Hearing from Huldah

Maybe you think Huldah sounds like the latest Avengers villain, or a mysterious place in the Middle East which is probably subject to ceaseless violence but somehow undeserving of media attention. Chances are that you haven’t heard of Huldah as a significant Bible character because until recently I had somehow completely overlooked this Old Testament prophet who was very influential in the time of the King Josiah. Josiah, you may remember, became King at the age of eight, and has certainly been the subject of some Bible teaching I recall even for children. But Huldah I fear has been sidelined, not just because of the relative obscurity of the passages in 2 Chronicles and 2 Kings, but because she was a woman.

I knew about Queen Esther and the elderly prophet Anna who announced Jesus as the redemption of Israel, and have been talking more recently with friends about the example of Deborah who was one of the early Judges of Israel. Depending on someone’s church tradition they may be quite used to having women preaching, but I was reminded recently by one more conservative friend that there are still people who believe that women shouldn’t preach, lead or have any authority over men. I quite liked the meme I saw on Facebook really that stated that “Without women preachers, we would have no knowledge of the resurrection”. I’m not sure this is totally true, but I do like the reminder that the first people to see the resurrected Jesus and spread the word were Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James, even though they weren’t believed.

I had the conversation with this conservative guy who seemed to think that women preachers were very much a second choice, only really acceptable when no men are available. I tried to be reasonable about it and asked what he thought about Deborah but he hadn’t heard of her so the conversation got a bit difficult. In truth I took it a bit personally as I had been due to be preaching that Sunday but it had been snowed off. But the night before I preached instead on Palm Sunday my scheduled Bible reading included 2 Chronicles 34 which covers the early life of King Josiah.

He began seeking God at a young age and got rid of many altars to idols as well as repairing the temple. When the priest Hilkiah discovered the Book of the Law, the secretary Shaphan took it to the King. Shaphan read it aloud and King Josiah was distraught at how far they had strayed from the Law. He ordered Hilkiah and Shaphan and three others to go and inquire of the Lord for him, to find out what the consequences would be and what they should do next, and all five men trooped out to speak to the prophet Huldah who is recorded as being the wife of Shallum whose grandfather was keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in the New Quarter of Jerusalem, which sounds quite trendy to me.

She speaks in a way that sounds unintimidated by the King, but with clear authority from God. She speaks of coming disaster on the people of Judah because of their disobedience, but she also knows that Josiah has had a responsive heart and humbled himself before God. She declares how God has heard him and would gather him to be buried in peace before the disaster happened. We go on to hear how Josiah continues to return to God’s ways, reinstalling the priests in the temple and celebrating the Passover in accordance with God’s directions as had not been done since the days of Samuel. Only after Josiah dies is Judah attacked by the kings of Egypt and Babylon, with all of them and Jerusalem eventually falling to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

The same account appears in 2 Kings 22, but otherwise the Bible doesn’t mention Huldah further. I guess the church fathers didn’t make much of her contribution as they were happy to go with the apparently straightforward direction from Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 that women should be silent in church. I did hear someone recently argue that the translation of silent should be ‘peaceable’, which gives a very different impression. I’m not sure that the rest of the passage bears this out, but I quite like how the new NIV verse 39 encourages both brothers and sisters to be eager to prophesy. Some have argued that prophesying is different to preaching, but the example of Huldah seems to have authority and direction as well as prophetic gifting.

The other passage from 1 Corinthians which seems particularly pertinent is a couple of chapters earlier, when Paul is encouraging the brothers and sisters to be aware that there are people with a wide range of gifts and that all are needed for the church body to be built up. While I have not received very much training in the area of preaching, I do feel it is an area which uses some of the gifts God has given me. I do get paid to teach others in my day job, in a way that would probably have been unheard of for a woman in Bible times. I would generally make the point that better education of women and more opportunities have meant that there are more fantastic women preaching than ever before. I was delighted to hear that the new Bishop of London is a woman and imagine that the Church of England would now struggle to function without women priests, as I heard a feature suggesting that robot priests might be a solution for some rural parishes, especially at busy times like Easter. (30 mins in). While I am impressed by the work of fellow academics at the University of Sheffield, the thought that some people might rather receive communion from a robot than a woman seems utterly preposterous.

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Re-viewing the Oscars

The weather-effects team here seem to have put in an Oscar-worthy performance, perhaps having heard that I was supposed to be preaching on the Christmas story.  Sadly they over-did it a bit, meaning church was actually snowed off and I am stuck inside.  I’m considering heading out a bit later to the cinema and an afternoon service, but actually there’s not much I’m keen to see in the post-Awards season slump.  But a friend did encourage me to blog a bit more about films, which I have not done lately for some reason.  I have seen some good films in the past year so a round-up seems appropriate – not least to kick-start the decision making when I head to friends who have Netflix over the Easter break.

My film of the year was probably Get Out (all film links go to trailers) – an unusual choice of genre for me as I very rarely watch anything even vaguely resembling horror.  I have described this as a horror film for people who don’t like horror films.  The ingredients are there, including some gruesome moments and a few effective jump-scares, but mostly it’s layered and clever and deep and twisty, and offers a fascinating or perhaps chilling depiction of apparently liberal racism.  Daniel Kaluuya performs brilliantly in the lead role which was deservedly Oscar-nominated.  I also enjoyed seeing Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford as his girlfriend’s parents.  It’s great seeing actors I remember fondly from The West Wing, and Allison Janney will get a mention further on.  Kaluuya gave another powerful performance recently in Black Panther which I’m guessing most people will have seen, and I was pleased for him as he picked up the EE Rising Star award at the BAFTAs.  Get Out was nominated as best film at the Oscars, which was an impressive achievement, but the originality of the screenplay was what won writer and director Jordan Peele an Oscar.  Well-deserved.

Best film of course went to The Shape of Water, which I also enjoyed.  It was a beautifully made film and as a fantasy, a rare genre choice for the top award.  It brought together some cracking performances, a strangely attractive aquatic man and a lovely old-screen vibe which meant that even with some more sexual scenes, watching it with my parents was not too embarrassing.  I think we all enjoyed it although it was quirky.  It felt very original, although I was intrigued to hear that many elements of the story had appeared in the 1969 play by Paul Zindel, ‘Let Me Hear You Whisper’.  Perhaps these allegations reduced the chances of Del Toro’s film winning best original screenplay.

Also missing out on best original screenplay were Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, whose own true life coma-complicated-courtship story The Big Sick was another film which really made me think this year.  This was also quirky, with Nanjiani playing himself as more selfish and immature than perhaps an independent actor might have done.  I think it works as a rom-com and is funny, but it also says things about being in an unbalanced relationship which resonated a lot for me at the time.  It didn’t leave me feeling particularly good, but it’s closer to a feel-good movie than most of the Oscar contenders this year.  After Hidden Figures and perhaps La-la Land last year, I’m struggling to think of a corresponding film which I could unequivocally recommend to most people as enjoyable and teenager/parent-friendly.

Most of the other films I would rate this year are more serious and even grim in places.  I thought Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was fantastic (strong language even in the trailer) and I really enjoyed the performances from Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson.  They portray characters who are messy and full of contradictions, but the film clips along at a snappy pace with plenty of plot-development which is sometimes missing from more arty films.  I also enjoyed The Post, particularly for the writing from Liz Hannah and Josh Singer.  It took a while to get going, but the second half and Meryl Streep leading a newspaper in taking risks to expose government cover-up seemed like an important tale for our time.  I also loved the dialogue in Molly’s Game, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin.  He and Josh Singer had plenty of practice writing strong and nuanced female characters in the West Wing, most notably C.J. Cregg played by Allison Janney.

Janney picked up the Oscar for best-supporting actress for her powerfully unpleasant portrayal of Tonya Harding’s mother LaVona Golden in I, Tonya.  It’s not a nice film, but she and Margot Robbie who played Tonya both did excellent work.  I’d also praise the team who managed to edit footage of skilled skaters, stunt doubles and archive material together with the new performances so seamlessly.  I probably preferred the mother-daughter dynamic in Lady Bird, another great film which missed out on any Oscars thanks to Janney, McDormand, Del Toro and Peele.  This would be a stronger recommendation for families with older teens although it was appropriately rated 15.  Greta Gerwig wrote and directed this wonderful coming-of-age story becoming amazingly the first woman to be nominated as best director for her debut film, and only the fifth woman to be nominated in this category ever.  She’s certainly one to watch.

I was also a bit sorry that Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver didn’t win one of the sound/editing Oscars as I thought the syncing of soundtrack and action in this entertaining film deserved more of the love it got from the BAFTAs when it received the award for Best Editing.  I suppose it glamourises crime and car chases but for me it combined the best of films like Fast and Furious with the musicality of La-La Land and the coolness of heist movies like Ocean’s 11.  I’m looking forward to seeing what the new team do with a predominantly female cast Ocean’s 8 – Soderbergh and Clooney are producing this one rather than directing or starring in it.  The poster is fab but it could go either way.

Most of the films I haven’t mentioned yet are more male-dominated.  I thought Gary Oldman’s best actor Oscar for his performance as Churchill in The Darkest Hour was well-earned by him and the make-up team.  I didn’t love the film although it made a strong case for the power of a great speech.  I probably preferred Dunkirk as a Second World War film from a few different angles and was pleased it got some nominations and three sound/editing Oscars although this did mean Baby Driver missed out.  Daniel Day-Lewis gave another unsettling but impressive portrayal of dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread, although the film picked up its only Oscar for costume design for some truly fabulous frocks.

One film I was disappointed to miss (I think I was in Germany) was Call Me By Your Name, the one Best film nominee I am still yet to see.  Timothy Chalamet made an impression in Lady Bird, and missed out on the Best newcomer BAFTA to Daniel Kaluuya.  I’m interested to see how far it follows Moonlight in bringing a more ordinary story of gay characters to a more mainstream audience, although quite how mainstream it went seems questionable as it was the one film I couldn’t see being repeated in my local multiplex around the awards season.

Last year I did manage to see all the Oscar nominated best films but didn’t actually see Moonlight before it had won the Oscar (once they sorted out the La-La Land fiasco).  I’m hoping this run down might have given you ideas of something you might want to watch, or reminded you of something you might watch again.  If it serves as some suggestions for Easter break Netflix then I wouldn’t mind seeing most of them again.  Do leave me a comment if you think I’ve missed out any fab films from this last year…

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Praying and watching

The snowdrops in my garden were in full bloom before I had even noticed. Last year, after my Mum had planted them I was watching much more carefully – noticing the tiny shoots as first signs of spring after the winter. This year we had much more snow – a thick blanket covering the bulbs entirely but there was still growth happening underground and the snowdrops seem very healthy.

Chris Kilby talked about watching in a garden for signs of growth in his days as an experimental gardener – I think with radishes in particular. He used it as an example in chapter four of his book ‘Equipped’ which aims to be a practical book encouraging Christians to talk to others about their faith. Chapter four is about prayer and starts with the reminder to talk to Jesus about your neighbours before you talk to your neighbours about Jesus. I was leading our study looking at chapter four this week, and was particularly struck by the verse in Colossians 4 which says:

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Colossians 4 v 2)

The more famous verse in the Bible is perhaps where Jesus asks Peter, James and John to watch and pray (Matthew 26 v 41), but the point we discussed on Wednesday was how if we pray about something, then we care about it more, and we watch out for things happening, and then we pray more, in a kind of cycle.

Last month I was at a worship and prayer meeting when we got onto the theme of praying for freedom for people in different areas of their lives. I felt quite strongly that another related thing we could pray about would be for release for people caught up in modern day slavery and human trafficking. I suggested it as a possibility to the meeting leader and he agreed that would be one direction we could go but he was also weighing other words and possibilities. I didn’t mind too much but did feel quite strongly that I should personally be praying on that topic.

I prayed with a fervency that rarely comes to me. I prayed about people caught up in slavery around the world and in Birmingham. I prayed for police and others investigating human trafficking, that their operations would be successful and that people would be freed. I prayed for changes of heart in the people guarding them. I prayed that neighbours and local people would notice things that weren’t right and would report them. I prayed for breakthrough and justice. I prayed for restoration and wholeness. And I ended up feeling strongly like God was going to do something, and that I should watch the news.

This had been on Tuesday evening, and on Friday morning this story was reported in local and national news.  On the Thursday, after a coordinated operation involving multiple agencies, five people in Birmingham had been rescued from modern slavery and thirteen people had been arrested. Some of the roads mentioned are local roads I know well.

How can I respond to something like this, except to want to pray more? If I pray for someone from the safety of a local church, and people are set free from actual slavery – it doesn’t feel like coincidence. If I pray for someone to be healed and they experience actual physical breakthrough – a reduction in pain or increased movement or a noticeable lightness, why am I not praying for people to be healed all the time? In fact, even when people I prayed for have not been healed, I have been surprised by how positively they have responded in appreciating the care I have shown or my willingness to do something because of my faith. But mostly I have found that when I have spent some time in praying and worshipping God, and then seek to follow his prompting, God does something.

I talked before about Jordan Seng’s 4 key points in his equation of moving in more of God’s miraculous power to heal or deliver: Obedience + Faith + Gifting + Consecration = Power. I think I’ve been talking about obedience (in the listening and seeking to follow God’s prompting) and consecration (taking time to worship and pray, and fasting goes here too, if Lent is something you are observing at the moment). Mainly in Lent I have decided to pray more rather than doing anything else less – so please let me know how I can pray for you. And then watch and see the signs of God at work.

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Multitasking in church

I’m a bit concerned that this post will read like I’m saying ‘look at me, I’m amazing’ or ‘look at me, I’m an idiot’ depending on your perspective. I’m going to do my best to avoid both and hope that some of my readers will probably relate to what I’m saying. I think part of the issue is being in a small church and being someone who does not have those other classic multitasking roles like parenting or being a carer or holding several jobs.
So here’s the run down, currently at my main church I:new guitar

  • Lead worship about once a month (play guitar and sing… and pray and choose the songs, have a practice with the singer midweek, put the words on the laptop, arrive early and set up the PA and then set down the PA at the end, mostly with some help, thankfully).
  • Preach about once a month (this has increased recently as our church leader is unwell… there’s a fair bit of preparation involved here too).IMG_0141
  • Am a trustee… our meetings aren’t that frequent but it does feel like quite a responsibility.
  • Am the Child Protection Coordinator… I have some background in this area so I took a lead in rewriting our policies and doing some training. Most weeks there isn’t much call on this role but occasionally it requires some important action.
  • Oversee finance… I’m not officially the treasurer but neither is anyone else. I do work with someone else who does the img_0865-1week to week finance admin thankfully.
  • Co-lead a house group… My friend and co-leader does more of the organisation and work at the moment I’d say, but I do go most weeks and try to say wise and helpful things from time to time.

I’ve just come off the main set-up rota as I always seemed to be doing something else at the same time.  I am grateful that there isn’t the expectation (as there is in some churches) that the same people lead worship or preach every week.  I haven’t done kidswork in many years although I feel like I should be offering to do something more to support the youth. It all seems a bit crazy, particularly alongside a full-time job although I am grateful that my job has fluctuating busy times and less busy times. Sadly I am currently in a busy time which is likely to last until late May although even now, I know my job is much less pressured than many.  Really busy people probably don’t spend Saturday afternoon blogging…

juggler cropI did some searching on the idea of multitasking in church and the consensus seems to be not to do it. People seem to think that you perform much better if you focus on one main ministry. I can see the wisdom in this, and how if top quality were required I know I could improve my guitar playing and singing if I focused a lot more time on that, or my preaching if I focused a lot more time on that. One of the things I really like about my church is that it feels more like family than any kind of performance, and that people are on my side and I think looking for ‘good-enough‘ rather than excellence. If my worship and preaching point to God, and are accessible to most people, then I don’t think people mind if I stumble from time to time over chords or words. I know other churches have more of a focus on excellence but I don’t think that’s particularly scriptural or realistic in a small church. It’s good to do things whole-heartedly, but I like a church meeting where anyone can join in, contribute and feel welcomed rather than one which feels slick and where people up the front seem super-human.

I think the idea of church as family means I help out more, particularly in times like now when others are incapacitated. Family seems like the place where everyone should get stuck in and do some regular chores as well as extra things when needed. I alluded earlier to the multitasking in parenting, and I know I could find many blogs out there listing the multiple roles played by Mums, and increasingly Dads too, often alongside full time jobs. HowIMG_2432ever busy I might think I am with church responsibilities, I still manage to have one lie-in most weekends, and I manage to go to the cinema a lot. I think most parents would be a bit envious of the amount of time I have to myself. I even manage to go to another church some Sunday afternoons (although emphatically as a punter, with the luxury of focusing on God rather than any jobs I have to do). This feels restorative, not an added pressure.

I know I need to be needed, and I really appreciate positive and thoughtful feedback from others. Interestingly this comes most often when I preach rather than any of the other roles. Perhaps I have more gifting in this area, or perhaps people are more in the habit of thanking a preacher. I know there is a danger in feeling good about myself in terms of what I do, and how much I serve rather than seeing my value in how God sees me. I want to believe that if I were suddenly bed-bound, unable to do anything much except pray, that God would still see me as just as precious. I know I would struggle with being so restricted, and I should probably pray more for the people I know in something more like this situation.

IfAmnesty Candle I read stories of missionaries or others in full-time Christian ministry, they seem to be doing so much more. When your whole life is a struggle and a witness, when you face significant opposition from authorities or spiritual attack – I guess then I realise how little I have to complain about. In most ways my life is so comfortable – I know I could be doing and sacrificing more.

But I also know about burnout – in work and Christian circles. I guess I’m writing this to help myself figure out what is sustainable. If a few different areas of church life suddenly got more stressful, I think I would find it hard to keep all my current plates spinning. I wonder how some tasks could be shared more, and whether there are other people who would love to have more responsibility in certain areas. My impression is that we are a bit short-handed everywhere, and that some people who might like to do more or clearly have gifting and talents have just too much else going on in their lives or various limiting health conditions.

If my example is Jesus, he clearly served his Father in a wide range of ways although hepan IMG_3150 tended to ask others to do the hospitality bit. He managed to go to parties and dinners, and took regular time off by himself to pray. The gospels don’t record “and then Jesus went off on a mini break to play crazy golf with his friends” or “then Jesus booked a holiday to Canada to admire the scenery and animals his Father had made”. One could argue that his main ministry on earth only continued at such a pace for three years…

I have booked a holiday (roll on June!) and I have quit the set-up rota, and I am trying to be mindful of what I am doing and why. I know my recent ‘stepping-up’ has been noticed and appreciated, and I am going to be involved in more discussions about the way forward and who is doing what. I am seeking wisdom on all this, so please do offer any helpful advice or things that have helped you/ your church, or pray for me/ us. Thanks.

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Accounting for love

I guess blogging about an ongoing relationship is complicated because the stories aren’t just yours, they also belong to someone else you care about. Perhaps it also feels risky to be putting something down as a record when it still feels very early days in the relationship, not wanting to jinx anything or be overly effusive or sickening or naive. For whatever combination of reasons I didn’t blog much last year, even though I was delighted to finally not be single, especially as a somewhat significant birthday came and went. Just as I didn’t shout about the relationship starting, not online anyway, I also didn’t shout about it ending but it’s over now. And Roxette, for my part at least, it must have been love.

Loving someone when you’re pretty sure they don’t love you isn’t to be recommended, but I don’t seem to be wired in a way that lets me hold back until my head and heart agree on something. I should probably be grateful that the object of my affection was a gentleman, and kind, and not someone to take advantage. Still, I got my hopes up and then was very disappointed. And some of you won’t be surprised to hear that those feelings don’t just go away. Someone told me it takes as long to fall out of love with someone as it did to fall for them in the first place.

The thought that struck me, and that provoked this blog and the title in particular, was that I had been focusing a lot on a particular line of a balance sheet. In looking at how much love was coming into my life from one specific direction, and how unbalanced my outgoings in that particular area, I was losing the bigger picture. Accounting for love in my life there is a massive, consistent deposit elsewhere in the chart which totally eclipses anything that any human can offer.

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us

How high and wide and deep and long is the Father’s love for us

As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high is the measure of your great love

If I can truly grasp how loved I am by God, then any other balances, how much specific people, friends, family love me or whether I spend more time and energy loving them becomes pretty irrelevant. If I can truly receive that love he has for me, then the question only remains, how to spend it.

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Gathering discarded gems

Although we live in such a digital age, I still have many books around my house. Many of them mean something to me and even though I haven’t looked at many of them in a long time, I wouldn’t want to get rid of them. I was just leafing through a book about Iceland with some amazing views which I have offered to lend to a friend. Not far away there were some books of poetry by John Hegley, a favourite from years ago at the Edinburgh Fringe. I find some of his poems really moving, particularly the honesty with which he talks about family relationships.

In a poem called ‘Revisiting Home’, which I think he also recorded as ‘Luton Bungalow Revisited’ he talks about his father’s artistic skills which in later years were little in evidence, except when he got a bit carried away drawing crazy paving in cement. Hegley continues:

“We should have hung out bunting,
Let the beach-ball colours show
for all unsung potential
in each Luton bungalow.
For all unused abilities.
For undiscovered skills.
For confetti which has not been cut,
no horseshoe shapes or frills
For my mum’s soft singing voice
it was her choice to hardly show…
For the love inside the Luton bungalow”

There are a few John Hegley poems which I know by heart, but many more which have touched my heart and which I have mostly forgotten about. Perhaps if I sorted through my books a bit more often I would rediscover all sorts of treasures, some of which couldn’t be found on the internet even if I did think to search for them.

This last weekend I was away with my church family at a centre called Quinta near Oswestry. There were many different activity sessions including one with lots of different colour beads, some of which ended up rolling away as spherical objects tend to do, and ending up on the dining room floor. When I tried vacuuming the floor (more after a messy mealtime than the craft activities) the beads just rolled away, so I ended up crawling around (looking most elegant I am sure) picking up the beads which varied from purple and white beads about half an inch across to much tinier black and metal beads.

As I gathered quite a handful I was struck by how attractive they were, even though they had been lost or discarded and perhaps singly didn’t count for much. I decided that I wanted to string them together to make some sort of necklace, reclaiming what had been lost and turning the collection into something beautiful which could be worn and enjoyed. Suddenly it struck me that this could be how God sees us, and brings us together, perhaps individually discarded and downtrodden but precious and beautiful as we are united together in all our variety.

The whole weekend was a precious gathering of young and old and in between, people of varied ethnic heritage, former members of the church and friends of current members. Somehow I felt God had brought us together and found us beautiful.  I shared this picture on the Sunday morning and today I strung the beads together to fulfill what I had imagined.  One of the songs we sang referenced the lost sheep and how far the shepherd goes to recover the lost one, leaving the ninety-nine.  I was also reminded of the lost coin, and how precious that was, and you are.

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Looking for helpers


Qubek’s Manchester bee mural in the Northern Quarter (Photo: Soup Kitchen | Twitter)

The horrible event in Manchester a week ago touched so many people, and my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones.  I was in the city again this weekend and was moved by some of the new art work promoting community as well as some of the tributes I have watched online including Tony Walsh’s poem ‘This is the Place’.  Some people have shared the quotation from Fred Rogers, a US TV presenter who used to encourage children facing scary news to ‘look for the helpers’:

Fred Rogers often told this story about when he was a boy and would see scary things on the news: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” (PBS website)

This seems to be good advice for children and adults when we are disturbed by shocking events which we might see on TV news – faced with senseless evil which makes us see the worst in humanity it can give us a better perspective to focus on the good: the hardworking members of the emergency services, bystanders who rush in to help like Stephen Jones and those who work in counselling and pastoral services to support families and others affected after the event, including many inspired by their faith.

I went to a prayer meeting in Manchester yesterday evening where the group are working through the one of the Thy Kingdom Come resources called the Novena, using artwork by Caleb Simmons.  Here he is discussing the piece we looked at yesterday:

There’s a female paratrooper on the brink of jumping from a plane, and we looked at an accompanying passage about Esther in the Bible as she prepared to go to the King to plead for lives of her people.  One of the things that struck me about the picture and the passage was how even though each woman appears alone, on the brink of a significant step which only she can take, she’s not actually alone.  The paratrooper has someone flying the plane, and others in the plane with her and who have presumably helped with her kit and preparation.  Similarly even when put on the spot by Mordecai, Esther asks him to gather the Jews in Susa to pray and fast for her, as she will also gather those who serve her in the palace.  It made me want to be more aware of and grateful for the people who support me, and to look out for people about to take a new step of faith and see how I can support and pray for them too.

Sometimes help comes from a more unlikely source.  I had an interesting discussion with a friend in need last week, who had received a rather nebulous ‘let us know if we can do anything to help’ offer from family some distance away.  While he didn’t want to prevail upon them, or be disappointed if they let him down, I did feel strongly that he needed to give them the chance to help him out, even with all the uncertainties of how they might respond.  Sometimes we do have to make ourselves a bit vulnerable and ask for help, to allow others to help us.  Perhaps some of the victims in Manchester might not have expected a homeless person to come to their aid.

The friendship between a group of London Gay and Lesbian activists and a Welsh mining community might have been similarly unexpected, but I love this true story portrayed in the film ‘Pride’ which I rewatched yesterday afternoon.  One of the characters, Dai, explains it like this:

Pride friend

I love the way the friendship is portrayed in the film, and how later on the miners get a chance to show their solidarity with LGSM at the 1985 Pride festival.  When our fellow human beings are being beaten down, by prejudice or terrorists or cancer or depression, we have the chance to be the one who chooses love and reaches out, and to celebrate the others who are doing the same.

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