Tag Archives: church

Reflecting on The Amazing Technicolour Pyjama Therapy by Emily Ackerman

So, after my review of The Amazing Technicolour Pyjama Therepy, I thought I’d share a few things that have made me think – after all, such a book is only any use if it changes something in you.

Perhaps some of these things are issues I should have ‘dealt with’ by now.  But grief and loss are like an onion, there are many many layers.  Just when you come to terms with one aspect, another is uncovered and needs facing.  The length of the situation also means strategies that have worked, no longer do, or things you had worked through need taking out and looking at again as time gives them a different hue.

There is much in this book that is thought provoking and challenging, these are some of the ones that hit me where I’m at, some of which I tweeted the quotes from.

“Look on managing your illness as useful work” (p25) That is all I can manage, however different I might like it to be – and that has to be OK.  Somehow, I have to find a way to be me, this new, alien, different me, outside of my role – whichever role that is.  What I can do now is different to what I could do.

That brings a huge sense of loss, and can go on doing so as those losses are re-enforced, or newly discovered for the first time.  I think new losses will be realised as life with chronic illness goes on, but when we come to them the loss has to be faced, stared straight in the eye, acknowledged and dealt with.  That doesn’t necessarily meant that you ‘get over’ it, but you have to find a way of living with, or else the pain becomes crippling – and were back to the Pile Under the Carpet again!

Life, reality, what I can and can’t do are very different; they look and feel so far from where I once was – a life I was quite happy with.  Somehow, this life has to become as useful and pleasurable.

So, I know I only function well for 30-45 minutes, beyond that I’m gone.  I know I’m better in the mornings, I don’t do afternoons at all (I sleep for a good couple of hours and if I don’t it’s not good) and I’m not much better in the mornings.  SO I deal in small chunks and I do it early.  What isn’t done by 11ish will not get done that day.  That is what I have learnt in being an expert on me 🙂

(Oh and try telling the DWP that managing your illness is a full-time job!!)

“love and forgiveness is costly because it means letting go of my version of the past” (p95) for most of us our past was precious.  We were having a whale of a time until chronic illness struck.  Being chronically ill is not generally a reaction to being miserable, or a pleasant escape from a life we were hating.

So, chronic illness brings up many emotions: guilt, anger, resentment, self-pity, bitterness, loss of confidence, frustration and fear are mentioned in the book.  Yup! And some…

But those emotions can easily become misdirected.  So much is lost, but am I blaming the wrong person?  Invisible illness brings with it a whole new set of possible misunderstandings – but they’re not necessarily anyone’s fault.  Calm explanation may be better than exploding – but that was never my strong point 😉

I need to take time to stare those losses in the face, acknowledge them, feel the pain; from then a new foundation can be built – not on the past, but the future.

“God is always on the move and he wants us to come too” (p117) has to speak in to that.  Whatever I have lost, there is a tomorrow.  Maybe not the one I envisaged or might have chosen, but one that God is in nonetheless – and he is still going to be working in and through me there.

“I should work at meeting my own daily challenges, not peek over the fence at my past or my neighbour” (p121) that might be far healthier!  My life is my life, only I am responsible for it.  This is how it is, and I am the only person that can live with it.  The past has gone, it would have anyway.  I can only deal with what is before me now.

“Worship is about God surely.  It’s about putting him first, focussing on him and clearing a space from other pursuits and concerns to consider his beauty.  It isn’t about how I feel, where I am or what I do with my body.” (p179) This is a biggie.  Having been a Presbyter in Circuit work, worship was the bread and butter of my life.  It challenged and inspired me – but I was also responsible for how I worshipped.  So much of my identity was tied up in worship and how it was led.  Now I have to find a way to engage with worship that works for me.  I can’t sing, sitting is not always comfortable, my attention span is assaulted – your average act of worship is difficult for me ‘get on board with’.

BUT that is all about me.  What about God?  Where is his ability to meet me where I am?

Wake up call – worship is not about me, or even what I can and can’t do.  It is a meeting with the holy God, a place of encounter, of healing (in it’s broadest sense), of finding peace and being challenged; of hearing from the God who is far bigger than anything I can or can’t do.

And then there are some things that are useful for others to know, things I’d like you to know, not to moan, but to perhaps help you to understand me and where I’m at better:

“The sick are exiled into a strange and scary place, leaving behind great chunks of their previous way of life.  It’s a lonely transition” (p2) I cannot emphaise enough the truth of this.  However ‘sorted’ I may come across, or not, I am in an incredibly lonely place.  However long I have been ill, the path goes on, and each twist and turn can be scary.  Each day is new and I am exiled in a land not of my choosing.

“Illness related fatigue is nothing like healthy tiredness. It’s like a very heavy wet blanket pulled over your head that squashes you flat” (p37) This is not just ‘being tired’ or in need of a rest.  This is an all consuming exhaustion that makes your head spin and your body shake.  Accompanying that is the inability to think straight, never mind make sensible decisions!  A sit down doesn’t make it better, neither necessarily does just sleep.  It is not possible to imagine or understand if you haven’t been there.This fatigue goes hand in hand with so much chronic illness, and adds to the delight of trying to cope.  Dealing with illness is hard, dealing with the practicalities are energy sapping and time consuming – doing it when you are already exhausted can be mind-blowingly difficult. I’ve linked to this before, but it explains this kind of fatigue so well.

“It’s painful to feel overlooked or misunderstood by members of your church” (p189) Sadly this is also a great pain and burden.  The place you want to belong, sometimes feels like the place you are most rejected or sidelined.  It is the place I should have so much to offer, and yet I can’t.  Not withstanding what I have said above about worship, church too can be a place of exile.

These things are particularly hard, when you thought people understood, only to realise again that they don’t.  Why should they?  They are not walking in my shoes, they have their own with their own pinches.

But unless we talk and keep on talking, how will any of us know?

These are just some of the nuggets this book contains.  I’m sure if I read it again different things will jump out.  There is more I could say, but why not read it and see what it has to say to you.

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Review of Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

Sometimes church is difficult.  Not God, but church.  Not church per se, but the struggle for community and an authentic expression of worship and engagement with God.  Despite our best hopes an intentions it is full of human beings, each with their own needs, gifts and foibles.   And my heart breaks at some of the things we do or say in the name of ‘faith’.  So, when I saw this book, I was very keen to read it.

The blurb says

Like millions of her millennial peers, Rachel didn’t want to go to church anymore. The hypocrisy, the politics, the gargantuan building budgets, the scandals—church culture seemed so far removed from Jesus. Yet, despite her cynicism and misgivings, something kept drawing her back to Church. And so she set out on a journey to understand Church and to find her place in it.

I can’t say that I don’t want to go to church anymore, I desperately want to hang on in there, but at times I struggle to find my place in it, for many reasons that are probably another blog post. (oh and I cannot by any stretch of the imagination claim to be a millennial sadly, but if the cap fits – read the book)

The book is set out around the seven sacraments: baptism, confession, Holy Orders, communion, confirmation, anointing the sick and marriage.  Each section contains stories that will break your heart and then some to gladden it.  It looks at church through people’s stories – true community and a large part of what church, imho, is all about.

The basic premise of the book is ‘why are people leaving the church?’

On reading Searching for Sunday it transpires that many of Rachel Held Evan’s questions are about God, and the struggle for an adult faith after a childhood following him and sharing all about him.  But if that wasn’t enough, the church and it’s attitudes get in the way of her finding the answer to those questions – however much she longs to be part of it. So Rachel’s story is about

growing up evangelical, about doubting everything I believed about God, about loving, leaving and longing for church, about searching for it and finding it in unexpected places (p15)

Rachel tells her story, but one that I’m sure many of us can identify with.

Much of the gist of this book is about putting aside cynicism.  Rachel suggests that if we want to heal our wounds, we have to

kick the cynicism habit first.

We have to allow ourselves to feel the pain and joy and heartache of being in relationship with other human beings.  In the end it’s the only way to really live… even if it means taking a risk and losing it all. (p207)

There are many other gems and food for thought, but you need to read the book to get the full picture.

There is a lot of sense in this book.  A lot of despair, but also a lot of hope.

The finger is also pointed back at me –  what am I doing to help or hinder the faith and church life of others?

If you’ve ever wondered about leaving church, or about why others do, this will give you some insight.  Stories of how others might see the church we have become so entrenched in that perhaps we don’t see some things any more.   Perhaps it might give us another perspective on what we see as ‘normal’.  And if you are searching for Sunday, perhaps it will help you find it – or at least make you feel that you are not alone.  Perhaps it will take you to the place where you can embrace church – flaws and all. For as Rachel concludes,

All we have is this church – this lousy, screwed-up, glorious church – which, by God’s grace, is enough (p235)

We are after all a resurrection people.

Family Life

I’m going to start by being controversial.  I do not like church being described as ‘family’.  For all the same reasons as I don’t agree with celebrating Mother’s Day, the entirely secular construct, in church, I don’t think family is always a particularly helpful metaphor to borrow.  Also, I have a family already, I do not need another one!  I think community is a much better idea of what we are together as a church.

However, just to be contrary, on this occasion, I can live with it!  Because here, it is quite clear that the church was living as like family to one another.

Acts 2:42-47  (CEV)

42 They spent their time learning from the apostles, and they were like family to each other. They also broke bread and prayed together.

Life among the Lord’s Followers

43 Everyone was amazed by the many miracles and wonders that the apostles worked. 44 All the Lord’s followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. 45 They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it. 46 Day after day they met together in the temple. They broke bread together in different homes and shared their food happily and freely, 47 while praising God. Everyone liked them, and each day the Lord added to their group others who were being saved.

Unlike us, they were clearly spending all their time together, sharing together, learning from one another, praying and worshipping together.

We have lost so much of this.  We live largely individualistic lives, coming together for an hour on Sunday and maybe a couple of events during the week.  We are not living as a Christian community as they were.  I wonder what we have lost?

Would our lives and faith be enhanced by living together more closely?  Day by day sharing everything we have?  Caring so closely for one another, that we didn’t just know each others every need but responded to it?  Praying and worshipping together so regularly, it was like breathing together?

I am as guilty as the next person of keeping myself to myself, not sharing, holding back – partly because experience has taught me it is not safe to do so, from being let down or ‘news’ being inappropriately shared; and partly… why?  Because I like my own space?  Find the needs of other oppressive?  Like things my way rather than others?  Like to keep what I have to myself?  Some of those more than others, but it is a question worth asking ourselves.

Do I long for the kind of life and church style the early church had?  Or is it my worst nightmare?  Would church be better if we did it this way?  Was it a particular model for a particular time?  How would, could and should it look today where I am?  To me this passage is a genuine challenge – what do you think?

Whatever my answers, I can’t help but look at verse 47!  If that is what we long for our churches today, what are we going to do, what am I going to do, to make them living communities of faith that people see the vitality and attraction of, find God in them and want to join – not to boost numbers but that we all may find a deeper relationship with God?

Thank you Lord
for tall those
who love you
and live for you.

Forgive me the times
I have preferred
to live my faith alone,
keep myself to myself
and hold back
from sharing with others.

Heal the hurts
that make me wary
of getting close
and letting others in,
I pray.

Help us,
your people,
to find a way
to live in sharing,
in risk,
in support of one another,
that makes people see you
and share themselves
with you
and us;
that together
we may find
a deeper relationship with you

Welcome to the Family