Category Archives: hope

Wrestling With God

Rembrandt – Jacob Wrestling With the Angel

Jacob Wrestles at Peniel

22 That same night Jacob got up, took his two wives, his two concubines, and his eleven children, and crossed the Jabbok River. 23 After he had sent them across, he also sent across all that he owned, 24 but he stayed behind, alone.

Then a man came and wrestled with him until just before daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he was not winning the struggle, he hit Jacob on the hip, and it was thrown out of joint. 26 The man said, “Let me go; daylight is coming.”

“I won’t, unless you bless me,” Jacob answered.

27 “What is your name?” the man asked.

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled with God and with men, and you have won; so your name will be Israel.”

29 Jacob said, “Now tell me your name.”

But he answered, “Why do you want to know my name?” Then he blessed Jacob.

30 Jacob said, “I have seen God face-to-face, and I am still alive”; so he named the place Peniel. 31 The sun rose as Jacob was leaving Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip.

Genesis 32:22-31

Wrestling,
still grappling,
trying to gain the upper hand.

Searching,
seeking,
longing,
to be.

Still yearning
for that blessing,
not the stolen one,
but God’s blessing
on me
and my life.

And now you come,
I am marked,
forever,
by our struggle;
from now on
I am changed.

You call me by a new name,
a new purpose
a new me.

I have met God,
we have struggled,
I am renewed
and I am alive.

Struggling,
I wrestle with you Lord.

I search
and I seek,
I long for you to touch me,
to change me
to make me new,
in you.

Bless me Lord
I pray.
Bless each one of us.
Meet us in our struggle,
touch us,
renew us
and may we know we are alive in you.

This is such a beautiful hymn. It means so much to me of being able to trace God’s rainbow through the rain and the God whose love never lets us go, whatever the struggle. And this is a beautiful rendition of it:

For another take of mine on this passage, see Scarred for Life

Finding God… When You Least Expect It

Genesis 28:10-19a

Jacob’s Dream at Bethel

10 Jacob left Beersheba and started toward Haran. 11 At sunset he came to a holy place  and camped there. He lay down to sleep, resting his head on a stone. 12 He dreamed that he saw a stairway reaching from earth to heaven, with angels going up and coming down on it. 13 And there was the Lord standing beside him.  “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham and Isaac,” he said. “I will give to you and to your descendants this land on which you are lying. 14 They will be as numerous as the specks of dust on the earth. They will extend their territory in all directions, and through you and your descendants I will bless all the nations.[c] 15 Remember, I will be with you and protect you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done all that I have promised you.”

16 Jacob woke up and said, “The Lord is here! He is in this place, and I didn’t know it!” 17 He was afraid and said, “What a terrifying place this is! It must be the house of God; it must be the gate that opens into heaven.”

18 Jacob got up early next morning, took the stone that was under his head, and set it up as a memorial. Then he poured olive oil on it to dedicate it to God. 19 He named the place Bethel. 

This place,
not a place of my choosing,
a part of a journey.

A place on the way
to find my future,
my inheritance,
a blessing,
not the one I stole.

Running
from the anger
and retribution
I deserve.

Here I rest my head,
enough for today.

And there is God,
standing beside me,
promising his blessing,
this place,
an abundant future
and his protection.

I thought this was just a place,
barren,
lonely,
just where I was

but now I discover
that God is here,
this is God’s place,
a holy place.

You will be my God
and I will worship you.

I place the foundations of my life here
in you.

This Cairn lives in our house. It has rocks, stones and other special things we have collected along the way, a monument to where we have been.

Bless me Lord,
Bless us.
In this place,
here.

Where maybe I didn’t expect to find you,
in this place of running
and resting,
in the wilderness,
the barren place
that turns out to be a holy place.

May this be a place of beginning again
of true inheritance,
of discovering you,
of worship,
of foundation.

Of you.

I offer it to you
and pray that we may dwell here together.

Enabling Others to Meet Jesus (or who is going to mend the roof?)

I have written this for our Circuit Daily Devotions, a subject very dear to my heart. If you would rather here the spoken version, you can find that here.

A good stuff has been shared with us in our Circuit in the last few weeks about Equality and Diversity and what that means for us in the church.  It has been really good to have some theological underpinning for that, and much of it has been really powerful.

As part of the exploration I wanted to look about look at disability and accessibility. As churches begin to re-open, or think about it, these are important questions to ask. We have an opportunity to get it right (or better!) as we have to make some changes anyway.

“The Equality Act 2010 (using a definition from previous Disability Discrimination Acts from 1995 and 2006) defines a person with disability as someone who has a physical or mental impairment which is substantial and has a long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Whilst this is the legal definition which offers additional legal protections to people with disabilities, it should be remembered that anyone may be temporarily disabled (for example when recovering from a serious illness or accident), which may also require them to need additional support or adjustment. Many people with disabilities consider that their impairments are not the key factor that disables them. Instead they are disabled by a built environment that is not planned with their needs in mind, or they are disabled by the attitudes of other people towards them.”

The Methodist Church EDI Toolkit Module 4.

That maybe comes more alive in personal story, so I am going to tell you mine, and share some of the problems that I have in in church. That’s not saying that my problems are unique or that they’re all the problems that are possible, I’m just using my example to give an idea of some of the problems that people can face. The problem with a lot of the disability’s is that the disabilities are not necessarily visible, and you wouldn’t know that someone was dealing with them or you had to help them with them.  I hope the questions I raise might give you some thoughts about the accessibility of your church building.

In Mark 2, we hear the story of the men who brought their friend who couldn’t walk to Jesus. There was such a big crowd that they couldn’t get him to the door, so they carried him up the steps to the roof and made a hole in the roof so that they could lower him down to meet Jesus. Everyone focuses on the miracle of the man walking and the big question about Jesus authority, but we overlook the man’s friends and what they were willing to do so the man could get to meet Jesus.

For those of you that don’t know me, I use two crutches to walk, mainly for stability.  I suffer with a chronic inflammatory illness that effects most parts of my body.  It causes dryness – pretty much everywhere there should be lubrication in a body, I have little or none.  That effects way more than you might think.

None of what I’m going to say are criticisms, they are questions, pointers to make us think about our church buildings.  I’m also acutely aware that my accessibility may mean someone else’s inaccessibility – something that is there to help me may be making someone else’s needs impossible to meet – and for that reason the conversation needs to go on.

The first question I asked when we moved to our new Circuit was, “which church has the comfiest seats?”! That might seem trivial, but to me it is vital, and without which physical church in a building would not be possible.  But actually, when you have a disability, churchmanship, style of worship and a lot of other things go out of the door, compared with issues of accessibility in its widest sense.

  • But let’s go back to getting in the building.  I am incredibly grateful to have a Blue Badge, but that is no help to me if there is nowhere near enough the building to park, or someone without a Blue Badge is parked in it.
  • Next there is getting up the path, hoping that there are no steps.  Is there a drop kerb where necessary – and nothing obstructing it?
  • What about the entrance into the building?  Is it level?  You would be amazed how big an obstacle a raised door frame (there must be a technical term for that!) is when you are are wobbly, in a wheelchair, with a pushchair, or just have your hands full. Is the door too heavy?  Can someone open it by themselves?  Is there someone there to open it for anyone who needs it (remembering it might not be obvious who needs that help)
  • Can I find an appropriate seat?  I really need to sit with my right leg in the aisle, preferably with a large space between rows.  Pews are quite simply an impossibility.  Would someone let me have the seat I need, or would I be “taking my seat”? Can I sit at the back, or the front, if that is necessary for my disability?  Is the seat comfortable?  Can I shuffle and change my position in it to move the pressure points?  Is there a way I can raise my legs if I need to?  How long I personally can sit comfortably is very limited (and yes, it’s less than an hour!)
  • A lot of people with disabilities are very energy limited, and cannot arrive at church half an hour early to get the seat that they need, they may need to arrive at the last minute and need to be able to have the right space.
  • What is the lighting like?  Is it too bright – or not bright enough…!  Everybody’s needs are different.  Is there perhaps the possibility for some individually controlled lights?
  • That also applies to screens.  Are they in the right place?  Are they legible?  Are they too bright, too dark or using the correct colour contrast?  (Different colour contrasts work better or worse for different people, so it can be tricky) I actually have my own individual screen at our church, so I can set it to the setting I need.  Is that a possibility in your church?
  • Likewise, if you use videos in worship, can they been seen and heard by all?  Is there some way their point can be explained.  I love a video in worship, but can rarely process them in that space.
  • Are there paper copies of words?  Preferable in large and appropriately line spaced text?
  • Can someone manage to carry, or hold during the service, anything that you are asking them to. Normal hymn books are really hard to hold and turn pages if your fingers or wrists are not good.
  • In break-out groups, can everyone understand what you want them to do?  Is everyone able to participate?  Can everyone hear, process and respond in that environment?  Can there be an alternative option?
  • How do we use language?  Do we invite everyone to “stand to sing” for example?  When not everyone can stand – or sing. Do we use phrases like “everyone can do this” – can they?
  • Is our service very singing focused?  My illness means that I can’t sing.  I appreciate what a great tool in worship singing is and one I always used a lot, but if someone can’t sing are they excluded from worship in a big way? I guess post-lockdown we are all going to have to think about that!
  • Do we speak at a speed that people can hear and process?  It takes me a long time to hear what you have said, process in my mind what you have said, and then respond.  That applies even to things like the Lord’s Prayer, which I have to dredge from my mind and process through my brain before I can say it –  slower than most.  I am usually a couple of lines behind and give up.  I stand no chance of remembering a response to a phrase in a prayer that you might ask me to share in, or what the lead in is that I am meant to respond to.  I’m fine with that, but please don’t be offended – and be aware!
  • How does celebrating communion together work?  Is there a way to be a part of the body if you can’t kneel at the rail with everyone else, or even stand? Have we found a practical way around that?
  • And after the service?  I love to share fellowship, to hear how people are and what is happening in their life, but it is incredibly hard to have that conversation in a noisy room where everyone else is eagerly doing the same.  Is there a quieter space where anyone who needs that can go and talk without the aural distraction?

As I said, that’s my experience, others will each have their own story.

No church can meet all these needs, But it is good Christian living to be aware of other’s needs and do what we can to make church buildings and services as accessible as possible. Have we at least thought that they may be needs, and ways we could work around them?  What is most important is to ask people what works best for them, and be willing to do all you can towards that.

I am very happy to share advice or experience.  Better still ask anyone you know has needs how to make worship more accessible what would help them – don’t assume.  But also, don’t forget those who won’t say.  Try and think if what might be excluding somebody and try and think of an adaptation before they have to ask.  Try not to assume what someone needs…

And for those who can’t access physical church at all, I have some thoughts coming in a couple of weeks…

We thank you Lord
for the uniqueness we each bring,
for insights,
gifts and challenges that we all have.

Thank you that all are welcome,
to your love,
to your place of worship,
to be in your presence.

Help us to be aware
that our normal
may be restricting someone else,
or keeping them away.

Help us to be bold
to ask for help,
to share our needs

And help us all to listen carefully
to what the needs of someone else are
and seek to help.

God of love and acceptance
help us to meet together
in worship of you,
that we may learn
more of one another’s story
and through that
learn more of you.

Let Us Build a Church Where Love can Dwell