imagine that, the Creator, the Word at the beginning, the Almighty, the one who said He is the Son of God and He can’t manage it alone.

Without in ANY WAY wanting to imagine that I have ever been in a situation anything like Jesus was experiencing, there are times when I have felt overwhelmed.  It feels for a long time as though I’ve been stumbling along, the weight getting heavier, the loads adding with every step.  Crowds shouting with opinions, jeers, what I can’t do, be or achieve, shoving at me to do this, do that, pushing me into being who I don’t want to be.

I’m stubborn though, independent, self-confident and so just keep going but feeling like I’m not sure if the next time I will be able to stand up for one more time.

Simone-di-Cirene

As I look at this image of Jesus, needing someone else I see the power of those people around who will walk behind, who will help carry the load and to walk onwards.  The ones who do believe in who I am and what I can do.  The ones who care about who I am.  Deity in one more example for me of humility – allowing a person to help Him carry out the act of redemption.

Luke tells us Simon was ‘compelled’ which the Persian and literal translation means “pressed into service of a king”.   A man from Libya, an immigrant, chosen to serve the King.  Was it an honour? Was it humiliation?  Was it God’s greatest unspoken message of allowing other people to be part of our journey, our story, to surrender ourselves and pride.

(image: Sieger Koder (1925-2015) German priest and painter, Simone di Cirene)

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Searching for the Cross at the Second Hand Market

Today we went to the market and there was a stall with second hand bits of jewellery, beads, necklaces, rings.  Think plastic, not gold!  The boys wanted to look through things, I felt so blessed, they were looking for a little gift for me.

No, they wanted something themselves. 

Timmy quickly came across a metal cross necklace
Timmy : Look at this mummy
Me : Oh that’s nice Timmy, really that is nice, if you want it though, you have to ask how much it is.
He asked and is told it is 100 leke (about 70p)
Eden is disappointed at this as apparently what Timmy has found is exactly what he wanted.  A cross necklace, but that’s just what he wanted.  So we all start to look to try to find Eden a cross necklace.  Suprisingly we come across quite a few but they are all crucifixes, with Jesus on them.

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Eden : I don’t want one with Jesus on it, he isn’t on the cross.

The man and lady at the shop ask what we are looking for and we explain we would like a cross necklace, they pull out several, all with Jesus on the cross.  We explain that we would like is one without Jesus on it.
Wait, wait they tell us, we have lots of crosses, wait there.  The man disappears, a few other customers come along, interested by what we are looking at.  They start to look for a cross necklace for Eden too.  No, we repeat time after time, not with Jesus on it.  We are Christians we believe Jesus didn’t stay on the cross, he rose from the dead.  Now there are at least six, seven people around this little table/store, the man has returned with a carrier bag with several crosses and crucifixes in it and again Eden begins to look for what he wants.
He find a cross, a wooden cross, he also finds a silver cross.  Both plain, without Jesus on them.
We pay for our items, 250 leke or about £1.50 and leave the shopkeepers, the customers, the crucifixes and the other crosses behind, with the words clearly spoken.  Jesus is not on the cross, He has Risen.

Thanks for that great sermon boys.  Words, actions, heart and searching for the cross… that’s Easter.